If there’s a local industry that could be the poster child for being unfriendly to the environment, real estate would be it. From the sheer amount of driving that’s involved to the mountain of paperwork that’s generated with every listing or offer that’s written, you’d be hard pressed to find outside of the medical field that’s has a lousier carbon footprint.
But in much the same way that the internet changed how we search for homes, it has dramatically improved how we prepare and execute the numerous disclosures, advisories, and contracts that are involved in the process. And because of these improvements, I’m pleased to be able to now offer to my clients a completely paperless process when they purchase a home.
There are a number of electronic signature programs that I evaluated before settling on Docusign. While it’s not perfect, Docusign seems to have the most robust list of features, and has more miles on it than its competitors. And it’s rapidly becoming the defacto standard in the real estate industry.
The capability of electronic signatures allows the client to view any document on their computer and digitally “sign” the document, thus eliminating the archaic method of print/sign/scan/email for every piece of paper. Having the ability to sign documents electronically is one of those conveniences that you don’t fully appreciate until you’ve tried it. It enables consumers to review and sign the documents at their own pace — whether they are at home, at work, or on vacation. It’s especially handy when dealing with clients that are remotely located, or when dealing with multiple parties who are spread out. As long as they have an internet connection, they can do it.
Like any tool that we use, there are limitations. First, not all banking institutions accept electronic signatures on purchase contracts. Most of the big banks now do (Wells Fargo, BofA, etc..), but there are still many that don’t. And that means that all parties have to go back through the contract and provide “wet” signatures. Over time, I think you’ll see all banks adopt to the standard of e-signing.
Second, not every document can be e-signed. For home sellers, our brokerage still requires that the Transfer Disclosure Statement (TDS) and Seller’s Supplemental Checklist (SSC) be completed by hand by the sellers of the property. But in reality, that’s a total of 9 pages out of probably hundreds, so the inconvenience is minimal.
Finally, the escrow and title companies are not on board with electronic signatures yet. The process of funding the loan and taking title still requires wet signature on a small hill of paper work, and there’s no sign of that changing any time soon. So the bliss of e-signing documents comes to a screeching halt when you sit down with the escrow officer.
The Ultimate Convenience.
How powerful is this convenience? I recently sold a house where the buyer have not needed to print out a single piece of paper in the entire process, and won’t need to until we hit final closing. Changes in the contract were made effortlessly, even though with the husband and wife working nearly 50 miles apart. Only when we meet with title in a few weeks will they need to break out the ballpoint pen. But at the end of the transaction, they will get a copy of every piece of paper they read or signed…. on a CD of course, not on paper.
Electronic signing isn’t for everyone — I tend not to use it when I’m going through the purchase contract for the very first time with a buyer. There are times when sitting across the table and reviewing a contract one page at a time is still the best approach. And some people just prefer the old fashioned way. Either way works for me.
So there’s a huge step in the right direction for making real estate more eco-friendly. Now, if I can only coax a few more MPG’s out of my tank…
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