The pleasure of ordering an espresso drink, in part, is the seamlessness and simplicity of its process. The espresso expertly pulled by a well-trained barista, a machine’s whirr, a whiff of coffee, milk poured carefully into a caramel-cream design.
The process is smooth, you have absolute confidence and calm, payment is almost a byproduct of the experience, and all you’re left with is the hum of the machine, the light banter with the barista, a great drink and an interaction that feels more like art than commerce.
Why can’t this be the case with homebuying?
Inman News Publisher Brad Inman posed this question a couple of months ago and it will set the tone of Real Estate Connect New York City, which runs Jan. 16-18 at the Grand Hyatt New York.
Inman and six real estate mortgage, title and transaction insiders will discuss the challenges and opportunities to realizing this reality from the conference’s main stage opening day at a panel titled "What Does the Industry Need to Do to Make the Latte Vision Happen?"
Joining Inman on the Connect stage for the discussion will be Austin Allison, founder and CEO of paperless real estate transaction software company dotloop; Glenn Shimkus, co-founder and CEO of Cartavi, a cloud-based real estate transaction coordination service; Stewart Morris Jr., vice chairman of title insurance provider Stewart Information Services Corp. (SISCO); Eric Bryn, vice president of digital innovation at Chicago-based Baird & Warner Real Estate, one of the largest brokerages in the U.S.; and Krisstina Wise, founder and CEO of the innovative Austin, Texas, brokerage The GoodLife Team.
In pre-Connect interviews with Inman News, the panelists agreed with Inman that the time is ripe to innovate a simpler, more pleasant real estate transaction process -– consumers are ready, they said.
But what about the industry?
"A lot has changed in real estate in recent years," said dotloop’s Allison, whom Inman News named its 2012 innovator of the year. "The real estate experience is more mobile than ever before, and buyers and sellers no longer tolerate convoluted real estate processes mired in the inefficiencies of paper."
These changes in consumer expectations inspired dotloop, Austin said, "because I believed the real estate transaction process shouldn’t be painful." Dotloop tries to take the pain away by offering a service that allows customers to keep documents in the "cloud" and make them accessible to all parties of a transaction that need them — those part of the "loop" — so when one party’s done, it’s immediately ready for the next party to process.
Dotloop, Allison said, has plans to build more products to improve the real estate transaction in 2013 and continue the company’s growth.
Allison’s espresso drink of choice is a Starbucks latte.
Cartavi’s Shimkus has many of the same goals. "Our vision is to bring the various components of the (real estate transaction) ecosystem together into a simple, secure platform that supports all participants throughout the entire life cycle of a transaction," he said.
Cartavi saw a need and no viable products to bring this vision to life, so the firm built document storage, sharing and archival systems, Shimkus said, in addition to teaming with e-signature platform DocuSign.
He has further plans for integration this year. "Expect to see announcements from us in 2013 in other areas including forms creation, title systems, customer relationship management and consumer search portals."
Shimkus says it’s safer for him (and others!) not to be caffeinated, so, when drinking espresso, he usually chooses a decaf Americano.
Stewart Morris Jr.
One of the key (and final) steps in any real estate transaction involves securing title insurance.
"A major obstacle to going virtual with the real estate closing process has been the slowness of the market to move to the acceptance and use of e-signature and e-documents," said Morris, vice chairman of SISCO, which deals in title insurance, among other title-related products.
"Title insurance and settlement needs to be more integrated into the overall real estate transaction process," Morris said. "We can only do this through collaboration and integration with other service providers."
SISCO is in the early stages of developing a platform that will bring together other parties in a transaction and streamline the process, reducing its time and cost, he said.
Morris eschews espresso, preferring the simplicity of drip coffee, with lots of cream.
Bryn has worked hard, he said, at Baird & Warner as vice president of digital innovation, to make the firm’s customer experience like that of Starbucks — a great attention to detail, adept, quick to correct mistakes, and a focus on providing consistent quality.
Bryn believes real estate systems should work similarly. An elegant system can create a better, simpler transaction experience, for the real estate pro and the consumer alike, he said.
"The biggest problem (in the real estate industry) is in the age of technology, the age of social, the age of mobile, how can I better align the client with the sales associate to make sure that conversation is meaningful, engaged and informative?" he’s told Inman News recently for a Connect profile.
Bryn said his greatest accomplishment at Baird & Warner toward making this vision a reality has been the development of a "Web+social+mobile+integrated" customer relationship management system.
Bryn takes espresso in its purest (and fanciest?) form. "One of the most pure joys of my life is pulling a perfect espresso from my La Pavoni," he told Inman News.
Krisstina Wise has focused a lot on innovation at her 5-year-old, 12-agent brokerage in Austin, Texas. The firm went paperless in 2012 and hosted an inaugural brokerage best-practices conference. In 2013, it’s about streamlining even further, she said, and really focusing on the aesthetic value of a real estate transaction experience.
"It’s important to consider a customer’s full experience," Wise said. The value of getting coffee at a great coffee shop, for example, is not all about the coffee, she said. It’s about the look, the feel, the smell, the music playing, the barista’s manner, and, of course, a seamless transaction, everything. That’s what The GoodLife Team is focused on, she said.
Wise’s favorite espresso drink is a grande Americano from Starbucks.
Brad Inman’s favorite espresso drink happens to be a latte.
Real Estate Connect New York City runs Jan. 16-18 at the Grand Hyatt New York.