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How many ways are there to buy a home? One must literally count the ways, online or traditionally. Now launching one all-encompassing online transaction platform, cyber real estate giants Realtor.com and Homestore.com have joined forces to create what they claim to be the most comprehensive, user-friendly way to purchase a home with eRealtor.com.

At the recent convention of the National Association of Realtors convention in San Francisco, CA, a press conference was held to announce the preliminary launch of the new site, which will give consumers a one-stop shop for home buying, home selling, inspection services, escrow and title services, mortgage services and moving, and more, saving them both time and money by allowing all of these services to be ordered online.

In remarks made by Dennis Cronk president of the NAR, Steve Azonian of Realtor.com, and Errol Samuelson of HomeStore.com, it was noted that smaller Realtor broker shops still account for 60% of real estate offices in the country. Participation in the eRealtor program can put them on even footing with the large, nationally-known real estate firms, giving their listings, their personal expertise and services, and their preferred partner services exposure to more and more consumers looking for homes.

With Realtors, lenders, title companies and the hundreds of real estate sale-dependent services all transitioning into the electronic age, the S.F. Bay Area test-launch of eRealtor.com is a timely one. Consumers, who are oftentimes amazingly sophisticated in the ways of the cyber-world, have demanded that Realtors become Web-based experts. With the advent of eRealtor, it will not be uncommon for the Internet-savvy Realtor to access listings and respond to prospective buyer queries with hand-held computers. Agents will also be able to stay in constant touch with their current clients and auxiliary services on their behalf, placing them, once again, at the "hub" of the transaction activity.

Dazzling a small group of journalists at the San Francisco Marriott, eRealtor, HomeStore, and spokesmen demonstrated the site by revealing an interactive display and led them through what consumers will experience. Once consumer interest has been shown in a particular home listed on the Web site, the Realtor can be in touch by e-mail and HomeStore Messenger (like AOL's Instant Messenger), fine-tuning the home search as they go. Open houses are announced on the site, loan pre-approvals can take place before negotiations are begun, and purchase agreements, addendums, and disclosures indigenous to their property's locale can be loaded online. "Seeing documents ahead of time lessens the stress at closing," said Steve Azonian of Realtor.com.

Once a commitment is made by the consumer, a selection of logos for pest inspectors, structural inspectors, mortgage lenders, escrow and title companies and even moving companies known and tested by the Realtor become available. After services are ordered, a detailed chronology of order dates and provisions for checked-off tasks can be displayed for the buyer's and agent's use, demystifying the escrow process and giving target dates for completions.

"This gives everyone the ability to know where each service stands in the course of a transaction, " says Dennis Cronk, president of the NAR. "The Realtor and consumer both benefit from the way each interfaces with one another and with the partner services."

Described as a "robust" system, eRealtor's goal is to provide end-to-end solutions for both Realtors and consumers. "This is the first time a tool like this has been put in place." says Reator.com's Azonian. "With consumer-controlled elements, eRealtor offers privacy, security, education for consumers, technologically easy elements and the power to bring it all together."

Citing the inevitable paperless transactions with the newly Federally approved electronic signatures, purveyors of eRealtor claim that the new program can offer both speed and predictability-two areas that account for many of the questions that come up during the purchase or sale of a home. Once all is said and done, all documents can be archived online after the close of escrow, so that paperwork can be accessed even years later.

With the Internet revolutionizing the real estate industry, Realtors who make it their business to become well versed in the use of this new frontier can benefit consumers who now demand it while keeping their fingers on the pulse of each of their transactions. Should this prove successful the idea of using a single place where every element of the real estate purchase can be displayed and handled will go a long way to making the process easier, less intimidating, and offer time and money-saving options to consumers everywhere.

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