August 2014 | By Michael Antoniak
The technology for going paperless is already tried and true. It’s not defined by any single tool or service: It’s a combination of solutions that come together as a seamlessly integrated workflow.
It starts with digitized documents. Anything you create on a computer is already in digital form. Real estate practitioners routinely work with a variety of standardized forms and contracts that originated on paper. But you can get them all in PDF form using Ziplogix, which provides authorized digital libraries of standardized documents; it’s available through many state and local real estate associations. Some state associations offer their own officially sanctioned digital documents, too. Once in digital form, all that “paperwork” can be uploaded to any number of cloud services or stored on your hard drive for retrieval as needed.
Some programs or apps allow you to enter information directly into digital documents and PDFs. To officially endorse them, there are several competing digital signature or e-signature solutions. These are legally binding and almost as universally accepted as putting ink to paper. (See NAR’s Field Guide to Electronic Signatures.)
The biggest piece of a paperless workflow — the transaction management solution — provides a system for managing those documents and all of the activity involved in a successful closing. These cloud services create the collaborative space where all authorized parties to the transaction can log in, check on what they need to do, complete or upload paperwork, and monitor progress toward closing.
When the deal is done, these services usually include archiving services for remote storage of everything related to each closing. For added security, some may back up digital files to other cloud services or an office hard drive.
A paperless office doesn’t mean you can completely do away with paper, at least in the short term. You have to accommodate clients who still want hard copies of documents and will only sign with real ink on real paper. So hold on to your office printer. If it’s not already a multifunction machine with scanning capabilities, consider upgrading to one. With the scanner, you can easily digitize anything on paper, including the records you’re required to keep from past sales.
Also, for when you’re in the field or just need a quick alternative, there are inexpensive scanning apps for smartphones and tablets. Use them to digitize anything in print: expense receipts, plat maps, contracts, notes on listings, and other documents.
The more you feed your paperless workflow, the more indispensable it will become. It gives you a more efficient way to run your office, whether you’re a sole practitioner or a team manager.
Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online, August 2014, with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Copyright August 2014. All rights reserved.