Are you ready to rid yourself of all those files and stacks of stuff on your desk? With cloud computing and a new generation of tablet computers, there's no better time than right now to trade in all those files and folders for a paperless transaction.
While the first generation of Tablet PCs did trigger some agents to move to a paperless transaction, Apple's iPad has served as the real impetus to make going paperless a reality.
The term "paperless" references the fact that every aspect of the transaction is conducted online. One broker who took his office paperless reported that he had 93 sets of documents to track in each of his transaction. Each set of documents began with someone filling out the property address, the client's contact information, and often other transaction related details. Time that is better spent on prospecting or working with clients is wasted on tedious file management.
Ideally, you're working in an office that supports going paperless. If this is not the case, here's how the system works:
1. The transaction begins with a note-taking system such as Evernote.
The first thing to note is that the iPad and many other mobile devices have no USB port. Instead, files are shared digitally. As you first walk through the property, you can take notes on the details using Evernote. Evernote will then synch your notes to your mobile, iPad, or regular PC. No paper required.
2. Documents are stored in the cloud.
Transaction related document are uploaded to the cloud using a system such as Dropbox or Cartavi.com. Cartavi has "transaction rooms" where you can share documents with everyone involved in the transaction.
3. Back at the office
Instead of having to fill out form after form, the listing agent or the listing coordinator fills out the names of the clients, the property address, and the agents' information once. The system then automatically “populates” the information into all the other transaction related documents. For buyers, the original entries normally come from the Agency Disclosure Statements or the Purchase Contract.
Transaction tracking systems logs when reports are posted, when buyers and sellers pick up reports, when vendors post their information, etc. The system also prevents the parties to the transaction from modifying any of the disclosures, reports, or other original documents.
(Documents can be printed out as an option for those who do not want them sent digitally.)
If you own a tablet PC, you can now obtain an online signature right on your tablet. Zosh is an iPhone app that allows people to sign documents on your iPhone using their finger. A better approach, however, is to use title and lender approved documents like those from DocuSign.
5. Inspection reports
Inspectors can upload their reports to the transaction tracking systemm. For those who are not web savvy, the computer based fax system can download the vendor’s report directly into the transaction-tracking platform. A slightly different approach is to use a scanner that allows you to store your documents as a PDF file on your computer. (Please note that you can now obtain digital signatures on traditional laptops using a code. The system is similar to how credit card purchases work online.)
6. Selecting the best system
The first step is selecting the tablet solution with the right software. The most important question is whether your tablet will be compatible with your current Multiple Listing Service. Many agents have reported compatibility problems between Apple computers and their local MLS. Others have also had challenges with updated versions of Windows not working properly with MLS input mechanisms. Before buying, thoroughly investigate this issue.
7. Hunt and peck or handwriting?
My first tablet dates back to 2005. It’s been a great machine that is still going strong today. Clients could sign it digitally, it had all the documents you needed to close a transaction uploaded on the machine, as well as three handwriting options. It could actually turn my cursive handwriting into text, you could print out the letters, or you could tap them out with your light pen.
Today, touchscreens have become the default. The challenge is that using a keyboard is much faster than using a touchscreen for most people.
8. Which software?
The most important issue is being able to load your purchase contract, listing agreement, and other transaction documents on to your machine. Carefully investigate whether this is possible before investing in any type of Tablet PC or the iPad.
The biggest benefit of going paperless is how much time it saves. One broker said his company requires 93 different steps to close a transaction. Almost every step begins with someone writing the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the principals. Eliminating 92 of those steps represents a huge savings of both time and money.
Second, the on-line system is available 24/7. Parties check in at their convenience rather than playing telephone tag.
Third, tracking 93 different transaction steps using paper is a nightmare. In contrast, when each step is logged on the computer, tracking becomes simple.
Fourth, in terms of risk management, there is a clear record of who completed what tasks and when the tasks were completed.
Fifth, no paper means no lost documents, virtually no storage costs, and a clear digital trail showing all required steps in the transaction were completed prior to closing.
Daily backup is an absolute must. It's important to back up your files not only on the transaction platforms that you are using, but in cloud solutions such as Mozy.com or Carbonite. In addition, storage must be secured at multiple sites in case there is a fire or other disaster.
Going paperless not only makes sense in terms of times and money. No more paper also translates into less mess and a greener environment plus a lot less work for you.
Posted by Bernice Ross. Join us this week at RealEstateCoachRadio.com as Tricia Andreassen, the founder and CEO of Pro-Step Marketing shares a Five Point Checklist for Having a Healthy Website that will generate leads for your business for years to come.