“In real estate you are either dealing with information or files.”
Real estate creates a ton of paper. For any given deal, there could be a minimum of ten different contracts or items, with some of them being up to eight pages long. Add in the possibility that a deal might fall apart and the paper problem compounds even more.
A move to a paperless office may seem like a daunting task in the real estate world, but we took a look at how one local office, Team Gaglione at ReMax Real Estate Central in Edmonton, Alberta, increased their effectiveness through their journey to a paperless office powered by cloud technology.
Going back eight years, this team printed every piece of paper for every single deal or piece of information. They submitted everything to the office via fax so that they would have a fax confirmation page. Items that came in via email were still printed and tracked on a paper checklist stapled to the inside front cover of a paper file folder. Documents sent to lawyers were faxed too. They designed a customized listing input form by literally cutting up the standard form and reassembling it to include the fields and options needed. Once a deal was closed, they physically handed over the file to the realtor, who added it to the partial file they kept and put it into a banker’s box for storage. Some paperwork came through electronically, but not very much and 90-95% was printed every time.
Three years ago, they took the step of adding scanning into their process, but only at the end of the deal. Only after a deal had closed would they scan in all the paperwork and archive it. This is still how a lot of real estate firms operate today – fax, print, work with the paper, then scan and archive.
This wasn’t working for Matt Gaglione, who had followed in his father’s footsteps to become a realtor. “My father is the anti-systems guy, I am the opposite,” Matt said, “so I decided to look at the systems to make us more effective. Paperless was the way, really, to go with implementing an electronic system. This way I could free up time for those in the office and myself.”
So the Gaglione Real Estate team begun revamping their system in earnest.
Phase 1: As the team received paperwork, the office ensured it was immediately scanned and a copy put in the cloud. They maintained the paper checklist and file, since pretty much everything was already submitted as printed paper, and then physically handed it over to the realtor. This move immediately introduced the biggest advantage of the cloud: everyone on the team had real time access to all the paperwork regardless of where they were, even the realtor if they forgot the one paper file in the office or at home. However this still wasn’t enough – how would they get rid of the paper files?
Phase 2: The goal, to go completely paperless. It was not, however, without its share of challenges. To create a functional paperless system, so much more had to be done than just scanning paperwork and saving it to the cloud. The biggest challenge was tracking and process. At first, they still maintained a paper checklist for each file so they could see what paperwork was missing in their cloud storage, then flagged those missing files with paper sticky notes. The result was a significant reduction in paper, but still not paperless. The solution? Moving to an electronic checklist tracker. Now at a glance they could see what paperwork they had, what date it was submitted, the date they sent paperwork to a mortgage broker or lawyer, as well as the names of these partner professionals. The checklist evolved as they used it and they discovered other refinements that would be helpful, for example using the property address to organize online documents. This extended to using the property address as the subject line for their emails, so that they could search emails easily on the fly when looking for a piece of information. At the end of the deal, they moved the electronic folder to the archive folder online. No paper.
Scanners: Get a robust scanner with a paper feeder, it saves a lot of time rather than scanning one by one.
DocuSign: This is an electronic signature program that allows the team to send contracts to clients for signatures without having to print, scan and send back. Matt noted that Alberta has good signature laws that other provinces do not have. If you will be storing these documents outside of Alberta, you may need additional customer consent. Make sure you are compliant with the privacy laws where you are working.
Mobile Apps: “For us we needed to find apps that minimized the steps needed to get the information into our hands,” Matt said, “so we implemented a database app for our iPads that included all the listing fields we needed, then automatically created the listing input form that the realtor could email to the client, right from the app.”
Top Producer: This is a piece of software very specific to the real estate industry, and key to the business in terms of syncing data. It syncs through Google to all their devices, making it a seamless transfer of information between mobile phone, iPad and laptop.
“The technology today has enabled us to save time with e-ways rather than paper. Now we aren’t stuck in a routine,” Matt says, “Moving electronic forces you to really look at your systems and ask what you can do better. We can then have more free time for whatever we feel like doing. My team can have a stay-at-home mom who works on things when her schedule can fit it in. We look at everything as task-based rather than attendance-based. Paying someone to be in attendance isn’t really the best use of money or resources. It is not about being in the office. It is the value of time. Handling things in way less time just makes sense in business. I look at it as being an at-home father who has a full-time job with part-time hours. I feel sorry for those who are not managing their time more efficiently and effectively.”
Our thanks to Jacquie Gaglione and Matt Gaglione of Team Gaglione at ReMax Real Estate Central for their insights into moving their real estate practice into the cloud. If you have any questions about the transition they made, you can reach Matt at email@example.com