“The Big Three:” How Innovation is Changing Lockboxes, Forms and Data

By Dale Ross, CEO of Realtors Property Resource, LLC

Lockboxes, standardized forms and listing data, sometimes known as the “Big Three,” have served as core business products in the real estate industry for decades. Now, with increased consumer demand for greater efficiencies in the marketplace, i.e., along with advancements in tech-powered tools that aide in productivity and timely communication, the Big Three have embraced dramatic transformations … all to the benefit of agents, brokers and consumers.

Lockboxes: Stepping up accountability and efficiency

Lockboxes have come a long way. Twenty years ago, manual combination lockboxes were the only option. In the 1990s, we welcomed the introduction of electronic lockboxes, which greatly benefitted brokers and agents from a liability and control standpoint. These more advanced lockboxes were accessed by a unique “key” provided to each subscribing agent, which allowed the listing broker to keep a record of who was entering the property, and provided activity reports to the seller. It also increased the level of accountability for issues or concerns, or unauthorized access to homes for sale.

Today, emerging technologies have allowed for yet another iteration of lockboxes. Smartphone enabled devices that allow REALTORS® to lock and unlock the box using through an app. This latest innovation allows the listing agent or broker to see a record of all accesses from a smartphone or tablet and offer options such as creating one-day codes –– improving security and increasing accountability even further.

Recently, partnerships such as RPR’s integration with Sentrilock™ provide even more advanced features, allowing agents to instantly receive a detailed property report on the home they are showing. This adds value to the agent’s service level and provides decision-prompting data for clients and customers.

Online Forms: Streamlining productivity

Digital forms have given the historic real estate “paper chase” a much needed innovation. Within the last few years, advancements in electronic signature capabilities and digital form sharing have streamlined agent workflows and created new efficiencies, such as autofill technology, contact management and improvements in sharing transaction information among all parties.

This has also spurred partnerships among major industry players, such as RPR’s integration with zipForm®, the nation’s leading online real estate forms provider. REALTORS® who use zipForm® and RPR can easily jump between the two platforms via one simple click, providing instant access to forms and property data needed to complete a transaction. Additionally, the integration allows REALTORS® to create new zipForm transactions using public records from RPR. The partnership is a neatly-packaged bundle of benefits that not only saves time but alleviates the pain points of having to use important business tools independent of one another.

Expanded Property Data: Anytime, anywhere access

Few industries outside of real estate exist in which competitors can access each other’s inventory. Access to real-time property information allows for an open marketplace and through local and regional MLS systems, creating a an offer of cooperation and compensation between agents and brokers. In the 1990’s, the migration of MLS services to the Internet greatly advanced access to real time information and allowed an agent to view multiple properties at a time, set up property searches, create contacts to automatically receive new listings, and produce more detailed reports for consumers.

Now, the smartphone has revolutionized real estate data yet again. Once a seller lists a property, REALTORS® can access the listing from wherever they want, in real time. Where there were once only about one hundred property characteristics available, now there are thousands. Instead of presenting potential buyers with limited characteristics such as the number of bathrooms or square footage, REALTORS® can share information about school districts, drive times, walkability scores, neighboring home values and recent remodels, all from the devices in their pockets.

Realtors Property Resource® (RPR®) takes that data delivery to the next level, giving REALTORS® one click access to both MLS sourced, and off-market properties. This provides data-rich, client-friendly reports to the entire market, establishing credibility for the REALTOR® as a market expert and supporting the MLS data which creates the unique competitive partnership that the U.S. real estate market has come to expect.

What to watch for …

Predictability and speed will be ushered in for the next generation of lockboxes, forms, and real time property data. Using demographic data, advanced analytics, and artificial intelligence, tomorrow’s REALTOR® will predict which consumers are most likely buy or sell a property in the next year. Through this advanced target marketing, agents will be able to streamline their communication and outreach efforts, while also delivering highly relevant property searches and market information.

While the real estate industry is multifaceted, the challenge to organized real estate tasked with supporting REALTORS® is in expanding its investment in REALTOR® owned and directed technologies –– such as Sentrilock, Docusign and RPR –– or to rely upon third party technology vendors to keep pace with the demands of today’s technology empowered consumers. The ultimate goal is to meet the needs of a technology empowered consumer by resourcing REALTORS® with the most advanced technologies available.

About Dale Ross

Dale Ross is the CEO of Realtors Property Resource® (RPR®), a real estate property-centric database for NAR members, which is one of the largest national databases in the country. Dale is a past president of the Maryland Association of REALTORS®, and in 1994 he cofounded the Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc. (MRIS) —which was one of the largest regional MLSs in the country. Dale served as president and Chief Executive Officer for seven years. He was also a real estate consultant and/or broker to many companies, Dale has been involved with asset management, renovations, and sales disposition of commercial and residential ground, hotels, multi-family apartment buildings, shopping centers and office buildings for 40 years.


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