Real estate and paper


Green is all the rage these days and I try to keep my business green.  My biggest challenge is paper.   Paper is a big deal in the real estate industry, there is a lot of it.  The contracts to purchase a home are 14 to 23 pages long and that doesn’t include the disclosures or the contract between the buyer and the agent.  Getting a home loan involves a lot of paper.

When we put a home on the market we leave a lot of paper in it.  The sellers disclosure is nine pages long and the St. Paul truth in housing inspection is four pages long.

Buyers need to see all of the information and disclosures and most of it is available electronically through the MLS.  and truth in housing reports can be found on the city of St. Paul web site for any home on the market.

Some people don’t like to read documents on computer screens and want paper copies but these days if I show a buyer six homes in one outing  they will end up with 83 pieces of paper if they grab the disclosures and a brochure from each home they see.

I don’t print much at all any more.  I never liked paper  because it is so hard to keep track of and it takes up too much space.  Pieces of paper that are related to each other end up in a bigger piece of paper called a file folder and those file folders end up in bigger file folders so they can be hung in the drawer of a file cabinet.   I could never make any sense of it and life was tough for me during the decade that I worked for the government.

Each property that I list has an electronic file and so does each buyer.  If I need to find something I don’t need to open a drawer and search through papers in file folders.  I can search electronically.

Having an iPad makes it easier than ever to get by without paper.  I have everything I need with me on the iPad or through the internet and I rarely need to print it.   If I am out showing houses and my clients would like copies of what I have on my iPad I just email it to them. I can take notes on the iPad and store them on the device or on the internet and they can also be emailed. 

Real estate contracts can be signed on an iPad now too, and there is also electronic signature software and in Minnesota we can accept electronic signatures.  Contracts can be emailed, signed electronically and emailed back without ever being printed.   

I have had entire contracts that I have never had to print because my clients also accepted an electronic copy.  When buyers close on a home they get a pile of papers.  Once everything is filed with the county buyers don’t need any paper to prove ownership which is a good thing because when I go to sell a house there is rarely any paper around.

One day my business will be paperless and so will real estate transactions. I am looking forward to that day but am not sure what I will use the two file cabinets in my office for.

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8 Replies to “Real estate and paper”

  1. This is an extremely helpful post. I think many businesses are moving to a paperless environment for many of the same reasons you mention. But specifically for agents I see this being useful advice. TYhanks!

  2. I keep looking for reasons to get an iPad for business use (since I don’t have enough electronic devices) – you’ve given me several. For document signing on the iPad, do you use DocuSign (or equivalent), or can you have your clients actually ‘sign’ with a stylus directly on a PDF? I’ve tried the 2nd approach with a tablet PC, but the results weren’t so good.

    1. Teresa Boardman says:

      I am using Iannodate PDF and yes I can and have had clients sign on the iPad with a stylus. If was clunky at first but now the program is working well. Docusign is nice program too but I don’t seem to be smart enough to learn how to use it efficiently. Considering the amount of paper and information we need with us on a daily basis I am finding my iPad to be very useful. I really can keep it all with me and I don’t lose things like I used to. I have an easier time keeping organized but that is me. šŸ™‚

  3. That’s a great tip – this is the type of solution that I’ve been trying to find, thanks. I love Docusign on the PC, but it is rather rigid. When setting up a contract (50+ pages for me), you must create placeholders for every signature/initial. This workflow simply doesn’t work when you are face-to-face.

    1. OK – got the iPad and it’s worked great with my buyers this weekend. All listing details on PDF files – no paper. Was able to drop-in to a Starbucks, access MLS and setup appointments between appointments. Nice. Today, Angry Birds kept a 4 year old occupied while parents walked through a $1.8M home and have a conversation. It was a big, big hit.

      Still figuring out how to sign PDFs and don’t like iAnnotate (everyone else seems to love it) – way too confusing and clunky. Notarize seems to be working out much better — much simpler, and inking much better. Resulting PDF, however, is humongous; can only get it back from iPad via upload to Google Docs. Still – looks very promising.

  4. Fantastic Post, Lots of good reasons for me to purchase an iPad.

  5. Teresa Boardman says:

    Bruce – getting contracts signed is clunky. I don’t love iAnnotate either but it is better than it was when I first tired it and I am optimistic that there will be a better solution.

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