As VP of Strategy and Innovation for the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), Glenn Shimkus identifies and evaluates emerging technologies that may impact the global real estate markets in order to educate the association's members and leaders about them.
Since Shimkus took on the new role in early 2019, NAR has held its second iOi Summit, began publishing content from its Emerging Technology team and initiated strategic discussions with large technology companies.
Here, Shimkus discusses his role at the company and different technologies that have him excited in 2020, and those that he sees sticking around long after the pandemic has ended:
RISMedia’s Real Estate Newsmakers honors were created to recognize the people who are raising the standards of professionalism in the real estate industry. What does it mean to you to be named among this year’s 300 honorees?
Glenn Shimkus: There are so many wonderful people that are making a difference in the real estate industry when it comes to equality, ethics, business practices, technology and the overall community. I'm honored and humbled to be named RISMedia’s 300 Real Estate Newsmaker for 2020!
You were selected as a Newsmaker within the Influencers category, which is dedicated to the thought leaders within our industry. Could you tell us a little bit about the work you're doing identifying emerging technologies that may impact the real estate markets?
GS: Over the past decade, our team at NAR has done an exceptional job when it comes to supporting innovation in the industry. We've created the REACH accelerator program, which helps promising startups gain traction in the real estate industry. We've also created Second Century Ventures, which provides companies that have established a foundation in the industry with the fuel needed to continue their expansion. NAR has had the opportunity to expand its focus in early stage tech. This is especially true for tech that's just being created or moving its way into our industry. We expect these companies impact on the industry won't be revealed for several years.
With our newly established Emerging Technology team, our focus is to identify those technologies and companies that are just beginning their journey into the real estate industry. Whether its technologies like 5G or artificial intelligence, or early stage companies like Earnnest (now a part of the REACH 2020 class) or Landis we want to recognize and understand how new technology or innovative processes are beginning to be utilized in our industry.
Which emerging technology has you most excited in 2020?
GS: Remote online notarization technology. It's already in place in many states and really close in other states. The challenge here isn't just the technology itself but getting the states to define what constitutes a successful remote notarization and enact the laws to support it. Beyond that, and even more important, is convincing all parties to the transaction (including the mortgage and title companies, as well as counties) to accept using remote online notarization.
During my tenure at Cartavi and DocuSign, I focused on working to achieve a fully digital transaction from lead to close. The challenge is that executing a mortgage requires the buyers and a notary to sit around the same table to physically sign and a pile of closing documents only a few of which need to be notarized. Broad adoption of remote online notarization technology eliminates one of the last major remaining hurdles to a fully digital transaction.
Since taking on your new role early last year, NAR has held its second iOi Summit. Could you tell us a little bit about that event?
GS: One of the primary areas of focus in my first year with NAR has been to manage and grow the Innovation, Opportunity and Investment (iOi) Summit. Beginning in 2018 in San Francisco, this event is the brainchild of our CEO Bob Goldberg. At its core, our program vision is to position NAR at the forefront of change in the industry when it comes to tech, capital and innovation.
At the iOi Summit we work to bring together the real estate practitioners (brokerage, mortgage and title) who are focused on innovation along with the technology founders and executives from the industry and the investors (angels, VC's and private equity folks) who are putting money to work in the space. Our objective is to get these folks together to share bleeding-edge information, insights and products they won't hear or see anywhere else.
The 2020 iOi Summit was scheduled to take place at the Hotel Intercontinental Downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, September 1 and Wednesday, September 2. However, due to the pandemic, we will not be holding the event live in September, but we're working to determine what the next steps will be.
In the midst of COVID, many are turning to tech, such as the video platform Zoom, to conduct business. Which of these technologies do you think will stick with the real estate industry long after the pandemic has ended?
GS: I think what we'll see post-pandemic is that technologies adopted supporting digital transformation and virtualization will stick around and become the new norm. It's like after using DocuSign for the first time—no one thinks it's a good idea to print documents, drive around town, have them signed, scanned and then emailed. After using DocuSign once, it's painful to go back, especially with anything involving multiple parties like a real estate transaction.
With digital transformation, I think we'll eventually witness the ubiquitous use of existing technologies such as DocuSign. Many of these tools have been around for a while, but haven't achieved the highest levels of adoption in our industry. I also believe we will see many of these technologies—now in their infancy—take hold and in due time become staples.
When it comes to virtualization, I believe that the significant adoption/usage of collaboration tools like Zoom and FaceTime will remain. While real estate is a people business, I think many have realized that there are certainly a good number of conversations that can take place virtually with a tool like Zoom. This is better than folks having to get in their cars, and fight traffic in order to sit down face-to-face. And many that weren't comfortable with the technology have since learned that it can truly be an effective tool.
Additionally, I envision a day where I find several properties that meet my criteria on realtor.com®. I do 3D virtual tours of the properties with my agent and listing agent from the comfort of my home, I narrow down to three to five properties to tour in person and then I make a decision. I'm excited by the innovation when it comes to the 3D/virtualization tour technology, as well as wrapping that with a showing platform that is happening now as a result of the pandemic.