Before entering an open house, I swipe my iPhone on a tiny device operated by Square Inc., the mobile payment service. The device is attached to the front door of the home, like a lockbox. That swipe triggers two events:

1. A swarm of data is sent to my iPhone, including disclosures, neighborhood information, crime data, home value indices and detailed transaction history on the house. It is all rendered smartly in an app.

2. My swipe also uploads my personal account and financial information, including loan preapprovals and credit history. It all sits password-protected in the cloud in my home domain portfolio (HDP), which I control like I do my Dropbox account.

The house information and my personal financial portfolio are mashed up and instantly prepopulate a purchase offer for the house, and preps a formal loan application. This information sits in a "pending event" area of my HDP, ready to be activated.

The purchase offer includes a recommended home price offer range, based on a built-in home valuation algorithm, and includes suggested offer contingencies based on disclosures and my financials. I invite my agent and/or lawyer to weigh in, granting them permission to access the documents in the cloud.

Image credit: United Technologies Corp.


All of this data processing and output occurs in a few seconds and happens behind the scenes, allowing me to focus on the emotional side of the house hunt without being distracted by paperwork, disclosure forms and bureaucracy.

Once I resolve to make an offer, I push "offer" and the contract is in the hands of the seller’s agent and the seller, and the mortgage process is mobilized.

The pre-homebuying process, which requires a little data entry, would function like the Clear Card, which fast-tracks you through airports once you have given the government the necessary information to expedite you through Homeland Security.

Terrorists and homebuyers share some similarities. Since 9/11 and the financial collapse, they are equally mistrusted.

At the end of the process after offer acceptance and final contract, the mortgage promissory note, HUD-1, Truth in Lending statement, legal affidavits and the deed are all electronically signed and properly filed, seamlessly, and all executed on my iPhone when a signature is required.

Today, the technology is in place to confirm identity, certify buyers and sellers, enable digital signatures, and mash up and process disparate data on a single transaction platform. The pieces are in place — what is missing is a bigger vision and a strategy to get there.

Slate recently ran a story about Jack Dorsey‘s vision for Square. His thinking resonates.

According to tech writer Farhad Manjoo, Dorsey’s "real mission is to alter the psychology of consumption. Dorsey is bent on creating frictionless commerce. His long-term goal is to make accepting payments a breeze for businesses, and he wants to make paying for stuff invisible — for everyone, across the entire economy, for all types of goods and services."

(FYI: I have read nothing about Dorsey positioning or coding Square for real estate. But why not?)

Like Dorsey’s, we need a big vision for the overly complicated real estate process. Here is mine: Make the mechanics of buying a home as easy as buying a latte, so homebuyers can focus on the right things.

What about complicated transactions like short sales, you ask?

I wonder if this is a question, or an objection?

Consider these early objections to past innovation:

  • I like to talk to the bank teller. Early objections to ATM machine.
  • I like the sound of the carriage return on my typewriter. Early objections to PCs.
  • What about privacy? Early objections to social.
  • I like the feel of paper books. Early objections to e-books.
  • I want a receipt. Early objections to mobile payments.
  • Listings are not safe on the Internet. Ha ha.
  • There is no oxygen on the moon. So what?


Brad Inman is the publisher of Inman News. Follow him on Twitter (@bradInman) and Facebook.

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