Editor’s note: The paperless real estate transaction is back in vogue. Big companies, trade groups and entrepreneurs are investing in technology platforms, back-end systems and software to automate the home sale. This three-part series looks at new technologies that are streamlining various parts of the real estate process, making it less cumbersome, costly and time consuming. (See Part 1: Innovations in streamlined home sales and Part 3: Moving to e-mortgages.)
John Pinto, a real estate broker and owner of Realty World in San Jose, Calif., knows that the best place to coordinate a real estate deal is at his favorite restaurant eating steak tartar and sipping cabernet sauvignon. His newfound paperless and wireless lifestyle sends him to places where he can be most productive–and a real estate office isn’t on the list.
Pinto has streamlined his business with wireless mobile technology and freed himself to work in environments that are more conducive to his lifestyle and his strong Italian heritage.
The digital or “paperless” real estate transaction is back in vogue. Big companies, trade groups and entrepreneurs are investing in technology platforms, back-end systems and software to automate the real estate transaction, and digging deeper for change to revolutionize the closing process.
Without the reliance on paper, Pinto finds it easier to juggle work and play while finding success at both. He spoke with Inman News while walking through Northern California wine country in Napa Valley. Under normal circumstances, he said, he would’ve had his three-pound tablet computer system slung over his shoulder so he could stop, open it up and do whatever business he needed to do at any moment.
“Italians are known for having a blurry line between work and play,” he said. Pinto’s family is from Naples, but he grew up in New York. He’s been selling real estate for about 30 years.
Pinto picked up Criterion’s RedTablet PC about six months ago to test drive the system and see how it could improve his team’s workflow. Now, he often can be found doing business at his beloved restaurant, a Starbucks coffee shop or sitting in the organic garden at Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts in Napa between cooking classes.
Pinto shows up at listing appointments with his RedTablet in hand, logs onto the Internet using his wireless air card connection and with a few clicks, opens up his presentation for the home seller to see. The presentation generally includes comparative MLS information, agency disclosure forms, statutory disclosure forms, a listing contract and county records on the property, among other things. Pinto can open each application on his tablet PC and use a digital highlighter to underscore key points for the seller.
When it’s time for the seller to sign a contract, he switches his digital highlighter to a digital pen and the seller signs directly on the RedTablet screen. At that point, Pinto can electronically send a copy of the contract to his office and to the seller.
“Then I return to Napa with no paper whatsoever,” he said.
Pinto creates and stores disclosure packages for properties in his online transaction manager so other Realtors can access the digital versions of the documents on their own. This eliminates the need for him to produce a hard copy disclosure package, and copies to give to Realtors who have interested buyers. It also eliminates time he or an assistant would take to answer those requests.
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Pinto has mastered the paperless, wireless real estate experience on his side, but the dozen or so vendors, agents and service companies that also are involved in his transactions aren’t always equipped the same way. The paperless transaction tends to break down at the point when Pinto has to exchange communication with other parties to the real estate deal.
“In my real estate fantasy, nobody is sending me a hard copy. Nobody is faxing me a hard copy–they are all e-mailing it to my online transaction manager,” he said.
The biggest challenge in a paperless transaction is getting vendors to join in the technology so that going forward, time is not wasted converting paper documents to digital. Early adopters also face the challenge of recruiting home sellers who are willing to trust the technology.
Pinto has no problem finding eager home sellers in his tech-savvy Silicon Valley market–home of search engine pioneer Google, online auction giant eBay and Web portal powerhouse Yahoo!, to name a few. But agents in other parts of the country where sellers may be skeptical about the security of technology might find it more difficult to convince their clients.
Pinto believes a key ingredient to the RedTablet PC system is the interface, which enables users to write on the screen using a stylus just as they would write on a paper notepad. The tablet platform makes it easier for Pinto to pick up and jot down a few work-related ideas while he has downtime at an airport or restaurant.
Using a keyboard is “not as intimate as having an electronic legal pad in your hands with a stylus,” he said. “There’s something that’s very subtle and dynamic about the intimacy of having your tool right in your hands.”
Pinto said a fast, reliable Internet connection also is critical for the wireless/paperless business to work. He can use a wireless connection at a Starbucks or other hot-spot, and also his cell phone to connect to the Internet on his Tablet PC. He’s anticipating the arrival of DSL speed cell cards that will enable even faster connections through mobile phones.
Pinto looks forward to a time when more colleagues join him for a fully wireless, paperless real estate business, saying that in a perfect world, agents will be sitting around park benches with their RedTablets, e-mailing contracts and property information to consumers.
Now that he’s tested the waters of a truly mobile real estate lifestyle, he plans to equip his three agents with the RedTablet PC in the near future.
Tomorrow: A look at what’s new in electronic mortgages.
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