How ShelterZoom’s DocuWalk platform helps agents close deals without the need for in-person meetings
“When we started building DocuWalk two years ago, we had no idea a global pandemic would be our first test straight out of the market, but it has proven an invaluable way to learn exactly what agents need to succeed for all-digital transactions,” says Allen Alishahi, co-founder of DocuWalk, and 30-year real estate veteran as the founding broker of Cyrus Charter real estate brokerage.
DocuWalk is a blockchain-based platform that builds on the concept of any of the existing online document software options already out there, bringing several other crucial tools into the same system. Users can complete everything from creating documents, drafting contracts, virtually negotiating and discussing details, and messaging clients all the way to acknowledging or signing contracts with secure e-Signatures on this paper-free, fully digital platform. If there is ever a need to print out a paper copy, the option to download any part of a file is always available.
All of this takes place on a blockchain platform, which is quickly becoming the new standard for security in the online world. Users of the platform don’t need to know anything about blockchain; they can just be assured it is quietly working away, keeping everything safe and secure.
Steve Caro, broker/owner at Exit Realty Liberty Homes, has been using DocuWalk for several months across numerous transactions and is transitioning his agents to use it with their buyers and sellers as well. Based on Staten Island, N.Y., his team had to adapt quickly after the state’s shelter-in-place orders were announced early in the pandemic. DocuWalk allowed them to carry out real estate transactions in a completely virtual manner with extra layers of security to protect everyone’s private information.
“I love that if there’s a contract with a mistake or change needed, you can do it right there in DocuWalk,” says Caro. “Then I send it to the client, they sign whatever they need to sign, and then we submit it to the attorneys instantly. There’s no reason to scan physical documents anymore. Then the attorneys go into the document and they see that everything is there. It saves so much time. Everything happens instantly.”
Caro adds that DocuWalk also saves money since New York is a state where all the paperwork is required to go through attorneys, so the ones that bill by the hour are no longer spending time organizing paperwork. In addition to accessing all the documents directly in DocuWalk, attorneys and real estate agents don’t need to spend extra time combing through the contracts to make sure nothing has been changed on the sly. “I even showed a couple of attorneys,” says Caro. “‘Look at this,’ I told them. We can have this all done before you even sit down with the buyers.”
“It works really well when you’re filling out binders,” continues Caro. “When we fill out our binders, you may not have one with you, but if you have your phone or your laptop, you can use DocuWalk right there with the client, which is awesome.”
Specifically, Caro cites the Templates option as his most frequently used feature within the DocuWalk system. This option lets the creator of a document create a standardized form with only selected fields available for changes so that the recipient can easily see where they need to provide information. Since the technology makes it so that no other part of the text is able to be changed, besides the fillable fields determined by the agent or broker, Templates prevents anyone from being able to sneak in clauses or deletions in the hopes that the other parties involved in the transaction won’t notice. If needed, the fillable fields in Templates can be turned into dropdown choices so the contract recipient can only choose from predetermined options to complete the text.
We are facing some of the tightest inventory of the modern real estate era. According to realtor.com®, nearly 400,000 fewer homes were listed during the peak pandemic months in the U.S. compared to the same timeframe one year earlier. Combine this with the announcement from the Federal Reserve that interest rates will stay at their historic lows at least through 2023, and we can see how demand for home-buying is going to stay strong for the foreseeable future. As a result, most markets will see bidding wars becoming even more common than they have been the past few years.
Broker Makrm Holmes of M. Holmes Realty, who manages a team of about half a dozen real estate agents, points out the value of DocuWalk when it comes to winning bidding wars. Using the example of buyers putting in an offer on a property with a short deadline, Holmes explains that with DocuWalk, you can get your offer submitted much more quickly than competing buyers. You can also be sure the listing agent has received it with confirmation and time stamp.
“I think it helps the real estate industry tremendously by doing things in real time. If you make a mistake on a document, you can just fix it within five seconds,” says Holmes, leading to an almost instant turnaround if your clients are rushing to finalize an offer for the seller. The buyer’s agent can send the offer to the listing agent from DocuWalk (even if the listing agent doesn’t have a DocuWalk account) so that it shows up within seconds of being completed.
Holmes adds, “It also reduces a lot of platforms out there into one,” referring to the messaging and e-Signature features within the platform. Any back-and-forth negotiations between the agents can take place in the Virtual Negotiation Room, which becomes saved as a message history inside the agent’s private DocuWalk account. The next time the agent needs to refer to the documents relating to the sale, they can also look through the messages without having to navigate back and forth between an email account and the files for the documents or contracts.
Agent Recruiting and Retention
The pandemic has made many agents consider leaving the profession, putting pressure on brokers to focus more efforts on keeping their current agents as well as actively recruiting more.
While real estate professionals have at times been slow to embrace technology, the pandemic made it clear that as soon as it became necessary to help serve clients, real estate agents were ready to adapt practically overnight. Both Caro and Holmes agree that DocuWalk is one of the tools they will use to recruit and retain agents so they can reduce the amount of administrative tasks that take up so much time.
“It fits into the new technology nowadays, where everyone’s gone paperless,” says Caro. “It is one of the things that helped me recruit and make life easier for agents.” For those considering using DocuWalk, but are hesitant to learn another type of software, Caro adds: “I’m not a tech geek at all. It’s not that hard to learn. Just play with it a few times and you’ll pick it up.”
For more information, please visit www.docuwalk.com.
Jameson Doris is RISMedia’s social media/blog editor. Email him your real estate news ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.