Transaction coordination is a family affair for Karen, Chuck and Chris Drebes, a mom, dad and son, respectively, who join the concept of the family business with the most modern of concepts: the online real estate transaction.
Three years ago, Karen Drebes began specializing in shepherding real estate transactions from contract to escrow using online platforms. Early this year, the Scottsdale, Ariz., virtual assistant became the victim of her own success.
“I was working 12- to 17-hour days and I reached the point where I could go no further,” Drebes explained. She and her husband of 33 years, Chuck Drebes, did a projection and decided to build and expand the business – with Chuck coming on board.
“Chuck was leaving a partnership in the printing business and the timing was perfect,” explained Karen Drebes.
Their son Chris Drebes joined the business shortly after that.
“Chris was a business owner in his own right a few years ago,” Karen Drebes said. “We all come from an entrepreneurial background. We put out talents and skills together and it’s working very well.” In honor of the transition, she changed the businesses’ name from Source for Sources to The Coordinator Group.
The company provides virtual assistance to real estate agents in different states, most of whom the Drebes have never met in person.
The Coordinator Group manages real estate deals from listing contract to closing. Web-based transaction management systems coordinate each part 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.
“The business started in 1998 as an Internet search service. When Google and other search engines came along, I became more of a virtual assistant,” Karen Drebes said.
The Coordinator Group uses GURU Networks’ transaction management platform and SettlementRoom’s system, depending on which one the client prefers.
“As soon as the contract is signed, the agent faxes it to us,” said Karen Drebes, who asks her clients to have a shared fax line.
“We read the contract with highlighter in hand. The buyers are blue, sellers green, and we go from there. We check to make sure that everything is signed and dated where it should be. We have checklists for each state we work in that mirror that state’s contract,” Karen Drebes said.
After Karen or Chuck Drebes go over the contract and upload it to the Web, their son Chris calls the escrow officer and the lender to get everything set up. E-mails go out to the co-op agent and others in the transaction.
“In most cases, within 24 hours the contract is up on the Web in the transaction management platform, and the participants have been contacted and asked to join,” she said.
As the transaction moves along, Chris will call participants to make sure everything stays on track.
“Typically, he contacts the lender and asks, ‘Have you gotten the appraisal yet, are you going to meet our target date of X to have the loan docs to escrow?’ He also keeps in touch with the escrow company, the escrow officer,” she said.
Chuck Drebes handles the Arizona and Kansas clients, while Karen handles California, Nevada and Hawaii clients. Son Chris works with all the customers.
Drebes says there’s no problem working so closely with her husband and son. She said it helps that they have separate offices.
“Even at the end of the day we ask each other, ‘What happened in your world today?'” she said.
To help demarcate work from off-time, the husband and wife leave the house by one door and enter their home offices by another, Karen Drebes said. Her son, who is married with a six-month-old son of his own, lives nearby and commutes to work at his parents’ home.
“Karen really knows what she is doing,” said Penny Sullivan of GURU Networks, one of the transaction management platforms used by The Coordinator Group.
“We have worked together three years. She’s well-organized and good with details,” Sullivan said.
It is possible for agents to run the transaction management platform themselves, Sullivan said, but many prefer to use a virtual assistant.
“The agent can check in online and not have to answer all the phone calls asking about the status. Because you have a platform that shows how it’s going and an assistant to move the process toward settlement. Agents don’t like sitting in front of a computer. That’s why it’s useful to have a virtual assistant,” said Sullivan.
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