I shouldn’t say but I have been in real estate for nearly 30 years and have seen our real estate sale agreements go from one legal sized sheet of paper to 14 sheets of paper, plus addenda to cover everything we used to talk about. Now many of us are going “paperless”. It’s called “paperless” but in the interim it seems we are generating more paperwork and then scanning those papers into a computer so it can be sent to all parties of the transaction and then into the new filing system in the cloud. We have this “interim” because not all parties to the transaction have evolved into scanning, filing, electronically signing, electronically presenting, and then reversing the whole thing to go back to the originator and get the documents placed on a couple of clouds where they will be saved for review by a couple of computer savvy principal brokers who will electronically sign each document to be saved in the cloud for review, if necessary, by some sharp attorney or the Real Estate Agency.
The idea of becoming “paperless” intrigues me. Just think how clean our desks will be or maybe we won’t even need a desk. Maybe you can send your documents to a “cloud-based” Principal Broker who only sees your work product and you never have to endure the stare of slow production.
And it scares me. As I think back over my career I can remember times while completing a sale agreement that clients questions were asked that caused the agreement to be changed. We may have written additional contingencies because we talked about fire protection, or renters in the property, or the possession date being the close date. We talked about buyer representations and seller representations. We actually spent time discussing each paragraph of the sale agreement. While presenting offers in front of sellers, we were able to explain why buyers put certain items in their agreement so the agreement was better understood by all parties.
I was once told by a prominent real estate attorney: “He with the best notes wins”. Since we are not keeping paper files, what are we doing with our notes? Are we copying and pasting our emails into the cloud along with the paperless documents?
As we march quickly toward the exclusive use of our computers, scanners, phones and pads, we need to make sure we think about how others may be interpreting what is written in documents versus what you wanted them to say. Explaining the document to your client is more important than explaining how to use the electronic signature.
The future is rapidly ascending upon us. Let’s not get in the habit of checking certain boxes and having our clients initial and sign without their full understanding of what they are agreeing to. Just because the agreement says: “If it is not understood, seek competent legal advice before signing” does not, in my humble opinion, relieve you of your standard of care.
Susan Hamilton, Principal Broker
Elite Realty Ltd