The real estate industry is in the midst of a major technological transformation. Consumer expectations and technical literacy are driving change fast, resulting in an influx of new tools promising greater productivity and efficiency. 

This topic was explored in more detail when the Real Estate Services Providers Council (RESPRO®) held its virtual event (RESPRO28 on April 8, 2021). The event’s focus was on affiliated businesses and strategic alliances across the homebuying and financing industry. 

In the session Platforms, Point Solutions, and the Digitally-Connected Real Estate Ecosystem, Max Lamb, Director of Partnerships and Integrations at Qualia, joined Bill Svoboda, Co-Founder of CloseSimple, to discuss how having a flexible infrastructure is the key to bridging the gap between transaction parties and delivering the home purchase experience consumers expect.

Consumer expectations driving digital transformation

One primary driver of digital transformation is that consumers have more access to online resources today. Social distancing and working from home have prompted consumers to search for products and services online more than ever. And having an Amazon-like experience has made purchasing online convenient and transparent. 

This is no different for the real estate industry. Last year was a record-breaking year for the housing market, and the pandemic brought about greater consumer demand for remote and hybrid closings. Qualia’s 2021 Homebuyer Sentiment Index found that 62% percent of homebuyers want a fully digital closing experience, yet only 13% of recent homebuyers report receiving digital closings. And when it came to the top things homebuyers valued in a closing, survey participants selected: “quick,” “easy,” and “secure.”

Svoboda emphasized that the ideal homebuying experience really comes down to providing closing options “when [buyers and sellers] want it, how they want it, with no surprises.”

Even with fully digital closings, consumers still need real estate professionals to guide them through the homebuying process. According to the 2021 National Association of REALTORS®, Home Buyers & Sellers Generational Trends Report, 51% of buyers wanted their agents to help them find the right home. Buyers also expect their agents to help them negotiate the terms of sale and price. 

Lamb referenced the importance of the omnichannel experience where both digital and human touchpoints are available to the homebuyer throughout the transaction. This multichannel approach provides a seamless homebuying experience whether the client is shopping online from a mobile device, laptop, or in a brick-and-mortar store. 

The importance of title companies’ digital capabilities and meeting partner expectations

The ability to offer digital capabilities is growing more so each day for title companies. And if consumers expect digital touchpoints, real estate agents and mortgage lenders will also expect high-touch options. “It’s crucial to fit into the digital processes [lenders and real estate agents] are putting together for their unique experiences,” said Lamb.

Real estate agents want proactive status updates, transparency to see where a transaction is at any given time, and no surprises during the closing process. If there are surprises, real estate agents want real-time updates on the issues and measures being taken to resolve them. Svoboda said a real estate agent once told him that every update they received from their title company was “candy in their pocket,” marking another step closer to closing. 

Mortgage lenders and title companies work closely together to move a transaction forward. The more these parties can be digitally in sync, the more seamless the experience will be for the end consumer. A major benefit of an integrated system is reducing the rekeying involved when exchanging information between systems. A secure, integrated platform enables a consistent, quality, and less error-prone experience for all parties involved. 

A few other benefits include:

  • Greater efficiency in internal operations 
  • Ability to easily manage fluctuations
  • Work with more partners in a consistent way to meet demand when volume is high 

Creating a truly seamless, end-to-end home buying experience

“The industry is making great strides, and there is room for growth,” said Svoboda. “Just when you think you’ve captured what the customer wants, you find something new.” Lamb agreed and added that businesses need to “make sure your experience is getting better…that is where the end-to-end home buying experience comes in.” 

In order to create a truly seamless, end-to-end homebuying experience, businesses need technology that looks at the real estate ecosystem holistically and can communicate and coordinate with all parties. A flexible infrastructure empowers all parties—title & escrow businesses, mortgage lenders, title insurers, real estate agents, home buyers, and sellers—to work more effectively together throughout the course of the transaction.

Lamb explained that a flexible infrastructure provides companies the technical functionality to:

  • Scale and process more transactions with the same amount of staff
  • Optimize operations and create workflows to standardize operations 
  • Provide a more consistent experience to clients
  • Ultimately, it gives you the opportunity to exceed client expectations

In addition to consumer expectations, title companies must also keep up with new pressures from real estate technology companies that are vertically integrating title & escrow into their models. Often these PropTech companies are powering their own transaction experiences and bringing about new ways of transacting. “That is the type of demand [title companies] need to keep up with,” Lamb said.

The technology is here. Now it’s about enabling the right combination of technology to bridge the gap between transaction parties and deliver the home purchase experience consumers have come to expect. “You want the consumer to be raving about their experience. It’s powerful marketing having that endorsement from a significant transaction in their life,” Lamb said.