Automated transaction management systems have come of age, and multiple listing services are the ideal organizations to offer such services to real estate agents and brokers, according to a study by the real estate consulting firm WAV Group Inc.

Modular products that offer brokerages the ability to conduct a roll-out in stages have been a key to overcoming what remains the single biggest hurdle to adoption — the time and pain involved in going paperless, the study said.

Automated transaction management systems have come of age, and multiple listing services are the ideal organizations to offer such services to real estate agents and brokers, according to a study by the real estate consulting firm WAV Group Inc.

Modular products that offer brokerages the ability to conduct a rollout in stages have been a key to overcoming what remains the single biggest hurdle to adoption — the time and pain involved in going paperless, the study said.

The study, "Online Transaction Processing Comes of Age," was based on a survey of more than 1,700 brokers and agents from 22 MLSs. The survey showed the percentage of agents and brokers who said they used an automated transaction management system actually declined from 60 percent in a 2005 WAV Group survey to 29 percent today.

But that reflects confusion over what an automated transaction management system is, not declining adoption, the study’s authors said.

Many of those who reported using transaction management systems in 2005 were actually using less sophisticated contact managers or scheduling applications, the study concluded. And many who didn’t identify themselves as users of an automated transaction management system in this year’s survey are using individual modules of such systems.

An automated transaction system allows multiple parties involved in a transaction to view, share and manage data through the entire process.

Full transaction management systems are complex, rule-based systems that include several different modules, WAV Group said. Those modules include contract and forms integration, document management, transaction task and activity management, and Internet fax and digital signature capabilities.

Nearly nine in ten of agents and brokers surveyed said they have access to electronic forms (87 percent). Most also had access to document management applications (81 percent), Internet fax (77 percent), transaction task and activity management software (71 percent) and digital signature capabilities (55 percent).

Those responses — along with interviews with transaction management vendors — led WAV Group to conclude there have been "encouraging adoption increases throughout the country" in the last four years.

There’s a clear progression of component adoption, starting with online forms and progressing to digital signatures, the study said.

"As agents have gotten comfortable with online forms which are well-established in most markets across the country, they have begun to see the value of not only initiating forms online, but also executing, storing and distributing them online as well via document management," the study said.

Modular products that allow staged rollouts have been a key to adoption, the study said. The desire to save time and money, adopt "green" business practices, and improve communications with clients are also cited as motivators.

Among the remaining hurdles to adoption: the belief that online transaction processing can be cumbersome and difficult to implement, and that the benefits of going paperless are not clear. Some Realtors are simply not doing any business, the study found, and others are worried about losing opportunities to provide "high touch" services. …CONTINUED

Another concern "expressed by more than one broker" is "a desire not to make the transaction more transparent," the study noted. "These brokers feel that increased transparency will actually have a reverse effect on the client and cause more issues than it solves."

But many MLSs are already offering transaction management services or modules.

MLSs are "the ideal organization" to offer transaction management services, the study concluded, because the technology has been proven to provide "strong satisfaction and real benefit" to Realtors.

The ideal system would be integrated with the MLS back end to take advantage of data-content integration and allow for easy auto-populating from listing data and public records, the study said.

First American Corp. subsidiary MarketLinx offers its Document/Transaction Manager application to both MLSs and brokers.

My Florida Regional MLS (MFRMLS) has integrated Instanet Solutions’ TransactionDesk into its MLXchange system and iMapp Tax-Property Records solutions, the study noted.

MLS system vendor Dynaconnections Corp. took a different approach, integrating the entire document management process directly into the MLS system, the study said.

Before choosing a vendor and product for component parts like document management, the study advises MLSs to consider how well that solution fits with its longer-range strategy for offering transaction processing services.

"Don’t make decisions today that create blocks to more integrated and advanced technologies in the future," the study advises MLS managers.

For their part, transaction management vendors should offer modules, improve usability, and provide clear step-by-step overviews of how brokerages can integrate transaction management systems into their process without upsetting their business, the study said.

"Vendors need to step back and look at ways to introduce their technology in small bites, hitting the high-pain areas first and then moving on to broader capabilities," the study said. "It may make sense to create a transaction management ‘light’ version, which is really easy to use, and include only the absolutely most important functions."

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