From Michelle Sandlin’s “On the Move” column in the Houston Chronicle
Publication Date: February 14, 2014
In recent years the relocation industry has seen a real push towards becoming greener. Historically, this has not been an easy task for relocation departments within real estate companies, where paper files have been the norm for many decades. Thanks to the advancement of various technologies and the advent of several streamlined tools and processes, relocation departments and real estate companies have taken advantage of paperless filing and have successfully executed greener initiatives.
Being more environmentally responsible is also an important measure for relocation departments that want to align themselves with the culture of their corporate clients and the third party relocation management companies, which are also focused on similar green programs and initiatives.
Kirsten Abney, vice president, corporate services for Heritage Texas Properties said in a recent interview that one of the steps her company has taken to becoming greener has been to eliminate paper files and go paperless. She said that this has made her department more productive by allowing access to documents and information from virtually anywhere, which is particularly convenient for her and members of her team when traveling and during times outside of regular office hours or on the weekends.
“We do not create paper files in the office anymore. Everything is online, so whoever needs to access something over the weekend can access it from their computer, or tablet, or iPhone. It has created a greener environment for our department, but it has also been a productivity enhancement for us.”
Another step that Abney said that her company has taken towards becoming greener has been the adoption of a transaction management system, which gives their clients access to various documents throughout the real estate transaction.
Pattie Huey, director of relocation and business development for Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gary Greene said that her department went green a little over two years ago and that they are completely paperless. Like Abney, she also talked about a transaction management system as being one of the many green initiatives that her company has put in place.
The reduction in paper usage has naturally led to a reduction in other related consumables for these relocation departments, such as toner and toner cartridges.
Relocation departments have also been shifting away from sending out hardcopy relocation packages filled with bulky magazines and booklets for relocating employees and their families. Much of that information has a relatively short shelf life and can be obsolete before it is even mailed out. The vast majority of relocation departments are opting instead for digital versions of these relocation packages, which in addition to being a greener alternative, have the advantage of being more easily updated, delivered by email, and overall more cost effective.
Huey said, “We are working with some of the largest employers in the world and they’re very sophisticated and very conscious of being very green in their work environments. Energy and the conservation of energy is very much a focus of theirs, so when you are working with these companies, as we are, you have to be in step with them.”
“The other reason we went green,” said Huey, “is that it is much more cost effective because you can provide things instantly through the Internet or through a Cloud and that information is not only not using paper, but it is very time efficient. You can get it immediately and that’s critical to the companies we’re working with. They want things yesterday.”
Abney also talked about digital relocation packets as a better option. While some companies and relocating employees still ask for paper copies, more and more requests are being made for digital versions.
Another area that has seen a big change has been in the use of digital signatures on relocation documents and real estate contracts.
Both Abney and Huey said that their departments are utilizing digital signatures, which has greatly streamlined many of their internal processes that used to require that a document be printed out, signed, scanned and then emailed out. Digital signatures eliminate several of these steps.
Huey added that digital signatures have also been critical in terms of our hot Houston real estate market and the multiple offers on properties, and the speed at which signatures are often needed to get a contract executed when people are out of town. She said that the ability to have a contract signed digitally can often mean the difference in getting a contract executed.