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Entries Tagged as 'Docusign'

Ok, So Here’s Something You Can Do With A Tablet PC But Not With Docusign!

December 2nd, 2007 · 1 Comment

I love my Tablet PC (a Lenovo X41). The “Wow!” factor when folks see me swivel the screen or write on it is pretty cool, and it helps me do many things much more efficiently. As I mentioned yesterday, however, I don’t use the Tablet functionality for gathering electronic signatures for transactions; for that, I use Docusign.

A visitor to my Plugoo chat box this morning alerted me to this Tablet PC video, brought to us by Robert Scoble himself. Now that’s cool!

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Tags: Consumer · Docusign · Industry · Tablet PC

Paperless Transactions Without A Tablet PC

December 1st, 2007 · 8 Comments

James Hsu’s recent Bloodhound article on (nearly) paperless transactions using a Tablet PC, PDF Annotator, and Microsoft OneNote showed an ingenious self-cobbled-together solution to a vexing problem in real estate: how to stop killing so many damn trees every time we sell a home! Purchase contracts and disclosure documents get longer each year, usually driven by the industry’s need to protect itself from lawsuits from people seemingly too stupid to be buying homes in the first place (”Mr. Jones, did you not notice that the new home you were buying was on a golf course? Why then were you surprised when a golf ball came sailing through your window?” Voila — the new Errant Golf Ball disclosure.)

James’ solution, and others involving Tablet PC’s — such as Vreo’s Dashboard — have the virtue of simplicity and ease-of-understanding: signing your name on a Tablet PC precisely mimics the act of signing your name on a piece of paper. No real learning curve, no complicated explanation of what it is you’re doing. This solution is perfect if two things are true: 1) You have a Tablet PC; 2) You do most of your deal paperwork in the same room as your clients.

Requirement 1) is becoming easier as Tablet PC’s drop in price. Requirement 2 is necessary because it’s unlikely that your clients have a Tablet PC of their own.

What if your clients are like mine — busy executives constantly traveling? More often than not, one of the parties needing to sign a document is out of town, and even if everybody is in town, it’s usually pretty inconvenient for me to drive to wherever they might be just to get a signature. In that scenario, a fax machine still beats a Tablet PC hands-down. Vreo’s Tei Baishiki and I discussed precisely that at the last Inman.

Enter Docusign, a Seattle company with a neat e-signature solution. (Full disclosure: I don’t work for Docusign. I’m not on their payroll. I don’t earn a nickel for any referrals I send their way. I simply love their product and am very loyal to my vendors. The only “compensation” I’ve ever received is that they’ve sent some reporters my way and I’ve gotten some free publicity for my business.)

Though requiring some re-assurance about the method and legal validity, Docusign’s product has been my lifesaver over the last three years. The first time my clients touch a piece of paper in a real estate transaction is at the closing table, and that’s because I have no control over the workflow processes of the title company and the mortgage company. All of the documents coming from me — contracts, disclosures, and all — are 100% electronic.

Need to write up a contract at midnight for presentation at 8am, though signer A is in New York, and Signer B is in Germany? Piece of cake. Need to submit a counter-offer in 10 minutes? Again, no worries.

Questions about its legal validity? I can’t answer that, but I can point to two facts:

  1. Winforms, officially sanctioned by CAR itself, has a handy little “Electronic Signature” button on the toolbar. This button automatically sends the documents into the Docusign signature system.2007-12-01_14-10-27-265.png
  2. CAR’s legal services department created a document on December 7, 2004, entitled, Electronic Signatures and Records in Real Estate Transactions. Said document clearly indicates — at least to my interpretation — that the large majority of real estate-related transactions can be legally consummated electronically. (Exceptions include things like evictions, utility disconnections, and seller financing disclosures.) In fact, both E-Sign and UETA — California and Federal government acts, respectively — state no signature, contract, or record relating to a transaction can be denied legal validity or enforceability solely because it is [in] an electronic format, or solely because an electronic signature or electronic record was used in its formation.

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Tags: * Export · Docusign · Electronic signatures · Industry · Vreo

Damn The Torpedoes! Full Speed Ahead For Funding Seattle Start-Ups

September 25th, 2007 · No Comments

Market slowdown? What market slowdown? Despite much of the country’s real estate market being in trouble, despite the sub-prime mortgage mess, despite all the gloom and doom in the press, despite speculation that even almighty Google may be affected by the downturn, funding for Seattle-area startups continues strong.

zillow.gifZillow just landed $30M in funding, bringing its total to just under $90M and suggesting a market value of some $350M. Zillow CFO Spencer Rascoff, quoted in the same article over at the Kelsey Group blog, says that now the market is down,

It’s less fun to Zillow yourself and your neighbors and friends. [But] we’re getting less voyeuristic traffic and more buyer and seller traffic.

docusign.pngMeanwhile, TechCrunch reports that Docusign, my personal favorite e-signature provider, just raised $12.4M. Docusign’s exposure to the real estate downturn is, of course, significantly lower than Zillow’s, since Docusign services numerous industries beyond real estate.

Dave McClure, a “Silicon Valley software developer, entrepreneur, startup advisor, angel investor, and internet marketing nerd“, notes that VC’s and tech attorneys are still stuck in the 80’s, faxing documents back and forth, rather than putting things online and using digital signatures. Hmmm…sounds like the real estate industry!

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Tags: Docusign · Electronic signatures · Industry · Zillow

Docusign’s Goal: To Become a Verb

March 30th, 2007 · No Comments

Regular readers know that I’m a big fan of using electronic signatures and that the package I use is Docusign.  Their PR firm recently interviewed me for a podcast, which was released this morning.

Docusign’s Tom Gonser, also in the podcast, says that their goal is to “become a verb.”  People will start saying, “Can you Docusign this” just like they say “I’ll Fedex you this document.”

Click here for the podcast.

The company has also started a blog, which you can find here.

Full disclosure:  For the record, I am not on Docusign’s payroll, nor was I paid in cash or kind for doing the interview.   As a Beta tester of their new platform, I believe I may qualify for a discount in the future, but that discount also applies to their other Beta testers.

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Tags: Consumer · Docusign · Electronic signatures · Industry · Real estate

Making Realtors’ Lives Easier with Docusign

January 23rd, 2007 · 8 Comments

A few weeks ago I was in Seattle and had the chance to visit with Kevin Connor of Docusign, the electronic signature provider I use. I shot some video of our conversation as we discussed what industries Docusign addresses, and how Docusign helps real estate transactions go more smoothly.

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Tags: Docusign · Real estate

Buying a Mountain View home using electronic signatures while at the Grand Canyon

December 27th, 2006 · 2 Comments

grand-canyon.jpgI just got back from a champaign toast celebration at my clients’quill-and-paper.jpg new Mountain View home, a wonderful re-modeled 2-story 2400 sq ft place near downtown. We reminisced about the ups and downs of the transaction (there are ALWAYS ups and downs!) and how we put the deal together over the Thanksgiving holiday, while my clients were at the Grand Canyon. Thank you Docusign! (No, I’m not on Docusign’s payroll!)

A day or two before Thanksgiving, an interesting Mountain View home came on the radar screen of some clients. I showed it to them the day before Thanksgiving, after which they headed to Las Vegas for the long weekend and I headed to the in-laws.

After mulling it over for the night, my clients decided to make an offer. By this time they were en-route from Vegas to the Grand Canyon, which under normal Real Estate 1.0 circumstances might have presented some logistical issues. No worries this time, however.

I put together the offer documents, including several dozen pages of disclosures and put them through Docusign’s electronic signature process. When they were ready, I called my clients, and they stopped at the next Starbucks, whipped open their laptops (I tend to have clients who, just like me, take their laptops with them on vacation), jumped on the T-Mobile wi-fi network and e-signed the documents before they were halfway done with their double-mocha-lattes-with-room-for-cream-and-a-dash-of-cinammon.

They hit the road again, and I presented the offer. The next day we received a counteroffer, which we decided to counter back on. I put the paperwork together and my clients signed it, this time at their hotel’s Internet cafe, and then went on with the rest of their day.

We got in contract, my clients enjoyed their holiday, and not so much as a branch of a tree was sacrificed to make it happen.

(Images courtesy of okalrel.org and atpm.com)

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Tags: Docusign · Electronic signatures · Mountain View · Real estate

An embarrassment of riches

December 14th, 2006 · 2 Comments

It just kind of happened this way, but I’ve been fortunate in the last couple of days to meet some of the most interesting folks in online real estate: Marlow Harris (360 Digest), Ardell Dellaloggia (Rain City Guide and Searchingseattle), David Gibbons (Zillow), and Kevin Connor from Docusign. — all of them up in Seattle. Yesterday, back in the Bay Rea, I had the opportunity to meet Travis Chow and Steve Schmidt from Neighboroo, as well as Pete Flint from Trulia.

I have write-ups on both Docusign and Neighboroo in the works, but for now let’s talk about Trulia.

Housed in classic San Francisco start-up open-plan style, Trulia’s ~30 employees definitelyimg_0230-cropped-small.JPG enjoy themselves — except when Pete Flint asks for volunteers to don the Trulia mascot. Can’t say I blame them — it does look rather uncomfortable, and I’d certainly rather be building the next refinement to Trulia’s offerings than humoring a curious visiting real estate blogger!

Trulia is really doing an exceptional job of trying to figure out how to improve the online experience for real estate consumers and how to win over real estate professionals to advertise. The latter is a particularly delicate balancing act, since our industry tends to be leery of technologists who stray onto our turf. Trulia has made nice with Realtors by providing neat tools for FREE such as a Trulia search box, home roll, free data upload feeds, and a Trulia Map. Unlike some aggregators, Trulia has built formal relationships with with many brokers across the country. A testament to Trulia’s Realtor PR is that a number of industry power hitters now sit on a recently-created Trulia advisory board.

Though Trulia concentrates on listings, it does have a fairly comprehensive database of other homes, a la Zillow. Unlike Zillow, however, these homes are not front and center; rather, Trulia’s site displays them only in the context of being near and similar to listings of interest, allowing the consumer to draw his own conclusions about value. Trulia does not appear to have a “T-estimate” up its sleeve.

How can Trulia display sold listings when that’s against the longstanding rules of most MLS’s in the country? (Note: our local MLS, and, I believe, the NWMLS, recently changed that policy.) Simple: Trulia is not a member of any MLS, so it’s not bound by the same silly rules. It gets its listing information from its Realtor partners, and its sold homes data from county records, via a third party.

The flip side of the advantage of not being beholden to MLS laws, however, is not having access to all the listing data…and therein lies Trulia’s “chicken and egg” problem, one common to online real estate sites. Trulia doesn’t — and can’t — have all the listings because it’s not an MLS member, and because it doesn’t have all the listings, it’s not as attractive a destination for consumers…which in turn makes it less attractive for Realtors to partner.

Pete’s response on this is that while MLS’s may have all the listings, “they certainly haven’t won the battle for consumer attention. Because Trulia offers consumers a way to understand real estate trends in a way that others don’t, I’d argue that we’re more of an attractive destination [than the traditional MLS], particularly with 80% of consumers looking online in their search.”

Pete notes, however, that though Trulia only has about 50% of the listings nation-wide that Realtor.com has, its inventory is steadily growing as it attracts more Realtor partners. He also points out that “according to Comscore, we are the fastest growing online real estate site in the US with over 25% month-on-month growth over the last 6 months.” If that growth continues, it may reach a tipping point where it has enough inventory to attract the eyeballs to attract the Realtors to contribute more listings.

Pete and I and product manager Megan Kamil brainstormed about what the ultimate real estate mash-up might look like. I’ll save that discussion for a future post.

Trulians — best of luck to you all, and thanks for having me over!

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Tags: Docusign · Neighboroo · Pete Flint · Real estate · Realtor.com · Travis Chow · Trulia · Zillow

Real estate office in a box

November 19th, 2006 · 1 Comment

Inspired by Pat Kitano’s recent post on Google Apps, which in turn was inspired by Loren Nason’s musings on real estate technology, I thought I would chime in on the discussion about cool tech tools.


Traditionally, one of the benefits of working for a large brokerage like Alain Pinel (my broker) was the technology infrastructure they provided — email service, fax machines, web sites, photocopiers, a PABX, desktop computers, servers, perhaps even cell phones — and discounts for third party services like graphics design, mailer printing, and office supplies. These days, however, even a one-person shop has much of this functionality at his fingertips…for a fraction of the “desk fees” charged by many of the brokerages.

desktop-computer.jpg fax-machine.jpgoffice-supplies.jpgtelephone.jpgphotocopier.jpg

Let’s look at how a small brokerage might tackle its technology needs in three categories: communication, marketing, and administration.
We start with a computer, which will end up being your primary tool in all three categories. Some folks prefer a desktop for their main office and a laptop on the road, but I prefer having only a laptop. Be sure you get one with a good-feeling keyboard, and you might want to spring for a large monitor to plug the laptop into when you’re at your office. You may also want to invest in a high-speed Internet access service for your laptop, such as that offered by Verizon.

  • Phone — Get a VOIP (Voice Over IP) phone service from a company like Vonage or Skype, and give out that number. When you’re in your office (which for a small company could be at home), use that as your primary phone. Configure it so that if you don’t pick it up in 3 rings, it forwards to your cell phone. Get a cell phone with a generous plan and possibly with high-speed Internet access, depending on whether you’ll also get high-speed service for your laptop.
  • Internet access — If you work from home and already have high-speed Internet access, set up an (encrypted) wireless router so you can work on your laptop from anywhere. If you have a dedicated office, you may have to spring for an Internet connection plan — especially if there are several people in the office. If you’re literally a one-person shop, you might get away with having only the high-speed Internet connection on your laptop.
  • Fax machine — Skip it and save some serious bank. Get a $9.95/month Internet fax service plan which enables others to send you a fax to a dedicated number and forwards that fax as an attachment in your email, and be sure it also has an outgoing email-to-fax service. That way, you can send and receive faxes from anywhere you have Internet access. Two options to check out are Onebox and Greenfax.
  • Email — Lots of folks use an Exchange hosted solution; some are beginning to migrate to Google Apps for Your Domain, though there’s some privacy concerns re. the latter. Loren Nason has a good explanation about setting up Google Apps. Your web site provider may well have an email service as well.


  • Web site — If you prefer a low-hassle solution, and you’re not terribly interested in getting involved in the nuts and bolts of it, you’ll probably want to stick with one of the many, many real estate web site solutions. If you feel like getting your hands dirty, you may want a hosted solution that gives you complete control. I use Bluehost, which for less than $10/month gives me several domain names, a ton of free apps, and pretty good performance.
  • Fliers/brochures/postcards — If you’re reasonably handy with Powerpoint or Publisher, you can design most of what you need yourself. Alternatively, you could hire a graphics artist to come up with a couple of neat templates for you, and then edit for each use accordingly. If you’re well-organized, you can save a lot of money by getting your mailings and open house fliers ready a week in advance, since you can use one of the Internet printing services like VistaPrint or OvernightPrints, which gives you good quality on full-color double-sided 4X6 postcards for something ridiculous like 15 cents each. Some of the services will even bulk mail them for you — but that adds up pretty quickly at 20 cents a card. If you’re not as well organized, you can probably get them done overnight at a local Kinko’s FedExKinko’s.


  • Printer — I personally wouldn’t recommend investing in an expensive, high-end printer. What’s often more cost-effective — again if you’re well-organized — is to get a $300 color printer that you use when you need, say, 10 copies or less. For more than that, and especially if you’re printing out 10 copies of a 100 page listing disclosure, you might want to check out FedExKinko’s online print service.
  • Photocopier — Again, give it a miss and save some money, or get a cheap one (preferably the same gizmo as your printer) for doing 10 copies or less.
  • Scanner — This is something still not found in most of the traditional brokerages, but I highly recommend it for any small business. I’d get one that’s reasonably fast — say, 15 pages per minute — and it becomes your defacto photocopier and fax machine. Say you get one of those annoying old-fashioned paper (shudder!) 100-page disclosure packets from a listing agent. Scan it in and forward it to your clients by email — they’ll have a much crisper copy and be duly impressed with your tech skills.
  • Signature service — Ditch the old routine of print, fax to client, wait for fax to come back, etc. Try one of the electronic signature packages — provided, of course, that electronic signatures are legal for real estate transactions in your state — and you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. I use Docusign, but I’ve heard good things about Suredocs as well.
  • Backup — If your whole business is on your laptop, you need to protect that data. I use Carbonite, a neat online service which backs up whatever you want it to for something like $5/month. Whenever you have an Internet connection, it scans your laptop for new or changed files and then quietly uploads them to Carbonite’s servers in the background. (Actually, I believe Carbonite uses Amazon’s S3 data service.)

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Tags: Alain Pinel Realtors · Brokerages · Docusign · Real estate · Suredocs · Technology

Assistants 2.0

November 4th, 2006 · 2 Comments

An indispensable asset for many Realtors is their assistant, who’s responsible for maintaining order, keeping on top of the escrow file, scheduling appointments, helping with advertising, running errands, photocopying…and generally trying to keep your life from going completely stark-raving insane.

I can’t say enough good things about my part-time assistant, Cynthia, who does an absolutely fabulous job.  [Full disclosure:  Cynthia also happens to be my sister.]  Like many real-estate related folks these days, she lives in…Seattle…837 miles from where I do my business.

How does this work?  Quite well, thanks to some Web 2.0 technologies, like Docusign, which I’ve commented about before, and another neat little piece of software from some Israeli software geniuses called Beinsync, which, as the name implies, helps keep documents synchronized on different computers.

I run nearly everything in my business off my trusty laptop.  I’ve configured Beinsync to make sure that my laptop and Cynthia’s always have the most up-to-date version of important documents.

The best example of our workflow is when we’re putting together offers.  Most listings in this area come in tandem with a 100+ page disclosure packet, of which perhaps 50 need signatures from myself and my clients.  I scan in the disclosure packets, and Beinsync promptly and obediently (and fairly quickly) uploads them to Cynthia’s laptop.  (If the disclosures are available online, which they are about 20% of the time, Cynthia downloads them directly.)

She gets the disclosures ready for signature and emails them out to myself and my clients.  After we sign them — which takes at most 2 minutes — she packages them all together in a PDF file, along with supporting documents like a pre-approval letter and a cover letter, and saves them on her laptop.  Once again, Beinsync kicks into action and uploads the signed disclosures to my laptop.

Our record was a deal we put together in which the parties were in five different cities!

  • I was in San Diego at a friend’s wedding
  • Client 1 was in Fresno (California)
  • Client 2 was in Petaluma (also in California)
  • The mortgage broker was in San Rafael (again, California)
  • Cynthia was up in Seattle, coordinating all the activities


This sort of thing would have been nearly impossible just two years ago.  Thanks to Docusign and Beinsync — and, most importantly by far, an extremely efficient and tech-savvy assistant — we pulled it off as smoothly as if we had all been in the same room.

Oh, and yes — we did get the deal!

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Tags: Assistants · Beinsync · Docusign · Real estate · Technology

Electronic signatures, a missed Virgin Atlantic flight, and two mystery guests

October 18th, 2006 · 4 Comments

I’m always looking for ways to streamline my business, and one of my favorite tricks is electronic signatures, which save me and my clients an unbelievable amount of time, effort, paper, and ink. Plus, they’re really, really cool!

Many of my clients travel frequently, and e-signatures mean they can sign anywhere they have Internet access — at the office, at a conference, in an airport, or at a Starbucks/T-mobile hotspot. A few weeks ago, we were expecting a counter-offer to come in while my client was going to be en-route from San Francisco to London on a Virgin Atlantic flight. No worries…that Virgin flight had wifi access! Unfortunately, my client missed the flight, so I’m not yet able to say that clients have signed while flying.

The two mystery guests? You’ll find them in my presentation on this topic, best viewed in full Powerpoint presentation mode.

The platform I use is Docusign, a Seattle-based company. Before getting into the specifics, a quick disclaimer, then a digression into what electronic signatures are and are not.

Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, and there are a lot of legal issues around electronic signatures of which you should be careful. Don’t take my word for either their efficacy or their legality in real estate transactions in California — do your own research. If you live outside California, I have no idea what laws might apply to you.

Digression: A “signature” is simply an action a person performs to show consent to something. Examples of signatures include:

  • Writing your name on paper in a stylized and consistent manner. Because this is currently the most widely-used signature method, it has become known as — you guessed it! — a “signature.” 2006-10-18_15-36-51-609.png
  • Pressing your fingerprint2006-10-18_15-37-34-093.png
  • Marking an “X”2006-10-18_15-37-49-781.png

An “electronic signature”, then, is simply an electronic action a person performs to show consent to something. Examples of electronic signatures include:

  • Clicking “place your order” on Amazon.com.

  • Clicking “pay” on your online bank’s web site.

  • Clicking “sign” on a Docusign document


Using Docusign e-signatures in California real estate transactions

Docusign uses a familiar motif — yellow “sticky” sign here labels — to make the process easy and understandable. You start with any document in electronic form, such as an online real estate purchase contract from your forms provider. If the original is in paper format, then you need to either scan it or e-fax it to yourself.

Once you have the document in electronic form, you simply “print” it to Docusign to get it ready. You specify the email addresses of the signers…


… then drag yellow “stickies” to where your clients need to sign…


…and then email it to them. When they open the email, they’ll be directed to sign in to Docusign, they’ll see the document, and then sign by simply clicking where it says “Sign here.”


When they’re done clicking in all the places that need a signature or initial, they email it back to you, and then you can open it, print it, forward it etc. The signature is a stylized cursive version of their name along with a unique identification number:


That’s all there is to it!

Trust me, after getting over the initial learning curve, you and your clients will simply not believe how you survived without electronic signatures.

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Tags: Docusign · Electronic signatures · For buyers · For sellers · Real estate