E-Signature in Real Estate: Some Clients Still Trust Paper and Ink

We found a great article this week by Bernice Ross, a real estate industry columnist, who did a neat summary of the benefits and challenges of using electronic signature software solutions to run ?paperless? real estate transactions. (Find the column here.)

Real estate transactions involve what often stacks up too well over an inch of paperwork, starting with the offer sheet and proceeding through acceptance, title work, clearing conditions and signing final agreements. Add loan financing documents to the stream, and you really ramp up the complexity.

Going Paperless Saves Time and Trees!

Not surprisingly, e-signature software that makes the process simpler, faster and more secure (and more ironclad in the face of legal disputes) is really starting to gain acceptance. Reams of paper are saved, and the security of the digital “paper trail” gets significantly better.

But, in an industry that still involves a healthy group of older people, on both sides of the table, old habits and perceptions about the true security and sanctity of digital signatures must be valued and accommodated.

Let?s say you are a real estate professional and have a client who distrusts electronic paperwork and views an inked signature as the only valid way to execute the stack of documents he and/or she needs to sign to complete the deal.

  • Can you access the documents in question electronically, help them through the electronic signature process, then print out the documents and have them sign a paper copy? Would you would then have legal documents signed two ways? Which takes precedence?
  • Can you leave the paper version with them for their records, and ?keep? the electronic version of your copy? Are they identical?
  • If you make a copy of the printed ?inked? version and take one away with you, do that now supersede the digital version? Must it be scanned, or can it be ignored, as you had the client execute the electronic version?

The answers to these questions will change by jurisdiction, but your brokerage must set clear guidelines on how you should respond to requests from people who wish to stick to the old ways for comfort, as we keep moving through the transition to digital signatures industry-wide.

Giving agents specific activities and educational material to calm the fears some customers have about how to navigate our increasingly paperless business world would help.

  • Fully understanding why an electronic signature protects the client better than ink on paper, for instance, allows you to step the client through the process and quickly get them comfortable with ?going electronic.?

What do you think? Have you found an elegant way to move people away from the paper who distrust electronic signature processing? We would love to hear about it, and I am sure your fellow agents would, too!