Company Recounts Challenges and Successes and Marks Milestone
with Major Community Investment Commitment
Twenty years ago, RealTracs Solutions® was formed and began operations to serve the real estate industry throughout Middle Tennessee, according to Stuart White, President and CEO of the company since its beginning. The company was officially chartered as a regional multiple listing service on January 1, 1996.
“Seven Realtor® associations in Middle Tennessee demonstrated uncommon leadership and cooperation by merging four independent MLS operations, which started with 3,735 users in 418 offices. There are now over 11,250 Users in 1,250 Realtor® offices,” White said.
“It took vision, commitment and cooperation in order to create the regional MLS – just like it takes those same characteristics to make real estate transactions happen,” said Bobby Wood of RE/MAX Carriage House, a member of the original RealTracs® board of directors. Wood currently serves on the Tennessee Real Estate Commission. “That vision, guided by the officers and directors over our 20-year history and lived out daily by our exceptional CEO and staff, has provided the reason for this 20th Anniversary Celebration – and the anticipation of continued success in the future.”
Since its formation, the company has made dramatic operational changes to enhance services provided to its users. The directors and staff of RealTracs implemented these changes to best serve their customers’ MLS information requirements, provide first-rate user training and technical support, create opportunities for Realtors® to better manage the real estate transaction and provide an easy to use, quality-controlled system that can grow and adapt quickly to changing business needs and technology improvements.
“As a veteran real estate professional with more than 24 years of experience, here in Middle Tennessee, it is easy for me to attest to major changes that have impacted virtually every part of this profession. From transaction processes to new laws and from websites to online documents and signatures, the changes have often brought significant challenges. They also created opportunities. Through all of that, a rock-solid foundation provided by RealTracs® has allowed the real estate market in Middle Tennessee to function accurately and efficiently,” said Price Lechleiter of Fridrich & Clark Realty and a current member of the RealTracs® board of directors.
Managing the use of developing technology to create the most efficient transaction process has been a significant focus for RealTracs® since the beginning. In mid-1996, RealTracs set in motion a development project to implement a browser-based, Internet platform for system development. The two goals in mind for that initiative were to ensure that any system developed be fully capable of utilizing emerging technologies and that Realtors® remain at the center of the real estate transaction. The result of the project was the most widely adopted Internet application in the MLS market at that time.
RealTracs was the first large MLS in the country to successfully utilize an Internet-based platform for its primary system. The system, branded as RealTracs®, was initially developed by MarketLinx Solutions, a Knoxville, Tennessee based company that specialized in system design and web application development.
The conversion to RealTracs® occurred on December 28, 1997. Realtors® in Middle Tennessee converted from a text-based system to a Microsoft Windows, browser-based application. In addition, and for the first time, RealTracs assumed all responsibility for training, technical support, and customer support services.
RealTracs also expanded the scope of services to the Realtor® community, assuming responsibilities for Internet access, email, photography and the continuous development of a comprehensive MLS system.
“Change does not come easily to everyone. At the time the conversion was made to the browser-based application, there were many who did not trust technology and were much more comfortable with the status quo,” said Todd Harvey of Byers & Harvey, Inc. and Chairman of the Board of RealTracs Solutions®. “However, due to the choices made by RealTracs leaders at the time, the real estate profession in Middle Tennessee took a quantum step forward well before most of the rest of the entire country. Thanks to the deep commitment RealTracs® has to training, the real estate professionals in the region learned to effectively use technology much earlier than many of their counterparts in other markets.”
Beginning in early 2002, as a special service to the shareholder associations, RealTracs Solutions developed a Realtor® association management program (ARMS). That system was successfully deployed and is in use today by six Realtor® associations in Middle Tennessee.
MarketLinx continued to develop system features for RealTracs Solutions® while marketing and deploying its system, called Tempo, in major markets in the country. By 2003, the Tempo system was the most widely used Internet system in the country, boasting over 250,000 MLS Users.
In the summer of 2003, in the interest of assuring the best services for its clients, RealTracs Solutions® ended its relationship with MarketLinx. Work began in earnest immediately to write the complete MLS system in Microsoft’s .Net (“dot net”) environment. Concurrently, several hundred system bugs in the MarketLinx version of Tempo were fixed to improve its use during a transition period.
On July 27, 2005, the MarketLinx system was turned off and the new RealTracs.net was launched with a seamless transition for those served by this system. That change is a milestone in the history of RealTracs Solutions. For the first time, RealTracs Solutions® became independent of any third-party software developers.
From 2006 to 2008, RealTracs® continued to add system features and modifications requested by Users. RealTracs® also collected and maintained tax records and deed transfers. But, in 2007, Courthouse Retrieval System was selected and integrated with RealTracs® to provide this information in a full-featured, premium tax system.
Since the first break in the traditional vendor/MLS relationship in 1997, technical expertise, telecommunications and email services became as vital to the overall MLS product as the system itself. RealTracs Solutions® has hired and trained top-notch technical specialists to implement and maintain the MLS system.
Since its early separation from an external training provider, support and customer service have been – and continue to be – the cornerstone of RealTracs®. Customer Happiness Representatives (“CHRs”) are responsible for the care and training of MLS Users, and they are the conduit for feedback on system design and changes. For the past 10 years, CHRs have trained an average of 6,547 Users annually.
“The leadership team of RealTracs® is already working on new platforms and processes that will allow area real estate professionals to operate well in the technology environment of the next few years,” said Lisa Culp Taylor, of PARKS and past member of the RealTracs® board of directors. “And, as they continue to prove every day, they are committed to having the real estate professionals using the system being thoroughly trained so they can maximize its use.”
“It has been an exceptional experience to see the transition, growth and development of MTRMLS over the past 20 years” White said. “Frankly, the years have gone by quickly, but some of the days were pretty long. Having the clear vision, mission and core values providing our ‘True North’ has made all the difference. It has kept us correctly focused and gave us the foundation on which to make the best decisions. Thankfully, they will continue to do that as we move into our exciting future.”
As part of the celebration of its 20th Anniversary, RealTracs® has chosen to make a substantial contribution to the community service initiatives of the associations who initially invested in the creation of the company. They will contribute $2,500 to the charity of choice for each of the seven original investor associations.
RealTracs® has created a special micro website (www.realtracs20.com) to provide more detailed information about its history, including a list of all those who have served as directors and information about how the company has increased in the number of real estate professionals it has served over the years.