The big buzz in November at the National Association of REALTORS® Convention in San Diego was all about transaction management. The move by NAR to make one solution available as a member benefit was a major validation of the crucial business role that forms and transaction management technology play in streamlining the real estate process. Forms and Transaction Management must be universal to achieve the ubiquitous mission of paperless real estate transactions.
For more than a decade, Florida’s state Realtor association, Florida Realtors®, has been providing technology solutions created by Realtors for Realtors. Nearly five years ago, the association launched its forms and transaction management software – Form Simplicity – as a member benefit funded by dues.
The idea of technology developed by Realtors for Realtors was something the association accomplished nearly fifteen years ago when in 2001 it created another member benefit, Tech Helpline. Today, Tech Helpline not only provides support for Form Simplicity broker and agent users, but reaches well beyond the Sunshine State. In fact, Tech Helpline is real estate’s #1 tech help desk, serving about one-third of all Realtors across the U.S. and Canada. The service supports applications far beyond the Association offerings including things like Anti-Virus, mobile phone mail configuration, printer glitches and more.
As we begin 2016, it’s important to note that Form Simplicity is pushing full steam ahead. Form Simplicity will not only continue to be a major member benefit for all Realtors in Florida, but will continue to expand its offering.
Several new associations recently finalized contracts and others have either upgraded their Form Simplicity offer for its members by renewing contracts that continue the offering of their transaction management solution.
Why wouldn’t these associations pick Form Simplicity instead of a free offering?
Here are three things that associations or brokerages that will benefit Form Simplicity going forward:
- Need for choices
- Understanding “free”
- Value of brand identity
Need for choices
Independently minded sales professionals power the real estate industry because by and large, they are independent contractors. The ability to be self-determining is engrained in the minds of sales professionals. This is true of broker-owners as well as they too want to control their own destiny and that means choices.
We all enjoy getting something for free. Heck, I have a few dozen free apps on my iPhone that I rarely use, but hey, they were free and someday I might need one.
But what I like most about having these apps on my smartphone is that it gives me choices. If I find my free solution doesn’t provide the functionality I desire, then I can go into the App Store and purchase one that has the features I need for the benefit I desire.
The folks at Form Simplicity clearly understand the psyche of the agent and the broker because their technology offerings are not only for Realtors, but were also built by Realtors and continue to be improved with member input. They know agents and broker-owners are individualist in the truest sense: they want to choose, not to be told what to do.
Form Simplicity has weathered the test of choice, most likely because of their deep understanding of agents and the fact that members also contribute to shaping the strategy and future development of the product through both workgroups and direct involvement of the leadership team. This is an integration that associations and brokerages selecting Form Simplicity clearly recognize and value.
Form Simplicity also has another competitive advantage for agents and broker-owners who want to make their own choices: it comes what is arguably the best tech support system available in real estate through Tech Helpline.
Having choices will be a big driver firms and associations looking to provide the best solution for their broker and agent members.
Software services that are provided by an association as a member benefit are not really “free.” They are most often paid for through a portion of a member’s dues to the association. However, because agents do not pay the software company directly, the word “free” is sometimes used to describe these software services.
What’s interesting is that characterization — “free” — can influence our perceived value and use of a product. You probably know from your own personal experiences from downloading a “free” app on our phone. If you later discover you have to pay for the full version to get the functionality you really need, you no longer consider the app “free.” So you either pay for the “upgrade” or delete the app and find another solution.
This approach – creating a need to upgrade, or pay something more for full functionality – has become fairly commonplace in the software industry. Today many business software services companies use this same approach: in order to get more functionality, you often have to pay for the important bells and whistles version.
Interestingly, Form Simplicity took a different approach recently when it added a slew of features for broker-managers and owners. Form Simplicity impressively added a full array of built-in, compliance-centric Broker Management Tools and made them available at no extra cost. Not a dime, not a shekel extra.
It’s a huge differentiator as other transaction management solutions charge extra fees for this type of Broker functionality (if it is offered at all), while Form Simplicity does not. So you really have to understand what “free” really means when shopping for a TM solution.
It’s best for shoppers to do complete side-by-side comparisons based on the full functionality they need: Are there extra fees for more functionality? What features are included? Broker tools? eSigning? MLS import? Again, understand what you really get for “free.”
Value of branding
Real estate brokerages look for opportunities to differentiate their brand. Using a homogenized transaction management service is something that may not fly very well with firms that want to offer their recruits something that emphasizes their company brand.
This is where Form Simplicity has a huge opportunity: Developing custom offerings for brokerages. What’s not widely known in the industry is that Form Simplicity offers brokerages customization. That’s something an out-of-the-box solution can’t match.
For Form Simplicity, 2016 will open the door of opportunity wider as they know that many Brokerages want to control the transaction process and they want control of the look and feel that their agents and their buyers and sellers see. A better solution is a transaction management system that is tailored to the brokerage’s needs and business rules – and branded as their own – and not the exact same offering their competitors have. It doesn’t help a brokerage when their clients and agents are exposed to a third party provider, as opposed to a software that is white labeled to their own brand.
Finally, Form Simplicity gives brokerages one more advantage that other transaction management offerings from non-associations can’t: the risk of acquisition. Form Simplicity was created for and by Realtors for Realtors and is owned and will continued to be own by Realtors. Form Simplicity is not just industry friendly: it is industry provided.
For Brokerages, this has to have a major appeal because making sure your transaction management sofware stays the family, so to speak, is another strong plus.
Full disclosure: WAV Group has provided consulting services to many of the real estate industry’s leading transaction management software firms, including FloridaRealtors.