As the real estate industry continues to grapple with the widespread effects of the coronavirus—and the shifts occurring within the day-to-day processes associated with buying and/or selling a home—paying attention to the following insights is critical as we make our way through this unprecedented time and prepare for what’s ahead.
1. The real estate industry is moving faster. The current realities of work-from-home and social distancing are forcing our industry to embrace digital systems and tools more quickly than we otherwise would have chosen to adapt or adopt. When we could suddenly no longer interact in-person, we swiftly pivoted to all things digital. In the process, we’re experiencing the time-saving, stress-relieving aspects of what a new, fully digital reality means for the future of this business.
2. We need to eliminate checks. Not only are checks impractical when in-person interactions can promote the spread of coronavirus, but they’re also impractical in most instances, global pandemic or not. So much of an agent’s time is wasted driving to meet clients, picking up checks and dropping checks off to an escrow holder. Wire transfers have been the go-to option in some markets, but they’re expensive, not really visible to the transaction records and rife with fraud.
Another downside is that they don’t provide immediate receipt of funds. It takes days before the transaction is viewable in a consumer’s or escrow holder’s bank account summary. And paper checks are not all that secure. As Earnnest Co-Founder and Greenville, S.C., mega-agent Dani Ezelle shared, “Checks are replete with sensitive information that could potentially fall into nefarious hands; for hackers or fraudsters, checks are a treasure chest of pillage-worthy personal data. Account information, name, address and routing number are clearly printed for all to see.”
3. Digital transactions are the ultimate solution. From zipForm® Plus to DocuSign to dotloop, there are many digital transaction management platforms available that offer paperless document management and transactional efficiency. Overall, switching to a digital system makes the industry more competent; we click a button and papers are signed, sealed and delivered. It’s why Earnnest is strategically partnering with the nation’s leading transaction management platforms to make digital earnest money an integrated and intuitive part of the broker, agent and escrow holder’s transactional workflow.
So, the winner in the battle of checks versus digital transactions is clearly digital. Recognizing the risks inherent with checks, Earnnest provides 100-percent digital transfers of earnest money, absolutely no checks required. Our digital transfers avoid the pitfalls of checks as well as wire transfers, which are even more subject to fraud. Wire fraud is one of the fastest-growing cyber crimes nationwide. In the FBI’s latest Internet Crime Report, monetary losses due to wire fraud equaled an astounding $221 million.
4. Earnest money can be 100-percent digital. As a friendly reminder, the outdated idea that earnest money must be transferred via checks is just that: an anachronism of real estate practices gone by. Earnest money can—and should—be digital. It’s the safest method for consumers, agents and escrow holders alike, who need to stay home for the health of their families and the communities they serve. Even after this pandemic is through, digital earnest money saves time, saves effort and creates a secure experience for every party involved in the transaction.
5. We must focus on protecting the health and wellness of our clients. While always in the backs of our minds, health and safety precautions have suddenly been pushed to the forefront of how real estate sales professionals conduct business. Instead of transferring physical objects, we can send links. Instead of sharing a pen to write a check, we can fill out a digital form. Instead of meeting face-to-face, we can send a Zoom invite to chat. Digital is the proverbial sanitizing wipe our industry needs right now to ensure a brighter, healthier tomorrow—but it’s not just a temporary solution or a makeshift survival tactic for an industry seeking ways to cope. Digital real estate is here to stay.
Rick Altizer is CEO of Earnnest. For more information, please visit earnnest.com.