How do you give Belgian real estate agents a public knowledge base?
Digitalise and optimise operations
A new web platform with numerous integrated applications
At the end of 2018, there were over 10.000 active real estate professionals in Belgium, including real estate agents, syndicus and stewards, all of whom specialise in what most Belgians consider two of the most important aspects in life: real estate and living.
All self-employed real estate professionals need accreditation from the BIV, the Belgium official institute for real estate agents. The BIV is not just a supervisory body, but also informs and supports real estate agents in various ways such as training. Additionally, the BIV also sanctions all professionals that commit grave mistakes.
BIV opts to go digital
“When iO created the new BIV website, the institute chose to go all in on digitalisation and turned the project into a partnership” says Frank Damen, Digital Manager at BIV.
"iO’s transparency and ability to solve problems at any level have helped the BIV to digitalise the real estate profession with various applications, as well as online courses and an exam platform for aspiring real estate professionals."
Using Drupal CMS as a public knowledge database
On the one hand, the BIV’s public Drupal website is the place to go for all Belgian real estate professionals. It contains all important information and relevant documents that real estate professionals need to practice such as legislative amendments, reference works, model documents, publications, procedures and more. Also, the website serves as the starting point for aspiring real estate agents to earn an official accreditation.
On the other hand, the BIV’s website also targets the people on the other side of the real estate market. People looking to sell their house can use the website to easily find a real estate agent nearby or to press charges after irregularities.
To meet all target audiences’ needs, the BIV website needed to have a clear information architecture and powerful search functionality. User friendliness was the top priority.
To make sure that managing the website was easy for the BIV itself, iO also invested a lot of time in developing the backend of the CMS.
Extranet: digital exchange of information
Real estate professionals are tied to the BIV via continuous interaction. From the moment they receive their accreditation to all the years after, real estate professionals have to exchange documents and information with the institute.
Before the BIV started working together with iO, all real estate professionals received information and documents by post. Now, all professionals have their own “digital office” where they can manage their profiles and administration, which is automatically sent to and processed by the BIV’s ERP system.
Another standout feature of BIV’s web platform is the digital onboarding module for aspiring real estate professionals. In the past, the accreditation procedure was outdated and complicated. Applicants had to print and fill out forms, send them to the BIV by post along with a number of certificates and supporting documents, and then wait for the BIV to process it all.
Now, applicants can start their digital onboarding by identifying themselves via Itsme or eID, after which their information is filled in automatically. Next, they can easily upload all the necessary certificates and documents and follow the status of their application online.
Thanks to its new web applications, the BIV can now also digitally process all applications. Documents no longer have to be scanned and retyped, which significantly speeds up the whole process and reduces the risk of errors. Once the application procedures are completed, accredited applicants can access all functionalities and data on the BIV extranet.
Intranet: organising trainings
The BIV is strongly committed to a thorough professionalisation of the entire real estate sector, as the legislation is getting increasingly more complex and the responsibility of professionals is becoming greater as well.
Physical and online training courses are organised by the BIV itself or external training partners of the institute. All course information, including locations and data, registrations and attendances are registered and managed using the integrated web application Edux.
Over the last few years, the BIV’s role has evolved from organising training courses to enabling and gatekeeping them. Now, training institutions across the country have the tools and means to vouch for the applicants' accreditations themselves. The BIV on the other hand, now occupies itself with quality control instead of managing all files.
After completing a course or exam, real estate professionals automatically receive their accreditation/certification via the BIV platform, which is connected to the external training institutions via numerous APIs. Additionally, the BIV can also use its platform to check which professionals are underperforming and don’t meet their training quota.
E-learning for real estate professionals
Real estate professionals can continuously hone their skills and expand their knowledge using the online e-learning tool that is integrated in both the extranet and the training course management platform.
Internship tool & online exam tool
When applying for accreditation, aspiring applicants have to intern at a real estate company or with a self-employed real estate professional.
To simplify the internship process for all parties involved, iO created an internship monitoring tool that can be used to upload internship documents, worklogs and assessments.
Before interns can receive their accreditation, they have to take a number of exams. To simplify and automate the administration process, we also created an online exam tool that applicants can use to fill in their exams online. The tool is a clever system based on a number of advanced security techniques and detections against fraud and abuse. Moreover, the system features smart reporting, a flexible question library and ditto modules to build exams with.
A technical masterpiece
The structure of the BIV platform is a technical masterpiece. All elements of the platform are mission critical and have to work perfectly at all times to secure all sensitive information.
Links to multiple of the BIV’s internal and external systems and databases.
Combination of the Drupal CMS and PHP Symfony framework via a seamless integration
All systems are linked to a central identity system based on OAuth technology, allowing real estate professionals to use the platform without having to log in to each separate application.
Automation of numerous processes to reduce manual work
Handles all letters, files and paperwork digitally to save time and money and increase overall efficiency.
The impressive digital achievements of BIV in the last few years have not tempered the digital ambitions and goals of the institute. APIs, microservices and OpenData are on the roadmap for the future to connect external and public platforms to the BIV’s knowledge database.
After an extensive period of analysis and development, the real estate profession has no more secrets for us. We have a strong partnership with the BIV and are continuously working to further optimise the institute’s digital transformation and administrative processes.
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