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The technology driving streamlined real estate deals

May 7, 2004

Transaction management system adoption speeds up

By Jessica Swesey
Inman News

Karen Drebes knows the ins and outs of real estate transactions and their complexities. She juggles about 30 transactions on any given day from her Scottsdale, Ariz., office.

Drebes is a virtual assistant to seven real estate agents in different states, most of whom she's never met in person. She manages their deals from listing contract to closing using Web-based transaction management systems, which coordinate each piece of the transaction and enable the realty agent, broker, lender, home buyer or seller and individual vendors to communicate and view documents online at any time.

Adoption of online transaction management has increased significantly over the last year, according to vendors. More brokers and agents have realized the time and cost savings these systems provide enable them to close more sales and maintain a competitive edge.

Since Drebes handles all the back-end transaction tasks, agents have more time to concentrate on buyers and sellers.

Karen Drebes

"I sit in front of the computer so (agents) don't have to," she said.

Drebes uses GURU Networks' transaction management platform and SettlementRoom's system, depending on which one the client prefers. She's certified and literate in both applications.

Transaction management platforms typically include task lists, document management, integration with lender and vendor systems, contact management, controlled client access to files and other tasks that automate and streamline the transaction.

Here's a more detailed look at what's on offer from First American Residential Group, Fidelity Real Estate Division, Stewart Realty Solutions, Guru Networks, Wintrans Solutions and Settlement Room.

What people are saying about transaction management systems:

"We actually had someone tell us once they used it to plan their wedding."

Ike Broaddus
Guru Networks

"I wish they would come up with a different word…it can do so many things."

Kelly Pantis
First American Residential Group

"I believe right now the agents who are just getting started with transaction management systems still have a competitive advantage. But my guess is that in about two years, that will no longer be the case; it would be more a matter of brokers and agents catching up with the technology."

"It does wonders long term in being able to reduce errors."

First American Residential Group, Transaction Manager

Agents, brokers and transaction coordinators are the end users of First American's Transaction Manager platform. The product generally is sold to brokers and MLSs for a $2,000 to $10,000 setup fee. Customers also pay a per-transaction or per-agent fee, depending on volume.

The system includes a First American national and local vendor network that enables brokers to choose which vendors they work with without having to enter each vendor's information into the system. However, brokers also can choose to build their own network of vendors not already in the company's network.

"We've done quite a bit of work with integration," Kelly Pantis, VP of marketing, said.

The platform also can integrate with MLS data, public record data and any title company that uses the First American Title and Escrow System (FAST). The idea is that the more participants in the transaction who can use the system, the more helpful it will be for all of them, Pantis said.

The system works online and offline so users can send a fax to vendors who don't have a computerized order system.

First American offers training for the broker or transaction coordinator who operates the system, plus online help and reference guides.

FNIS Real Estate Division, Transaction Point

Transaction Point integrates with such outside applications as title and escrow systems, mortgage and MLS systems and broker back-office systems.

The system centers around the transaction coordinator as the end user. Installation is free and includes basic online training. Brokerages must pay for additional training and a per-transaction fee of $15-$25, depending on volume.

The average transaction coordinator handles 25-30 transactions per month, according to Tom Groom, a spokesperson for FNIS Real Estate Division. Several FNIS customers are juggling 50 65 transactions per coordinator per month.

"We try to center ourselves on minimizing the time it takes to do things on the system," he said.

Stewart Realty Solutions, Realty Assist

RealtyAssist, launched 11 years ago by CEO Mark Cira and acquired this year by Stewart Realty Solutions, offers four platforms: Paperless Broker, Paperless Agent, Paperless Closer and Paperless Lender.

The transaction management system targets brokers and focuses on delivering a paperless real estate office where agents fax or e-mail documents to a transaction assistant who uploads them into the system. Files are then available for review and management, enterprise-wide.

Users pay $10 to $20 per file, depending on volume, plus a setup fee that includes training.

Brokers can self-publish CD-ROMs to give or sell to buyers, sellers and agents at closing. Each CD contains all the transaction documents and vendor contact information for the transaction and costs pennies to produce.

Guru Networks, G3 suite

Guru Networks offers three main products for transaction management: G3 Direct for agents, transaction coordinators and small brokerages, G3 Enterprise for large multi-office brokerages and franchises, and G3 MLS for multiple listing services or Realtor associations.

G3 Enterprise has the most users of the three platforms, GURU CEO Ike Broaddus said. It bundles transaction management with such back-office functions as commission disbursement, accounting, leads management, human resource management and an MLS interface, among others.

Ike Broaddus, GURU

Broaddus recommended that offices with fewer than 50 agents start with G3 Direct, which includes transaction, contact, list and document management, then move to G3 Enterprise as they grow.

"Migration is nothing more than us turning on new features," Broaddus said.

Once users learn how to utilize the system features, they can take save time by creating standard sets of task lists for specific types of deals, such as buyer's side deals or foreclosure sales.

Each licensed user pays a $350 startup fee for either system. Agents pay $49 per month for unlimited use of G3 Direct. The monthly fee for G3 Enterprise depends on the number of agents in the company.

Guru offers online and telephone training, one-on-one sessions and on-call support as needed.

Wintrans Solutions, ClickConnect

ClickConnect targets individual real estate agents as the end user. However, the company offers a transaction coordinator model and a broker model. The system can be integrated with MLSs and is compliant with the Real Estate Transaction Standard protocol for plug-in to other RETS-compliant vendors.

Realty agents pay $598 a year, with no additional per-transaction fees.

The company offers three one-hour online training sessions for new users. Approximately 600-700 people currently use the platform, according to COO David Hamrick.

"We've made some significant changes to the user interface to make it more intuitive and easy for the agent," Hamrick said.


SettlementRoom's Web-based platform enables users to track listings and closings, upload and manage documents, fax hard copies of documents into the system, manage contacts, create e-mail reminders, track feedback from home showings, order vendor services and archive transactions.

End users include individual agents and brokers, loan processors and title agents, according to Celeste Starchild, VP of the Vienna, Va.-based company. A per-transaction fee is based on volume and ranges from $4.95 to $19.95.

There is no initial setup fee or contract to sign. The company offers free online and telephone training. Onsite training is available for a fee.

Users can preset libraries of contacts and vendors so they can order services and grant vendors access to specific transactions. Users also can preset action plans, document templates and e-mail messages that are repetitive through numerous transactions.

Copyright: Inman News Features

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