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Virtual Evolution and the Future

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By James A. Crumbaugh III

RISMEDIA, December 3, 2009—Just two years ago when we started Allison James Estates and Homes®, the word virtual was so maligned that we didn’t dare even use it to describe our business model. Instead, we called ourselves the National Internet Based Real Estate Company.

How things have changed in just two short years. Now the word virtual is no longer poison, it’s actually become the buzz word in the real estate industry. The Technological Revolution has done this. I doubt that there is a Realtor under 50 years old in this country who doesn’t believe that we can do an entire real estate transaction through the Internet by using today’s advanced technology.

When I conceived of this business model, my original worry was with compliance issues. But we have since learned that compliance is not an issue because of how we designed and handle our back office operation. In fact, we have found it actually easier to collect, monitor and store all required contracts and documents than when we were running several brick and mortar offices.

My other original concern was training. Would a Realtor’s learning curve be so steep he/she might become a compliance hazard, thereby endangering the public interest, and the broker’s license? Because of this concern, I had decided that we would only hire Realtors with proven track records, who had been in the business at least three years. But now, technology has become so prevalent in the mainstream of our society, that I’m reconsidering this area of concern.

As more and more Realtors start using video conferencing (and buying the hardware to use video conferencing), and with the use of Go To Meeting type of software, a virtual real estate business can match or surpass all types of communication that takes place in the brick and mortar companies. We envision requiring the Realtor to attend weekly online training sessions, on all aspects of the industry; i.e. the writing of contracts, documents required in a contract, what you can and cannot use in an ad, etc.

With this in mind, I think most brokers would agree that with today’s technology, the new Realtor does not need to be exempt from the virtual culture.

I see the day coming within the next 10 years that the entire real estate transaction will be done without the need for a brick and mortar environment. That means the title, insurance and mortgage companies will not need a brick and mortar environment, but will be able to conduct every facet of their business online. Each aspect of the transaction can be done with video conferencing and Go To Meeting type software.

I remember just 12 years ago when “this whole Internet thing started,” everyone said, “Well, that’s the end of the Realtor.” That hasn’t happened because a buyer still wants to touch and feel the property, and it is the Realtor who makes this happen. The seller chooses a Realtor whom they can trust to market their property, and then the buyer chooses a Realtor whom they trust to show them the property. We Realtors accept the responsibility of bringing literal strangers into a property. It is this trust and accountability that requires the services of a Realtor, and therefore this is the reason we won’t go away in the near future.

Someday we may have a Star Trek “holodeck,” and buyers can experience the property from the comfort of their own home, but that day is still in the future. When that happens, the Realtor may then find his or her existence in jeopardy.

Thought provoking, isn’t it?

James A. Crumbaugh III is CEO of Allison James Estates and Homes and may be reached at jcrumbaugh@allisonjames.net.

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