Updated: Jun 9, 2021
By CEO Maureen Kiely
Do you every wonder what a transaction coordinator does or should do? Do you know as an agent all the requirements of processing your paperwork? This article tells you about transaction coordination and how StressFree TC became the first automated transaction coordination platform and service.
After being involved in real estate for over 12 years and being responsible for systemizing our processes for our real estate team, I decided to start my own transaction coordination company. We found there was a real need for quality and standards in the industry, so this became the birth of StressFree TC, the sole proprietorship.
Transaction Coordination (or TC) is a job typically done by one or a small group of people where they process real estate paperwork, which takes about 15 hours of work from listing to close. TC’s work for an agent for free until the agent closes the sale. Some brokers hire an employee to do transaction coordination, but most can’t afford to keep the staff given the shifts in real estate market. Transaction coordination is a 4.1-billion-dollar market nationally. The business model is antiquated and so are the processes.
As time went on and after listening daily to brokers, agents, and my own TC’s complaints about the process of real estate paperwork, I thought to myself there must be a better way. Not only did I think the business model was bad and the process was complicated, but I also thought why isn’t it automated?
As owner of the company, I investigated systems that may help us with the process of transaction coordination. I found there really was not a system that existed or one that could reduce the time an agent spends (or hires a company like mine) to process real estate paperwork. I also found the industry had no standards for the process of how transaction coordination should be done. Since companies mostly have one or two TC’s that are independent contractors, they could do the processing any way they want.
The industry relies on State Association of Realtors (our first state to launch is C.A.R.) and their broker forms to conduct real estate sales. The Department of Real Estate in California does not require all these forms to sell a property. No one really has a platform to integrate all these tasks and forms, it is all manual, a human having to enter the same data across multiple platforms.
I looked at the industry and I asked why has not anyone built a platform to automate all these tasks and forms? I started to see trends with Zillow, Redfin and other companies popping up and hearing all the buzz about selling online. I am a visionary and I saw what was going on with technology and I thought how would a company sell real estate online if you they do not automate the paperwork? Also, how can you automate and truly create choices for your clients and competition if one organization owns the rights to forms?
It just seemed crazy to me. A TC has over 50 manual tasks which include but are not limited to writing over 30 emails, reading hundreds of pages of documents, finding the agent/client errors, calculating timelines, and making sure everything gets signed, while keeping everyone accountable for their contractual obligations.
In my early career days, I was a business system analysis (BA). I began my career in Dallas, Texas, and the company I worked for was one of the leading groups using joint application design for a conversion from main frame, or from nothing (paper), to a PC. It was revolutionary at the time, and a fun, rewarding experience. So, I put my BA hat on and decided if I do not automate real estate transaction coordination, someone will, and we are all going to be out of jobs.
This was the beginning of StressFree TC the LLC.
In my first step, I wrote a business plan as to how I saw the real estate industry changing and how I wanted to have an impact. I started with writing the requirements to automate the 50+ manual steps for the StressFree TC platform. This took me about 7 months. In December 2018, StressFree TC, the sole proprietorship, became an LLC and a small investor group of friends and real estate professionals bootstrapped the company to launch our development.
Now the fun and excitement began!
We found a third-party developer from one of our investors who had a long-standing relationship with them and started the design based off my detailed requirements. They told us we would have a system by July or August, (when I look back, they really didn’t understand what we wanted) and it ended up costing 5 times more then what they told us.
I had told my investors we would get to revenue in 2019 and I had 65 subscribers during wireframes and still no platform. If someone told me almost three years ago when I came up with the idea about the challenges, the 16 hours of testing each day, the late nights and early morning calls and the difficulty in automating a completely non-standardized industry, not to mention the weight gain, I would have never done it. However, we persisted.
Pressured to get to a minimal viable product (MVP) out, because programming says it is an agile process; we launched at Christmas time and went into beta with 10 agents and a couple of TC’s to test the system in production. During QA testing, we never saw offers go completely through nor did we see DocuSign integration. However, we took a leap of faith and went live December 2019. On Christmas Eve, our platform went down. Luckily, no one was really using the platform, as it was Christmas. MVP does not work in real estate, too many crazy processes and it takes 6 hours to do an end-to-end test. Our business director for our developer encouraged me to read Netflix -It Will Never Work by Marc Randolph that Christmas day. It was a great book and it instilled once again my confidence that we had something extraordinary and to keep moving forward.
Yes, it has been a journey, we continued beta testing in January. We were running out of money and I had no full-time staff. I lost my initial staff when they could not take the heat in testing and could not see the vision. My CFO told me in the very beginning startups fail because of the wrong team members and-or not enough money. My CFO said we need to charge the subscribers, so we did, only to refund them two weeks later. I just could not see charging when platform was not quite ready. We were targeting for late April with corrections to DocuSign and the offer flow. Then my CFO did not agree and quit. Now it was just me and a couple of part-time contractors.
I ran into so many hurtles of what we were missing that I was losing my initial subscribers (some because they lost interest that we did not have a complete system yet and others because they didn’t get the technology or have the patience to be beta testers). The stress was unbelievable working an average of 12 hours a day 7 days a week for over a year was getting exhausting. On many occasions I wanted to quit.
My husband, and an investor John, was my rock, always there supporting every move we made. I asked my daughter Maggie one night “how would you feel if I sold and let someone else finish it?” I remember the return text from her. She said “Mom, Victoria Secret was launched by a husband and wife and they sold it for 1 million dollars and now it’s worth millions, sales are over a billion. Is this what you really want to do?”
She was right. We had a revolutionary technology, and we were going to change the industry, so we continued to move forward.
Then COVID-19 hit. Lock down. Real estate went into shut down for 60 days.
We had no idea how long this would last, and technology was scrambling. What the hell were we going to do? It costs so much money to keep going with hosting, development, integrations and now we can’t charge a subscription and agents were overwhelmed in trying to figure out their new way of doing business. They did not want another new platform to learn. So, the only choice we had was to raise more capital, cut back expenses, continue development and beta test to perfect the platform and wait it out.
We received nothing from the government. We were a start-up about to launch and since we had no revenue in 2019 the government could not help us. In August 2020, we had a viable system and by December we had seen enough transactions go through that we could identify the specifics of what we needed to enhance and who our true market was.
Over the last 6 months, we analyzed our business model and honed our message. We discovered in beta that the industry is so far behind, and it is not ready for us and how we want to go to market. The industry is not ready for digitized forms yet and processes that are automatic (because there were no standard procedures for processing the paperwork).
Frankly, no one really understands all that a TC does. Bottomline, most agents do not want to do paperwork even if you give them a platform. So, we kept with the same payment model: agents pay at closing or another choice is to pay by monthly subscription and save a ton of money. Tech savvy agents can use the platform themselves and save a ton of money and time.
We have agents in the platform doing their own paperwork and love it. We also have completely hands- off agents that let us do it all for them (they pay more but less than the market). We have an amazing platform that automated 50+ manual tasks, which takes a human TC about 13 to 15 hours to complete. We do it in less than two hours.
I know the future is digitization of forms and there will someday be an elegant experience for agents, buyers, and sellers. However, we will only get this experience when we integrate that entire process of forms and tasks from listing to close in one platform. We will change the industry and be able to fully sell online and make the real estate transaction seamless.
StressFree TC is the future of transaction coordination. We are way ahead of the industry. We have an automated platform overseen by certified transaction coordinators who can do four times the amount of work than an average TC or agent. Brokers and corporations can keep developing their individual platforms and keep wasting money, but their agents will never use those platforms. They hire companies and people like us to do the work. It should be this way, so they can focus on selling. The real future is selling online, and a company must know all the processes to automate it all. We are 80 percent complete. Artificial intelligence, OCR and blockchain technology is the future of real estate sales.
For more information about how StressFree TC can help take the minutia off your desk so you can focus on selling while providing a professional transaction coordination experience to your clients, go to our website: http://www.stressfreetc.com/.