According to research from the Paperless Project, a typical employee spends 30 to 40 percent of his time looking for information locked in email and filing cabinets. Meanwhile, the average document is copied 9 to 11 times, and every 12 filing cabinets require an additional employee to maintain. But state laws typically require real estate agents keep copies of contracts for years, taking up valuable resources in the office and time to deal with them.
Going paperless is hailed as the next transformation for the real estate industry, but isn’t always so simple. Securing legally binding signatures, maintaining files and accessing appropriate documents is still an organization issue whether you’re doing it digitally or physically. Here’s how to get started with transforming your real estate business into a paperless entity.
Before you dive into scanning and destroying contracts, take a look at the mail received and opportunities for opting out. Ask your office administrator to switch to e-bills and a service like Catalog Choice to help eliminate clutter and reduce junk mail. Your office can also contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to be opt out of unsolicited mail, calls and even email for five years by calling 888-OPT-OUT.
Next, sign-up for a service like Paperless Pipeline to take your documents with you on the go. Designed for the real estate industry, Paperless Pipeline gives access to your documents from any computer or device with a browser. You can show up to closings without paperwork and turn it all in by emailing, scanning or directly uploading everything you need.
Switch to electronic signatures
When faced with paperwork requiring a signature, correspond via email and use DocuSign instead. These legally binding signatures carry the same legitimacy as traditional paper and ink signatures in just about every business situation around the world. Legal requirements include verification of the signer’s identity with different forms of authentication, confirmation of intent to sign electronically and linkage between signatures and documents.
But is it legal? For added assurance, confirm electronic signatures meet or exceed requirements of the ESIGN Act and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act in the United States. If you are conducting a real estate transaction outside of the United States, ensure local laws comply with electronic signatures before you start. Connect any of your existing accounts from zipForm Plus, Google Drive or Dropbox to access Word or PDF documents that need to be signed.
Use the right gear
Laptops are quickly becoming dated technology for mobile businesses and agents on the go. Instead, grab a more versatile, portable device with a battery that will last all day and a built-in fingerprint sensor to keep your files secure like the iPad mini 4.
Your gear extends beyond physical devices and should include cloud-based storage and services. Like DocuSign, anything you’re using in a transaction should be stored and accessed in the cloud to reduce human error by leaving it on your device. Start by using your iPhone or iPad’s built-in camera to capture documents and then convert them into PDFs with the Scanner Pro app. You can also set up the app to automatically upload to your cloud service like Google Drive.