Building upon the electronic real estate forms technology now used by about 180,000 Realtors across the country, a new transaction management system is in its early launch phase.

The pioneer users of this system, developed with the support of the National Association of Realtors and the California Association of Realtors, include a national group of individual Realtors, brokerages, Realtor associations and multiple listing services.

Real Estate Business Technologies LLC, a subsidiary of the California Association of Realtors, built the new platform, which is closely integrated with ZipForm and WINForms electronic real estate documents. The national association invested $1.2 million in the effort.

The initial user group for the new system was formed in October, said Joshua D.J. Sharfman, chief technical officer for the California Association of Realtors.

“We have invited a group of real estate practitioners – members who are interested in influencing the specific design and specific nuances of the system. That activity is well under way,” Sharfman said. The official launch of the transaction management platform is planned in the first half of 2005. These new users, the “charter subscriber group,” will meet Jan. 26 in Monterey, Calif., to discuss the platform.

While there are a number of transaction management systems that have been developed to digitize and automate aspects of traditionally paper-intensive real estate transactions, this platform is designed specifically for Realtors and for easing the transfer of information from ZipForm/WINForms documents to other forms required in the transaction.

“What is unique in this solution is the one-button, one-click interface with the forms product,” Sharfman said. This feature allows users to transfer information from the electronic forms into the transaction management system – and to upload those forms into the system – with the press of a button. “If the transaction is new and is not recognized by the system, a new transaction will be built automatically using the information that is in the transaction cover sheet,” according to a description of the technology.

Licenses for the platform are available only to members of the National Association of Realtors at this time, Sharfman said, though mortgage and title companies will be allowed to use the system for receiving and fulfilling orders, he said.

The platform is a logical extension of the effort begun with the adoption of electronic real estate forms, he said. In 1999, the National Association of Realtors, a California Association of Realtors subsidiary called Real Estate Business Services, Inc., and a forms automation company called CBF Systems Inc., formed RE FormsNet LLC, a joint venture designed to bring electronic forms to Realtors.

For the past several years, Sharfman said, “we have the lion’s share of the market in serving electronic forms to the real estate industry. This is really phase two of that vision that was outlined seven or eight years ago.”

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While the first stage of the technology focused on carrying transactions from the marketing phase to the listing phase, this second effort will facilitate the rest of the process, “from listing to close,” he said.

The interface was designed to be simple and straightforward, not unlike using an Internet search engine, he said. “The user interface has to be as simple as Google or Yahoo! for them to use – otherwise it doesn’t fulfill its mission.”

There are tools available to order and receive a wide range of services relating to the transaction, including mortgage, title, pest inspection, and natural hazard disclosures, he said, and developers are engaged in discussions with those companies that participate in the transaction process.

Participation in the platform will be available by purchasing individual, broker-level or association and MLS subscriptions, Sharfman said.


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