Real Forms — an Arkansas technology company ready to expand nationwide
The Arkansas Realtors Association (ARA) had a product available to members that allowed them to fill out contracts on computers, but there were some limitations. Agents were required to use computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system and were chained to the computer on which the forms were located.
Indeed, Apple Macintosh users were out in the cold and the notion of accessing forms and filling them out from any modern computer that had an Internet connection was more than a bit foreign. And digital signatures? Those weren’t possible through the vendor that provided the ARA with forms software, either.
Matt Hudson, a northwest Arkansas programmer and founder of Lynergy pitched an idea to the ARA — he offered to develop a system that would allow agents to fill out forms wherever they could get an Internet connection and include the ability to collect digital signatures, to boot? That pitch led to some meetings, discussions by the ARA Board and a contract under which Hudson was to get to work on the Real Forms package.
Real Forms is now a standalone company and it is entering its third year as the contracts form provider for the ARA. Real Forms is positioning itself to expand to other associations across the United States. The company has added a sales team, has organized as a limited liability company (LLC) and — just this week — announced that Hudson’s brother and Little Rock-based programmer and Web designer, David, had joined Real Forms as operations manager.
David Hudson said the company has adopted a strategy of appealing to associations as a source of non-funds revenue. Take the real estate industry, for example. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), membership hit a high of 1.36 million in 2006. By the end of 2009, the NAR reported it had 1.11 million members — a decline of 18 percent from the 2006 peak.
Declining membership means less dues revenue, and state and local Realtors association across the nation have struggled with how to make ends meet. Hudson said the Real Forms models might help with that — the company is obsessive about keeping overhead low so that it can sell licenses to use its software directly to associations. The associations, if they want, can sell those licenses to its members at a bit of a profit, choose to break even in the sale, etc. Real Forms isn’t involved in what arrangements associations make with members distributing those licenses, leaving an avenue open for associations to raise some revenue through Real Forms.
Ideally, he said an association could sign up with Real Forms, offer the software to members for less than they’re paying for another similar product and still turn a profit. In short, the model that Real Forms is banking on is one through which everyone wins — the people purchasing licenses save money while the association contracting with Real Forms is able to generate the non-dues revenue that could help them make ends meet during these tough economic times.
How much Real Forms charges for the licenses is hard to pin down as that is a matter for negotiation. Another matter for negotiation has to do with what products are purchased. Real Forms has developed two products — forms software and a digital signature package. Associations and trade groups can work out their own packages. For example, one group might want just the forms software, another might want just the digital signatures package and another might want to work out a deal in which the two products are combined for one price.
Also, Hudson said even the content is a matter for negotiation. It’s typical for associations to have a very specialized set of forms to use — what works for the ARA, then, might not work for another state or local association. The forms then are highly customizable and, what’s more, aren’t limited to solely the real estate industry.
Hudson said the software can be customized to accommodate any association that has standard contracts that must be produced and filled out en masse. Those associations might, for example, have attorneys, bankers or other professionals as members.
Hudson stressed the company is targeting associations and trade groups as part of its strategy to keep prices low. The economy of scale model, then, is alive and well and one of the concepts Hudson hopes gives his company an edge.
Hudson, in summing it all up, said the Real Forms product is modern, easy to use and runs fast on any computer compatible with Microsoft’s Silverlight. He pointed out one of the factors that led to the decision to expand real forms is a solid relationship the company has with the ARA.
Real Forms does, indeed, have some fans in the ARA. One of them is Rick White, a Jacksonville Realtor who served as the liaison between the ARA and Lynergy when the two organizations were negotiating a contract under which the Real Forms software would be distributed to real estate agents in Arkansas.
White said the digital signatures have been particularly popular. He said the “face to face” meetings between Realtors and clients are no longer essential. Got a seller who has left the state and still has property in Arkansas? That homeowner can simply take care of the contractual part of selling a home through the use of digital signatures — a convenience for all parties involved.
White said Real Forms also helped put Arkansas Realtors in a unique position — they’re on the “cutting edge” of technology. White said that, far too often, Realtors have had to wait for technological innovations to make their way to Arkansas.
White added that he’s pleased that Hudson has joined Real Forms as operations manager. Hudson was the technology director at the ARA prior to leaving the organization in March to start HudsonCS in Little Rock. White said Hudson is well acquainted with what Realtors need in terms of forms software and digital signatures and knows a thing or two about making complicated technology easy to use.
White said, all in all, the ARA’s relationship with Real Forms has benefited Realtors in the state. Hudson hopes his company is as successful in convincing other associations to adopt Real Forms.
For more information, visit RealForms.com.
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.