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Entries Tagged as 'Electronic signatures'

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

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

Electronic transactions and peace in the Middle East

October 29th, 2006 · 4 Comments

At the recent convention of the California Association of Realtors, Brad Inman, President and CEO of Inman News Features, spoke about how technology has been changing the business of real estate. Inman’s a pretty sharp character, and he “gets” technology in real estate in a way that many industry leaders don’t.

Here’s what he had to say about electronic transactions:

Uh, Brad…next time you’re thinking of buying or selling a home, let me know…we’ll do all the paperwork electronically, and the first and only time you’ll have to put a pen to paper is when you sign the closing documents at the title company. Alas, California law still requires mortgage documents to be signed the old fashioned way.

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Tags: Brad Inman · California Association of Realtors · Electronic signatures · Inman News · Real estate · Technology

Why “incredibly time-saving and cool” isn’t enough to change Ronald the Realtor’s business practices

October 22nd, 2006 · 2 Comments

I was working late in the office the other night and ran into a friend and colleague who was in the classic Realtor time-crunch. Ronald the Realtor — not this person’s real name — was in the process of writing up a contract, after which he had to

  1. Drive to wife-half-of-client-couple and get her signatures
  2. Come back to the office
  3. Fax contract to husband-half-of-client-couple (who was travelling) to get his signatures
  4. Wait for the contract to come back via fax
  5. Double check it for accuracy

To me, this looked like a classic test case for using electronic signatures, which would have transformed this 2 hour (at least) ordeal into a fairly easy 30 minute process, not to mention looking incredibly cool.

I wondered why Ronald wasn’t using e-signatures, since he’s a pretty successful, tech-savvy, smart individual who — to boot — had recently attended my e-signature training session.

Here’s my explanation: Of the three types of Realtors, electronic signatures don’t yet offer enough value for two of them, and for the third type, it’s a question of getting over the learning and comfort curve.

The three types of Realtors (at least for the purpose of this discussion) are:

  1. Low-volume
  2. High-volume
  3. Medium-volume

Low-volume Realtors might do four or five deals in a year, so saving time is not something they tend to be concerned about. High-volume Realtors tend to have one or more assistants, and saving them effort is usually not a high priority. It’s the third type of Realtor — medium-volume ones — for whom, I believe, e-signatures currently offer the most benefit.

Why aren’t they adopting it more quickly? Ironically, I think it’s largely because they’re just too busy to take the time to learn something new — and I’ll be the first to admit that the first couple of deals you do using e-signatures may well take you more time than the traditional method. Kind of an unfortunate Catch-22 for those folks.

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Tags: Electronic signatures · 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

A realtor’s job is never done

September 28th, 2006 · 2 Comments

So here I am in King’s Beach, on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, ostensibly on vacation. I’ll be spending some time today getting an offer ready to submit tomorrow. Fortunately, technology makes this pretty straightforward and painless… Thanks to the good folks at the Java Hut for providing some great coffee, a little table to work on, and funky, inspiring tunes (including, for a while, some classic Fela tunes)… ..and thanks to the neighboring restaurant, Steamers, for inadvertently providing me with Wifi access… …add in the help of my Lenovo X41 Tablet PC, our local real estate forms provider, an e-fax system, and, of course, my e-signature provider… …and it all comes together pretty effortlessly, even getting the 125 pages of disclosures ready for signature… Turns out the seller of the property on which I’m submitting an offer is a meticulous record-keeper. I know this dates me, but was there really a time when tradespeople charged only $10 an hour?

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Tags: Electronic signatures · Real estate · Real estate 2.0 · Technology