Which tech improvement would you most like to see CalBRE make in 2014?

  • Email notification of renewal deadlines and application deficiencies. (38%, 24 Votes)
  • Automatic course credit reporting (34%, 22 Votes)
  • Increased electronic communication (14%, 9 Votes)
  • Online course history (11%, 7 Votes)
  • Something else (add your wish in the comments!) (3%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 64

2013 was a busy if not chaotic year for the California Bureau of Real Estate (CalBRE). CalBRE got a new Commissioner, changed its name (twice – from DRE to BRE to CalBRE), relocated to a new office and coped with streamlining its reorganization.

But 2014 turns the page. Now that CalBRE is well settled in its fresh new home as a newly branded agency, what better time for a fresh start? In the spirit of the New Year, we’ve put together a list of commonplace technology-related enhancements we’d like to see the CalBRE make for an enhanced 2014.

1. Allow real estate schools to directly report education credits to CalBRE

One of the most frequently asked questions first tuesday gets is “Will you automatically send my course certificates to CalBRE when I finish my courses?” As of now, the answer is “No – we’d love to, but CalBRE doesn’t offer that option.”

Renewing brokers and agents and license applicants are still required to manually report their own licensing or renewal course credit. As structured, the system is ripe for corruption by licensees since there is no verification by the schools. Mostly, the process is smooth. But do something as minor as print your Course Verification form in the wrong orientation (oh my – a total no-no) and it’s a week or two of unnecessary delay.

The Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS) accepts course credit directly from schools all across the country. Even the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), with over 30 million registered vehicles, has accepted smog certificates directly from smog stations for years. With a real estate licensee population of over 400,000 brokers and agents, we’re left to wonder why CalBRE has stuck with such an inefficient system for so long.

Related article:

Newly-licensed sales agent and broker population

It turns out the agency is wondering, too: according to a spokesperson, CalBRE invited software companies to demonstrate just such an upgrade and determined it was achievable in-house. CalBRE can do it, and they want to do it – thus, this wish list item might alternately be titled “just do it already.”

2. Make licensing course histories available online

Licensing education requirements have changed several times over the past decade, leaving many agents who wish to upgrade to a broker license unaware of what education they still need. The same goes for agents who have let their licenses lapse and are looking to get back into the game, only to find they don’t know what study is required.

Currently, licensing course history on every applicant or licensee is archived by the CalBRE, but only available via a call to the agency. And then, it’s a pre-recorded phone menu or hold times of up to an hour.

Online access to licensing course history reduces both licensee frustration and CalBRE’s call volume. Such an online system allows agents to confidently pursue a broker license, armed with knowledge of their prior course completion when they want to upgrade their license status.

3. Send automated license renewal reminders by email

Every four years, CalBRE licensees receive a letter informing them it’s time to renew. That is, of course, as long as the agency has an accurate mailing address and the postal service doesn’t lose the mail.

While we agree that a diligent agent is well-apprised of their license status – the information is readily available on their license card and online – why not eliminate a potential snag and save paper while we’re at it? Harvest addresses, both USPS and email, on relicensing and online updates by licensees. Then, automatically alert licensees they’re up for renewal via email to reduce wasted paper, postage and time.

4. Notify licensees of application deficiencies electronically

e-Licensing obviates the need for alerting licensees of problems with their applications — it simply bars the user from moving forward if a deficiency exists.  But not all applications can be submitted with e-Licensing: original broker and agent license applications and corporate license renewals are still required to be submitted on paper.

Problems arise, however, when paper applications are deficient in some way. Deficiencies range from the legitimate – incomplete or inaccurate information, for instance – to the absurdly bureaucratic (e.g., requiring the form be printed in a specified page orientation). If that happens to you, expect a cryptic letter some weeks later asking you to resubmit corrected paperwork. Not exactly the way to keep people busily employed during periods of high unemployment.

Let’s eliminate the lag time between notification, correction and resubmission. The same handy email infrastructure we proposed above may double as a means of eliminating paperwork problems, saving time and effort for everyone involved, and avoiding ill will and the waste of talent.

5. Make better use of email communication

To round out our wish list, let’s expand on the theme of nimbler communication between CalBRE and real estate professionals.

Take the CalBRE’s Real Estate Bulletin – one of the few regular articulations of the agency’s perspective on practical real estate issues. CalBRE ceased mail delivery of the Bulletin in late 2005. CalBRE still publishes it, but it is not distributed in any format – instead, it’s buried deep within the agency’s website.

Related Article:

CalBRE, Fall 2013 Real Estate Bulletin

This is a missed opportunity. While CalBRE is generous enough to mail the Bulletin to anyone who requests it in writing, a new request is required each quarter as the Bulletin is published.

The fix: use a simple email newsletter format to release the quarterly publication to the licensee population en masse, while maintaining the ability to opt-for-paper or opt-out entirely.

And why stop with just the Bulletin? If CalBRE were to make electronic communication a larger priority in the three areas above – reminders, notifications and the Bulletin – it isn’t hard to imagine the development of spin-off communiques with themes like enforcement and compliance, changes in law and regulations, and profiles on CalBRE department activities.

6. Add to our list

How else can CalBRE introduce tech improvements to make your life easier? Share your wish list items in the comments below!