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Tallahassee Broker Launches Blockchain Platform From ShelterZoom

Debbie Kirkland probably isn’t your average real estate broker. She doesn’t fear disruptors…she looks for them.

“That’s why I started my own brokerage,” she explains. “To be ahead of the curve, and recognize change before it becomes a crisis and everyone is trying to catch up.

“I’m lucky enough to be part of a national mastermind group,” explains the broker/owner of CENTURY 21 First Story in Tallahassee, Fla., “and we meet a couple of times a year to discuss innovation and disruption in the industry, and I come back and implement things that help our business.”

With that type of mindset, it’s no surprise that Kirkland is an avid reader and gatherer of information, was one of the first to blog on ActiveRain, and is now an early adopter of blockchain technology, having just launched the ShelterZoom online platform last month.

Kirkland had been researching blockchain for some time, ever since the rise of cryptocurrency, and ShelterZoom’s positive press coverage caught her attention. Developers of a secure online platform that manages all aspects of the offer and acceptance process with blockchain technology, ShelterZoom provides real estate professionals with a customizable widget, mobile applications and dashboards to give brokers, agents and their consumers a transparent, efficient and paperless environment in which to transact real estate.

In addition to her real estate brokerage, Kirkland also owns First Story Property Management, and recognized the potential blockchain held for both of her businesses. As she explains, “the baby steps for blockchain have already taken place outside of the real estate space; it’s just a matter of when are we going to flip the button and adopt it fully and leave paper behind?”

According to Kirkland, the switch to ShelterZoom’s blockchain platform will bring several critical elements to the real estate process for her firm’s agents and their customers: speed, accuracy and transparency.

“The biggest complaint we get from clients is, ‘I don’t know what’s going on,'” she explains. “They want to know you’re handling their money safely. They want to look into the transaction and see every step. You can watch the food you order being prepared in a restaurant, then track your driver from point A to point B. That’s what ShelterZoom is now doing for real estate. You can see every document on the app on your phone. You can see when it was delivered, and when it was opened.”

On a macro level, Kirkland believes blockchain technology and platforms like ShelterZoom will help elevate the general perception of the residential real estate business and its professionals. As she explains, “we’re already fighting such a lack of consumer confidence. By eliminating inaccuracies in the transaction, reducing the possibility for fraud, and for mismanaged and lost files, and now instead, having a pure chain of details…blockchain will create a huge uptick in consumer confidence.”

With so many positives, why then the delay in the adoption of blockchain? Kirkland believes it boils down to a lack of understanding and a lack of education…both of which foster fear.

“REALTORS® are historically skeptics,” she explains. “It has a lot to do with being proprietary and not wanting anyone to get their piece of the pie. But we’re not going to lose our identity as agents. This will make markets more accessible, make us able to respond faster and work from anywhere. That’s the biggest benefit.”

At press time, just prior to her firm’s rollout with ShelterZoom, Kirkland reported that her agents were “tickled to death.”

“Maybe they don’t understand it, but they don’t have to,” she says. “We don’t understand how the internet works, and that didn’t stop us. All they know is that they might not have to write a contract ever again.”

And for Kirkland, she will continue to take the lead on blockchain and other advancements she believes will move the real estate business forward.

“I’ve always felt a little responsible to take it to the next level,” she says. “If I don’t, then what remains is the Wild, Wild West of real estate, with people who maybe shouldn’t be in the business, or people out for illegal gain. Somebody has to step up and eliminate that misrepresentation.”

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Maria Patterson is RISMedia’s executive editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at