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"Transaction Platforms - the Next Big Client Service!"

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Jonathan Cutler Photo
8/1/03 Interview with Jonathan Cutler

SettlementRoom Systems, Inc
1953 Gallows Road, Suite 870
Vienna, VA 22182

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The Society/SettlementRoom (SR) Special Alliance

The Society's unique arrangement entitles any member to use SR Express Software completely free an excellent way to become familiar with transaction management by actually managing documents and messages.

Advantages from Transaction Platforms

  1. The capability to give your clients (and vendors) Web status pages is a real marketing plus for attracting clients; buyers and sellers can log in at any time to check on the status of the transaction.
  2. Having the transaction information online reduces the number of phone calls between agent and client and vendors; agents are saving as much as 30%of administrative time on every transaction.
  3. Transaction platforms are a classic example of technology giving agents the time to do what they do best sell real estate; an analogy to the platforms is the tracking capability of delivery companies, such as UPS, that allows customers to login with a tracking number and find out the exact status of a package.
The Genesis of SettlementRoom

  1. Culter's analysis identified 22 different steps to closing and 150­200 different phone calls between parties for every transaction.
  2. By posting information on a web site, Cutler saw a way to eliminate the redundant communication; the added challenge was to make posting efficient in dealing with many transactions at one time with the SR software, numerous functions work off centrally stored information.
  3. SR offers transaction histories on CD to eliminate the need for multiple boxes of paper records.
Competition in the Transaction Platform Field

  1. There has already been a shake-out in the transaction platform arena; SR's key to success has been keeping its focus on its product and spending little money on marketing.
  2. About six legitimate competitors are still in business, and they are tending to converge because of consistent feedback from the marketplace; SRstands out for its product excellence and ease of use.
How Transaction Software Works

  1. To use the SR software, the agent (or assistant) clicks on Start a new transaction in their SR account to enter a new listing; a minimal amount of information is required just name and address.
  2. By clicking Invite in , the agent can enter the email addresses of the several people who might be collaborating on the transaction (e.g., an assistant, title company, appraiser).
  3. An order can automatically be sent to the appraiser by clicking Send order ; once the vendor is in the system, the agent does not have to reenter the vendor data for every transaction.
  4. A contract of sale can be uploaded to the site for access by anyone on the team (e.g., the appraiser); at closing, the HUD-1, disclosures, warrantee programs and any other relevant documents would be on the site.
  5. The full version of the software includes a preloaded feature that automatically puts in documents and vendors from a library of your preferences that you set up.
Bringing in Buyers and Sellers

  1. The agent sends buyers and sellers a special Summary invitation by email to view the site; the invitation has the agent's banner at the top and makes no mention of SR.
  2. By clicking the link and using the login sent in the email, buyers and sellers can see appropriate parts of the site; for buyers and sellers, the agent's To do list appears as a service list of what the agent is doing.
  3. An interactive message board (not just a flat status page) is available for the agent and buyer or seller to post messages and documents.
  4. The transaction site keeps buyers and sellers informed of progress and gives them a level of comfort that the agent is on top of things; meanwhile, the agent is doing less work to maintain the relationship than through the traditional way.
Society Trac SR Express for Members

  1. SR Express costs $150 per year, but Society members get its full use and benefits as part of their Society membership.
  2. SR Express consists of the full-featured software less some of the reminders and task-tracking capabilities; it has full capability for document-sharing and messaging.
  3. Members who use Society Trac can track all transaction documents, invite in their clients for a Summary view and get the full marketing benefits of providing this service.
  4. To get the additional task-tracking features, members may opt to upgrade to the Enterprise version at any time without losing any data; the original transactions started on Express will remain free.
Favorite Sites on the Web

  1. For pay-per-click website promotion, use
  2. For email-to-fax service and desktop faxing, consider MaxeMail and eFax (which has both a free and paid version); is a useful site for reverse lookups of phone numbers.
  3. Lavasoft offers spyware elimination software for free ( Ad-Aware ).
  4. For daily real estate news (especially technology), RISMedia is a good source; is immensely valuable for real estate pros.
The Future for Real Estate Technology

  1. Virtual assistants and coordinators are a strong trend because the transaction process has gotten so complicated; these coordinators are using software like SR's to manage their multiple clients.
  2. Within 3­5 years 80­90% of agents will be using some kind of transaction management (compared to only a small percentage now) because of the combination of marketing and efficiency benefits.
  3. The three or four major players who survive (including SR) will converge on a similar set of features that emerge from client demand; transaction management will be as common as email people will pick a platform just like they pick an email provider.
Contact Information for Jonathan Cutler:

(v) 888-661-6600 x82
(f) 703-991-8300

Real Estate Sites and Tools in This Briefing:
LavaSoft's Ad-Aware