Let’s face it. It’s 2015 and there’s no reason to print paper real estate documents for clients to sign. It is no longer about saving trees. It’s about doing business faster. Information is only as useful as it is portable.
There are two major players in the online document arena.
I’ll admit, I don’t have a lot of experience with Docusign. I’ve received documents from other agents who use it, and it’s very easy to download these documents. In looking at their website, the cost is $240 per year for up to 10 users. This seems very reasonable for small to mid-size teams.
From what I gather, clients love how easy it is to use Docusign on their end. Additionally, though two email addresses would be preferred, Docusign does allow two buyers or sellers to both sign using one email address. This is convenient for couples or the elderly who share an email address. (Typically I find that the senior crowd tend to only have one email address as either the husband or wife is in charge of, or better at checking email.)
However, setting up the document to sign on the agent end is cumbersome. Most states (if not all) require the seller to fill out a disclosure and usually that document has hundreds of boxes to check. An assistant could spend HOURS setting up that document that would allow the seller to check the appropriate boxes. If this is not accurate information, someone email me and I will update this.
DotLoop is our team’s preferred online signature vendor if only because we are with Keller Williams which provides us with a DotLoop account. In the last couple of years, this has become even more useful as all Kansas City Regional Association of Realtors members are also provided with a DotLoop account. If you are not otherwise provided with an account through your brokerage or Realtor association, the cost is $348 per year.
Where the magic happens is when both listing agent and selling agent are proficient with DotLoop. A counter offer is never needed simply because if the selling agent sends over an offer in DotLoop and everyone agrees to different terms than what is on the original offer, the listing agent simply changes the terms, the buyers’ signatures drop off, and the sellers sign the newly revised contract. The listing agent sends it over to the selling agent for buyers’ signatures and now we have a fully ratified contract that lenders, underwriters, appraisers and title companies are able to follow. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Oh I didn’t see that there was a counter offer!”
Additionally, DotLoop acts as cloud storage. It will only hold pdf files, but nearly any Word document, tiff, jpeg, or png can be converted into a pdf. And because the file can be shared among team members, everyone always has access to the documents.
The downside to DotLoop is that each party must have his or her own email address. And, when sellers are filling out the seller’s disclosure, if you have a husband and wife and one of them fills it out and signs in and then the other makes a change and signs it, the first person has to re-sign. The reason is so that both people are seeing and signing the same completed document. This is a safeguard. (I can see where this would be necessary in a case such as a divorcing couple who may be less than civil with each other!)
There are two ways to get signatures:
The listing agent goes on the listing appointment and rather than getting signatures at the appointment, the agent goes back to the office, has the assistant draw up the listing paperwork using an e-signature program, and the assistant sends it to the sellers and monitors everything to make sure it all gets filled out and signed.
This method is beneficial to the agent in that he or she doesn’t have to wait while the seller fills out the seller’s disclosure and all associated paperwork. Let’s face it, getting signatures in person can take a couple of hours.
The selling agent could show several houses and after thinking it over the buyers decided they want to make an offer on the one they like the best. Again, the assistant draws up the contract paperwork using an e-signature program, and the assistant sends it to the buyers and monitors everything.
The email method works well especially for clients who want to read everything. This gives them the time to do that in the comfort of their own home. (Or anywhere for that matter!) They can then make note of all the questions they have and call their listing or selling agent for clarification. NOTE: This may NOT be the best method for first-time home buyers. They often need to hear in person exactly what it is they are agreeing to. In which case we have…
This is where the agent is in front of the clients with a tablet or laptop and the clients sign the documents on the hardware instead of on printed paper. The assistant can prepare the documents before the agent’s appointment with the client and then have immediate access to them once the clients are done signing. Real estate is still one of the slowest moving businesses in corporate America, but by golly time is of the essence! Clients may need time to make a decision, but once they do, we want them to act quickly and e-signatures facilitate that process.
The Assistant’s Role
On our team, we like for the assistant to draw up all documents and if needed, get signatures by email if the agent is not able to be in front of the client. It is the assistant’s job to be intimately familiar with the contracts. Changes to the contract can be easily missed and mistakes in writing the documents cost time in the long run when an assistant has to do additional paperwork to clean up the agents’ messes.
The agent sets the expectation with the clients up front by saying something like, “We have an online solution for getting your signatures called DotLoop. My assistant Elizabeth is going to put together all of the documents for you to sign and then email them to you. I don’t know what’s on her schedule today so it may be tomorrow before she gets them to you.” And it’s as easy as that.
When our selling agents need to write an offer over the weekend. the selling agent sends a text to the assistant (who isn’t REQUIRED to work weekends) and asks if she’s available to type up a contract. If she’s not available, the agent does it himself and the assistant knows that if he is missing anything then at least she was given the opportunity to prevent that even though she turned it down.
The Client’s Perception
Our clients LOVE to e-sign. They love how fast and easy it is. They love that they don’t have to come into our office or make an appointment to sign documents. We do get a few questions on occasion about what the paperwork means, but rarely do we ever get misunderstandings. It’s all about being efficient and clear and making the client feel comfortable at the same time. As long as they know what to expect, they are happy to go along with you!
What has been YOUR experience with taking your documents online and getting e-signatures? Do you like the program you are using or do you wish it were different? Leave a comment!