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Technology

The Edmonton Real Estate Board and its members have always been a leader in Canada in the application of technology. This trend was evident as early as the late 1960s when Buxton Real Estate introduced a two-way radio system.

It permitted the sales representatives to call the office and set up meetings. The use of modern technology has continued with cellular phones, electronic key safes, pagers, computers, facsimile machines, E-mail, special real estate television channels and now the Internet.

The electronic key safe is a timesaver since it is no longer necessary to stop at an office to pick up a key, and it provides increased security for the property owner. The Edmonton Real Estate Board was the first in Canada to use the system, which is made up of three components: entry cards, keyboxes, and a central computer called "LENI," which stands for "Link to Electronic Network of Information." Access to the system can only be obtained by people with the appropriate personal identification numbers. In order to make it more convenient for the seller it can be programmed to restrict access to specific times. It also adds to the security of access by recording the time that an entry is made into the building. It has become a standard part of the industry.

Computerization programs initiated in 1978 were continued when the VANDAT system was acquired in 1984. It was originally developed by the Vancouver Real Estate Board and had been made available to other Boards free of charge. In 1987 the system was modified to allow access to tax information by legal description as well as by address. In 1988 City of St. Albert property tax information was available on-line. A new Hewlett Packard main frame computer was installed. The capacity of the VANDAT system to be upgraded to meet the requirements of the Board reached its limit in 1990.

In 1991, during Lorne Clark's presidency, a joint study with the Calgary and Fraser Valley Real Estate Boards was conducted to look at different systems. The joint study meant the boards could share the cost of consultant fees and also increase their buying power. The Computer Committee also visited other centres such as Victoria, Vancouver, and New York to make a better informed decision on this issue. The rapid change in computer technology and the many facets of Board requirements delayed their decision to acquire the Stellar II system until the fall of 1992. The system when acquired was more advanced than any other then in use in North America.

Despite the advantages of the new system and the care with which it was selected, the Stellar introduction early in 1994 was problematic. As Edmonton was chosen for the first installation, members were subjected to the glitches inevitable in a new system. It fell on then-President Stephen Cook to handle the many concerns of irate members. Stephen was able to mediate member concerns while assisting in negotiating beneficial upgrades.

The advantages of the new system included a wider range of information, since new fields were added. The prospect menu, for example, allows the user to locate houses of a particular style and at a particular price in any area of the city within seconds. This program will continue to search incoming listings based on these parameters and will then inform the user. The computer gives the individual real estate salesperson the opportunity to know the market very quickly over a wide area.

The most recent upgrade allows a listing to be entered directly by agents without having to complete a listing input form. This procedure (called "broker load") saves time by reducing the paper work required to make a listing and puts the listing information into the system faster.

This article is extracted from John Gilpin, Responsible Enterprise: A History of Edmonton Real Estate & the Edmonton Real Estate Board. (Edmonton: Edmonton Real Estate Board, 1997). The Heritage Community Foundation and the Alberta Real Estate Foundation would like to thank John Gilpin and the REALTORS® Association of Edmonton for permission to reproduce this material.

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