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Electronic Signatures Gain Popularity

Real Estate Questions and Answers

Q.  I want to sell my Crofton home, but I live in California.  Will you mail the paperwork to me?

A.  Paperwork that required mailing 10 years ago and scanning/emailing just 2 years ago can now be signed and sent electronically.  Let me explain…


ComputerYour autograph is no longer necessary on real estate sales contracts, addenda, and other documents used to buy, sell, and lease real estate.  E-signing is the latest item on a long list of technology innovations since I started helping Crofton home buyers and sellers in the 70’s.  I love it!

The e-Sign Act (2000) and Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (1999) made electronic signatures binding, but there are still a few hold-outs in the banking world that won’t accept digital signatures.  In these situations, many people use electronic signing in their initial negotiations and then follow up with a copy signed the old fashioned way – with pen and paper – after the agreement is complete.  

However, FHA is on board (FHA Letter) and so is the National Association of REALTORS (NAR White Paper), as well as many lenders.

Here’s how e-signing works:

1.  Your agent goes online to an e-signature company (such as Authentisign or Docusign) to create a new signing.  The first step is to name the signing, such as “123 Crofton Parkway – Lease.”

2.  Your agent will identify each participant in the new signing by entering their name, email address, role in the transaction, and whether they are a signer, reviewer, or copy recipient.

3.  The document (or two or three…) will be uploaded by your agent.  It’s done the same way you add an attachment to email.

4.  Your agent will then go through the document to identify each place where a signature or initials are needed.  It’s a simple “drag and drop” process.  If cross-outs or written changes are needed in the document, your agent will do that electronically and create an initial box next to it.  

5.  After reviewing the document to make sure nothing has been overlooked, your agent will go to the final step – i.e., sending it to you, accompanied by an email message with any comments or instructions.

6.  You receive an email containing the document, along with step by step instructions, and submit it for authentication.

7.  After your document is authenticated by the e-signature copy, it is forwarded to the next party.  Once all parties have signed, the final copy will be sent to anyone identified as a reviewer (such as your agent) and a copy will be delivered to everyone listed in Step 2.

8.  Now all parties have an electronic file of the completed document, which you can save as a PDF file and print for a hard copy.

My clients have used electronic signing for leases, listings, contracts, and random follow-up documents such as the home inspection addendum.  Obviously it’s ideal for people who are out of the area, but even local clients have loved the convenience. 

Don’t be surprised if there’s an electronic signature in your future, especially if you buy or sell a home.  This ranks right up there with fax machines, cell phones, online listing data, and electronic lock boxes… just a few of the other technology innovations that have made life easier for consumers and real estate agents alike.


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