Technology

Is your brokerage taking full advantage of technology?

Digitizing your workflow from lead to close can help you wrap up deals smarter -- and faster

How many different products do real estate agents touch during home sale transactions — and how many times will they re-enter the same information, like a client’s name or an MLS number, into different systems?

The real estate industry has reached a new plateau when it comes to technology. Unsatisfied with the status quo, agents are using advanced software and data to close more deals. All of that technology makes for a smarter agent — but when a transaction involves multiple platforms to manage the process, it’s clearly reaching the point of oversaturation.

Brokerages use a long list of products for lead generation, customer relationship management (CRM products), marketing, transaction management, accounting and mortgage and title — just to name a few. All of that software often lives on different platforms, meaning agents need to learn new functionality and repeat data input across multiple programs.

But what if those products could “talk” to each other?

Adopting a digital workflow means every step of the process takes place seamlessly on the same platform, with no need to enter the same information across dozens of products — because all those products are connected and sharing the same data.

And agents can now move every step of the process to the same platform, from lead to close, using a tool unique to DocuSign for Real Estate: DocuSign Transaction Rooms.

In a typical workflow, an agent would have to create a new transaction space by re-tying in the contact details for their client that’s already in their CRM system, send out a listing agreement in which they have to re-type their client information, share it with the client and get it signed while knowing that this is just the first step in the transaction process that will involve many other steps across multiple platforms, many of which are repetitive — and none of which allow agents to focus on delivering an exceptional client experience or closing deals, which is what they’d rather be doing.

DocuSign Transaction Rooms, however, allows the agent to automatically create the “Transaction Room” — a virtual space where all parties to the transaction can collaborate — in one click, passing all of the client data from the CRM system into the transaction space, invite the client, have a good portion of the data needed in the listing agreement already populated and send it out for eSignature without having to re-key data or log into multiple systems. This data can then be utilized where needed and expanded upon as the transaction moves along — snowballing into a fully digital workflow that allows the agent to deliver a better experience for their client and many efficiencies throughout the transaction.

The magic of integration

It isn’t that there are fewer tasks, but rather that “technology can now do more than one of those tasks,” said industry expert Stefan Swanepoel of T3 Group and the Swanepoel Trends report, who recently lead an independent case study on DocuSign Transaction Rooms.

“Everyone’s saying, ‘Well, I don’t want one app that does one thing and another app that does another thing. Why can’t the apps talk to each other?’”

In Transaction Rooms, they can.

Marilyn Wilson of WAV Group Consulting.

Marilyn Wilson of WAV Group Consulting.

Industry consultant and WAV Group founding partner Marilyn Wilson has been studying digital transformation in real estate since 2005 and believes that brokerages can take advantage of it today more than ever.

“It’s doing a lot of things for people,” she said. “It simplifies the cost of closing a transaction and gives brokers much more comfort that they really have checked the map on everything because it’s all in one place.”

Connecting brokers, agents, clients, appraisers, inspectors and everyone else on the list with updated tasks and progress online makes everyone’s role clearer and easier to manage, according to Wilson.

“The [software] that allow you to invite your customer into the process and allow them to have access to things after the fact is another nice touch point — and a really nice way to show how professional the agent is,” she said.

DocuSign Transaction Rooms grab data from CRMs as well as listing portals, and then pre-populate the “room” with information about the client and the property.

After populating a DocuSign Transaction Room with client and property information, each party to the transaction can pop in the hub when needed with universally updated information via an API (application programming interface), all while the agent remains at the center of the deal.

By using API, DocuSign Transaction Rooms allow agents to “seamlessly” pass information “from system to system,” according to Wilson.

API’s enable the integration of apps and software more efficiently because of how they manage data, she explains.

“Before, we were pushing the whole data set all at once — which is very cumbersome and takes a lot of server power. Now with the API, we just pull the information that’s most important and precious [and distribute it], and it’s a lot more efficient.”

A DocuSign Transaction Room is able to use API integration to weave together:

  • CRMs
  • Listings
  • Offers
  • Agreements
  • Accounting
  • Smart forms
  • Title information

The online process is also more secure, Wilson says, pointing out that brokers get insurance discounts for using online transaction management because the process is cleaner and safer than paper.

Getting apps to integrate doesn’t just ease data input; it also spawns a digital assistant for brokerages.

Creating a digital mothership with all tasks in one place enables a new era of task management during a home sale. Agents can lay out the entire process, step by step, for both themselves and their clients as they list a home, accept an offer and everything in between.

This makes for a “more integrated, cohesive result,” according to Swanepoel.

DocuSign Vice President and General Manager of Global Real Estate Solutions Georg Gerstenfeld said a growing ecosystem of partnering softwares easily integrate into Transaction Rooms, making the office adoption process much easier.

However, he added that brokerages with software products not yet in the DocuSign network can still be integrated into its digital lead-to-close strategy.

“By being the hub, we’re going to allow users to integrate whatever products they want to integrate,” he said.

“We’re agnostic around what you use, so you don’t have to switch from your existing software providers to get the benefits of lead-to-close.”

Although it will take a little more work, Gerstenfeld says it’s “totally possible” to integrate software not yet partnered with DocuSign if your brokerage has a technology coordinator or an employee trained in API code.

Tangible improvements

Scott Crowley, senior vice president and chief information officer of Berkshire Hathaway – Fox and Roach, helped transform his brokerage of 5,000-plus agents into a digitally run company by using DocuSign Transaction Rooms.

Fox and Roach also owns a mortgage, title and insurance firm, so the brokerage merged those services into its Transaction Rooms for a one-stop hub for all involved in the home sale.

“We wanted to be able to manage all of our digital assets in real time,” Crowley said. “We wanted to be able to do so in a way that we could generate some revenue-building opportunities. And we wanted to do it throughout the companies — all four different verticals.”

Crowley said his brokerage used the digital transformation as an opportunity to improve the way it ran itself, even taking data accumulated by Transaction Rooms to build an internal information warehouse so each company branch has access to all of Fox and Roach’s data and documents.

Brokerages keep sole ownership of all of their Transaction Room data, according to Gerstenfeld.

“We don’t look at their data – we are not a big data company and we are not in the business of selling or marketing data,” Gerstenfeld said. “You own the data, you control the data as a broker/agent, and we are a conduit to help you unlock that data between your systems.”

Crowely also uses his digital hub to provide brokers with performance data, such as pending deals and how many listings are coming in — which started a base for predictive analytics in the future.

Transaction Rooms allow the company “to build our own integrations to any companies we wanted to and basically any third-party vendors we wanted to bring in,” Crowley added.

Swanepoel’s study said digital document management has “most certainly come of age” — but it warned against casually dipping toes in the water, instead suggesting that brokerages dive in all the way.

“Real estate organizations that adopt a digital transaction technology piecemeal will not achieve those additional benefits specifically valuable to real estate,” Swanepoel said.

To learn more about a digital lead-to-close strategy for real estate brokerages, visit DocuSign for Real Estate’s resource center for case studies, webinars, video tutorials and more.

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