• Real estate is more data-driven and mobile than ever.
  • To protect customers, agents and brokers must think beyond just managing the transaction.
  • Make sure that only the necessary people have access to your clients' personal information.

Is there a more mobile, data-driven business than real estate? It’s a business in which folks on both sides of a transaction are often on-the-go, time is of the essence and emotions are high.

Indeed, connecting with customers on the fly and managing sensitive transaction data — securely, swiftly and easily — is a key component of how technology is transforming and energizing the industry so that brokers, agents and their clients can close deals anytime, anywhere and on any device.

New digital tools simplify complex transactions that typically involve many parties, multiple documents and mountains of data. The goal of the technology is to create faster, easier, more convenient and secure processes from listing to close.

Brokerages and their agents who embrace this high-tech era are proving that they can provide more effective oversight, decrease costs and reduce risk — all while speeding up closing transactions, improving their cash flow and creating a stand-out, best-in-class experience for their clients.

But as more of the data supporting those transactions becomes digital, significant challenges arise: Where is my data? Who owns the data? The best plan to address these challenges is, of course, to first understand them.

If you’re not careful, you could put valuable business and client data at risk. Here are some thoughts on best practices for successfully controlling your transaction data to keep it safe and secure.

Defining the data and the risk

Property and listing data, contract terms, buyer income, social security numbers and other personal information about the parties involved in a transaction all make up the vast body of transaction data entrusted to real estate professionals.

It flows within and between wide-ranging sources including the MLS, forms solutions and financial accounting databases as well as individuals such as buyers, sellers, loan officers, appraisers and more.

To protect customers — and their digital footprint — brokers and agents must think beyond simply managing the contract to sell or buy a property.

In the future — hopefully, the not-too-distant future — we’ll see the entire mortgage process become digitized. Data will flow from the brokerage with listings and purchase agreements to mortgage and title companies all the way through to the buyers’ mobile device for closing. It’s called digital transaction management.

Essentially, the entire process will be managed digitally from the point an agent takes a listing to the point the keys are handed over to a buyer. (By the way, even the keys could be digital with Kevo and other technologies available today, but I’ll save that for another article.)

There’s an underlying question with this transformation. Who owns the data? The simple answer is that you and your client do. With that ownership, however, comes a responsibility to secure it for your client.

That means the tools a brokerage chooses to manage transactions need to be carefully considered to ensure that private consumer information is being protected adequately.

You should know how and when your data is being used. Here are three tips to consider as you make your digital transformation:

1. Understanding your data

Where does it exist? What’s important versus not important? What needs to remain private and secure versus what doesn’t? It’s vital to understand the flows or the integration points between the various tools and technology you use.

2. Securing the data

Whether it’s your staff or the staff of a business partner associated with the transaction, ask yourself who has permission to access transaction data.

Access to this information — including data and document content — should be on a need-to-know-basis rather than everyone-gets-in. Ensure the technology you use enforces this approach.

3. Safeguarding privacy

Review the privacy policy of any third parties you use to store your and your client’s transaction data. Ensure you understand how they view ownership of the data and what they can do with it.

The best-in-class approach for data security and privacy is to put your trust with vendors who don’t sell or share your data. Ask questions or for clarification on any areas of ambiguity.

In a world that is increasingly mobile, don’t let your tools and technology hold you or your business back. And as you make the digital transformation, make sure your technology puts you in control — while keeping you and your clients’ data safe and secure.

Glenn Shimkus is a VP of Product at DocuSign. Follow him on Twitter.

Email Glenn Shimkus.

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