CEO and Founder
Chao Cheng-Shorland is CEO and Founder of ShelterZoom, a smart contract-based virtual negotiating platform that aims to promote safe, secure, efficient and transparent real estate transactions via an integrated and intelligent blockchain platform. Cheng-Shorland is working to expand that platform to include a variety of businesses through its latest version, DocuWalk. She is a member of the Forbes Tech Council and was named a 2019 Game Changer by Real Trends.
Are virtual showings expanding as a way of selling a home?
Yes and no. There are two categories of buyers. The first group, which is comfortable with virtual buying, has been doing it for quite some time. These include real estate investors who are looking to rent it, don’t plan to live there or who are planning to remodel. The majority of people are just looking at what the home is like using GPS. But there will always be the groups of people who love to be there physically, touching things and checking it out. This is a very emotional process for some people. The statistics do show that more and more people are feeling comfortable with virtual showings, even pre-coronavirus. Now we’re seeing a sudden force to adopt this model. That trend will definitely continue later on, though there will always be people who want to see a property for themselves.
How do you get clients to trust a virtual transaction?
One of the most important things for the virtual model to work is trust. Without that, nothing really works. You cannot try to harvest people’s data. We don’t see any data coming through our system because we want people to feel really secure. Their data is theirs, and it belongs only to them and the people involved in the actual purchase. You must also establish the trust through the system through every step and keep the client alerted to everything that’s going on. It’s all about transparency, and we try to use our technology to establish that transparency. Data privacy is becoming more of a headache and is definitely a trust issue.
Will virtual models overtake traditional methods?
I do believe the virtual model can shorten the purchase process quite significantly. I understand you can’t go out right now and see a property, but the resources available to you are much more vast than physically going out and talking to people. Once you go through the virtual negotiation and transaction process, which is what we do, it streamlines the process so much. It takes off a lot of unnecessary steps of paperwork going back and forth. It typically takes weeks to get a contract in place. Now, if both sides are ready, it just takes a couple of minutes. It really fast-tracks it. When the process flows, the agents get their commissions much earlier.
Many states now accept e-signatures, but many companies do not believe e-signatures are secure. If you have technology that can truly prove the electronic signature is that particular party and it’s in a secure format, no one can steal that signature. You can prove the one that signed is the original person. Once that hurdle is overcome, everyone will adopt the technology. Even once we overcome the coronavirus, I don’t see anyone going back to the old model. It’s just so inefficient.
So there won’t be any geographic boundaries?
There’s no geographic boundary at all. If a property is really hard to get to, you want to expose it to people in all areas — urban, rural. It’s really a collaboration between different regions for the purchaser and the seller. I just recently sold a country property in Australia. The whole transaction was done virtually, and it was done very quickly. The technology is now available everywhere.
We provide a virtual negotiation and then make sure every step is completed so you can get the best deal. The bottom line is that the paperwork side and the transaction side can all be done virtually and very efficiently. You can go visit homes, then complete the transaction very quickly. We do understand everyone has their own maturity curve. Some people are more advanced in the virtual world, while some need that face-to-face contact with agents, seeing the property. None of that should stop you from using a very secure process and technology.
Is this the beginning of a permanent shift?
The shift actually started a while back, but people weren’t really seeing it. What happens if we don’t change, with or without the coronavirus? Millennials now have money and are coming into the market. We just can’t imagine they’d be sitting at a brokerage for hours signing forms. It’s just impossible. This whole COVID push has elevated this situation. It’s definitely going to continue. People will now hesitate to have those face-to-face meetings.