Thursday, September 01, 2005

Transaction Management Tracking Moves Online

Your next real estate transaction may be managed from an Internet-based transaction management system (TMS). Plenty of companies are beginning the trek toward being the first in line for servicing the transactions of real estate agents. These TMS providers, so far, include title companies, software companies, real estate companies and multiple listing services.

It's the natural progression for the industry; however, standardization and acceptance by various real estate professionals to use the same system (especially if their own company is designing its own program) will be the key to success for any TMS. The fact that so many type of companies want access to the information is what muddles the development and launching of this highly touted tool.

The basic description of a TMS is a web-based software that manages the transaction, beginning with either the buyer or seller and goes from listing the property or approving the loan through settling the transaction. The system allows service-providers to enter new data into the transaction from any place the internet is accessible. Each transaction has plenty of service providers touching it -- real estate agent, title coordinator, settlement agent, home inspector, loan officer, legal firm, insurance agent, pest inspector, etc. Each would input data about their piece of the transaction into one web-linked file hosted by the TMS company and controlled by the subscribing agent.

The challenge in today's paper-intensive real estate transaction file is to keep up with each aspect of the transaction, while ensuring that each task item is completed according to a legally-binding contract. Most times, this is monitored by paper through faxes and emails back and forth from all the above-mentioned parties.

Who owns the transaction is up for debate -- is it the listing or buyer agent, loan officer, settlement/title company? The objects of the transaction are obviously the seller and buyer -- however, they don't have the access, nor expertise, to keep up with the scores of documents, tasks, scheduling, etc,. necessary to move the transaction from contract to settlement.

The National Association of Realtors has designed a Realtor Secure certification for organizations that use the "best online security practices in the real estate industry." So far, only one TMS provider has received certification for its program -- SettlementRoom.

While this certification may give the Vienna, Virginia-based software/web developer a competitive edge in implementing its program with real estate companies and MLS services, there are so many other TMS providers on the horizon that it will be a messy battle to see who wins out or at least becomes the primary TMS service in any given jurisdiction.

NAR reported recently that "SettlementRoom … is the first transaction management vendor to complete the rigorous Realtor Secure program. SettlementRoom successfully demonstrated that it met program requirements to have policies and procedures in place to protect real estate, employee and customer information from internal and external threats and to prevent business interruptions."

NAR based its certification on security standards from the International Standards Organization and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

"Realtors are harnessing technology to help consumers and making that technology secure. So it's encouraging to see an industry firm like SettlementRoom demonstrate that it takes seriously the security of data from Realtors, consumers, and others involved in the transaction," said Mark Lesswing, NAR vice president and director of CRT, in a press release on

Of the 42 transaction management sites listed by web directory site, several are already caput while others redirect the click from the original site URL to another entity altogether. The battle is fierce and the field of winners has already begun to narrow.

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