Real estate is a very paper-intensive business. There are millions of dollars spent every year printing, processing and storing paper. Finally, the concept of processing real estate paperwork online is coming into its own. A few years ago when WAV Group completed its 2005 WAV Group Transaction Management Adoption Study, it appeared as though the industry was not that interested or even ready to complete its transaction online. Today, all of that has changed.
Over time, agents have learned to use a variety of technologies to reduce the amount of paper they push by going on-line to use a variety of user-friendly tools. The concept of transaction management has been greatly supported by the adoption of a spectrum of products including electronic faxing, online forms, electronic signatures, document management and online transaction management coordination and project management.
In some of the MLSs we work with for example, we have seen adoption rates soar for electronic faxing from companies like MongoFax and Instanet. These technologies allow you to fax documents paper documents into a system that scans them and allows you to view them online. In some MLSs as many as 70% of their members are now using electronic faxing. Satisfaction levels with these services are very high as well.
Online forms processing has also increased significantly. Companies like Zipform, AutoRealty and Instanet have seen usage of online forms increase significantly over the past few years. Part of the adoption has been driven by innovations like Forms Advisor from Winforms. This product provides a wizard-driven guide to ensure an agent is using all of the forms needed for a particular type of transaction as well as the most recent version of the form. In just its first year of use Forms Advisor has helped agents complete 2,000,000 documents effectively.
Another key innovation in the process is electronic signing of documents. This type of signature has been legal in the U.S. for sometime, but is just now starting to come into favor with many agents. Electronic signatures make the process of signing documents remotely much easier so it is easier to do business with second home buyers and investors who may not be physically located in the same city as the agent.
Once the electronic form has been executed, document management allows an agent to store all of the documents on-line. Document Management has experienced significant growth in the past 12 to 18 months. As predicted by the WAV Group study in 2005, now that agents are comfortable with online forms, they are moving to the next step of document management. Document management makes it easier to access all document associated with a transaction. It also makes it easier to share and collaborate on documents online.
Many agents have even begun to process their entire transaction online. They are now using online transaction management platforms to order inspections, work with their title representative and providing an update on progress in the transaction to their clients through Transaction Management. TransactionDesk, for example reported that 58% of their transactions were begun in their system as opposed to the online forms portion of their product offering, indicating agents are moving down the path toward using the full suite of transaction management offerings.
WAV Group is in the midst of fielding its Transaction Management survey again so we are looking forward to seeing the changes in adoption of these important online tools.