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Who Controls the Real Estate Process?

Let’s narrow that definition down a bit by taking a look at the components. Real Estate markets usually segment into commercial, industrial, new home construction, residential resale, leasing, vacation destinations and time share. These broad categories identify specific market segments with each having a unique group of participants. Conceptually, when we talk about the real estate market in the broadest sense, it includes all of these and other uniquely identifiable business models that support and enable the process.

Parallel business models that take part in the process are: Mortgage & Financing, Title and Escrow services and a broad category of additional providers called Ancillary Services. Ancillary Services include: homeowner insurance products, flood insurance, tax certification, home owners warranty (HOW), legal services and documentation, home improvement and repair, painting, heating and air conditioning (HVAC) landscaping, appliances, property and mechanical inspection, municipal utility districts (MUDS), home owners associations, notice to the public - I’m running out of breath. You get the idea. Improved real estate is a complex animal, and there are many participants that comprise the process by which real estate is bought, sold, financed, transferred and ultimately occupied.

In looking for the “who” or “what” that exercises control of the industry; we should consider the role of government regulatory or quasi-governmental entities. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mack were created to stimulate and control the flow of mortgage financing dollars and to provide stability within the mortgage industry. Oops! Ginny Mae guarantees the timely repayment to the investor on loans that it guarantees. These guarantees are provided through Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) or pools of loans that contain VA and FHA originated mortgages. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides regulatory oversight, and the Treasury provides an occasional bail out. This group of entities is introduced because they have certain powers and influence over technical, legal and procedural aspects of the industry. They do not control the “how” things are done within the process. The private sector determines “how” things are done.
Any control or “ownership” of this market then will exist within the private sector. Identifying the “who” (forgive me Dr. Seuss) can be done intuitively. The components of the broad real estate industry fit more or less into four primary areas. Let’s call them:

1. New Construction
• Commercial
• Industrial
• Single Family Residential
• Multifamily
• Pre-fabricated Structures

2. Resale
• Existing Buildings
• Existing Homes
• Other

3. Mortgage and Financing
• Construction Financing
• Mortgage Financing
• Refinancing

4. Title, Escrow and Ancillary Services
• Title Insurance Companies
• Title Insurance and Escrow Agents
• Legal and Documentation
• Recordation or Registration
• All Ancillary Services

These four categories are industries or business models within the real estate game. The major companies that operate within these categories would have insight and knowledge as to how to connect the dots and to accomplish the transaction. Each of them, in turn, exercises certain control or influence over their part of the process. There are multiple large players in each of these arenas, and they compete aggressively. There exists no such thing as an industry accepted solution that defines “how” the component business models integrate, but there should be. The level of redundancies and inefficiencies keep the process paper bound, disparate and errors are often time consuming to correct. The labor intensity of the process alone makes it more expensive and requires more management. A seamlessly integrated solution can change all that, and as a byproduct can achieve what others cannot – a commoditization of the real estate market.

The terms “transaction coordination,” “transaction facilitation,” and “transaction integration” were coined along with an effort to streamline and to integrate this process. This was an ill fated attempt to gain some level of control over the process. Working to gain an edge, each player offers partial solutions toward an industry standard. These solutions are often tied to their specific software architecture with bridges that invite their customers and agents to participate. They are not comprehensive, do not reach a large enough cross section of the market, and they do not provide an acceptable global solution.

Homebuilders are focused on competing with other home builders; realtors compete with other realtors; mortgage lenders compete with other mortgage lenders and competition is intense between the title and escrow providers. Should one player come up with a solution that improves the process, they would want it to be proprietary. Competitors would be reluctant to adopt it, and would not constitute a solution.

Fannie, Freddie, Ginny, HUD and any governmental entity has a different mission. A concept age visionary will be the one to combine the attributes that provide a more global solution, and in the doing of it, ownership of the thread and commoditization of real estate can be created. The right platform will benefit all participants. The idea is to facilitate the process to the level that its use will be natural, almost viral. By not using it, you are opting out. Soft Sell has the concept, vision, and the knowledge to create this platform.

With the right development partner, this platform and solution can be brought to market in real time. As the real estate and financial markets make a sustained recovery, Soft Sells solution would be in place to provide the structure for revolutionary change. As a side note, Fannie, Freddie and virtually every large bank has a portfolio of short sales and foreclosures that will continue to grow. It will be several years before these are recycled. Soft Sell would be an ideal platform for managing these assets through the process.
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