Buried in paper image via Shutterstock.
This post by Melissa Zavala, real estate broker/owner at Broadpoint Properties in San Diego County, Calif., was originally published on ActiveRain.
Here’s some interesting real estate trivia for you: The median age of Realtors reached 57 in 2013, the oldest on record. Interestingly, the 111th Congress, which took office in 2009, is the oldest in the nation’s history, with an average age of 57 in the House and 63 in the Senate. So, Realtors are now as old as congressmen, I guess.
The National Association of Realtors attributes this increase in the average age of Realtors to professionals staying in the market longer and putting off retirement. If that were the case, then it would stand to reason that many real estate professionals began their careers in the precomputer days when home searches were conducted via MLS books that were thicker then the Yellow Pages.
So many changes have come to the industry since the days of MLS books, and it is frequently challenging for agents to embrace some of the technological advancements that come about so fast and furious. Should you tweet? Should you use Instagram? Should you incorporate video into your marketing strategy? Should you scan or use a fax? The list of decisions and options goes on and on.
Transitioning to a paperless office
As an independent broker, in 2011 my brokerage began an 18-month conversion from a paper-filled office to a paperless one, and it was not without its challenges. Convincing agents in our brokerage to adapt to new technology was only one piece of this challenge. But, there were many more things to consider when making the transition.
- Online security. Once we decided to go paperless, we then needed to be certain that our data was backed up at a few off-site locations. What if the building burned down? What if the off-site server went kaput? While highly unlikely that these things would happen, we felt the need to develop a plan to address that possibility. Thank goodness for cloud-based technology, which resolved this problem very efficiently.
- Storage of paper files. In evaluating our options, we were excited about the prospect of not having to store boxes and boxes of paper files. At the time we embraced the paperless world, we had more than 200 file boxes in storage. Upon evaluating state laws with regard to file retention, we then developed an “exit strategy” for destruction of existing paper files, and I’m pleased to report that in one more year, we will be able to give up our storage space for good. (Of course, another option would be to hire someone to scan all of your paper files, but for us it was more cost effective to wait it out.)
- Office printers. We had to make important decisions about whether office copiers were actually needed any longer. Now that the brokerage is paperless, should we have a copier available to our agents? We decided that having a copier was necessary, because even though we decided to avoid paper, that doesn’t mean we should force our ways on the client.
- Agents and clients. Another consideration was whether our less tech-savvy agents or clients would be willing to embrace a paperless transaction. The truth is that not every homebuyer or home seller has a computer, and not everyone is comfortable signing an important official document through an electronic signature platform. We are a client-centered brokerage, and we planned to retain electronic copies for our records, yet we would provide our clients with original documentation — if that’s what they wanted.
- Paperless platforms. Given the fact that not all agents are tech-savvy, we needed to make a decision as to whether we would require our agents to embrace our new platform, which could include uploading their own paperwork. In our evaluation, we found that some platforms are agent-centered, and brokerages provide each agent with their own login. Other platforms are brokerage-centered, and office staff can do the uploading while providing the agent with viewing and downloading capabilities. We opted for the latter option. Our philosophy is that any time an agent spends uploading paperwork is time spent away from lead generation activities. Since we are vested in seeing our agents close as many transactions as possible, it stands to reason that it would be best for administrative staff to complete the time-consuming tasks that might detract from lead generation.
There are lots of things to consider when transitioning to a paperless environment. And, even though not every agent will easily embrace the new technology, the benefits of running a paperless office have far outweighed the challenges of the transition.