Okay, silly headline. I am writing about a pretty unsophisticated topic here, but wanted to pass along some tips and a little bit of information on how we get signatures from owners who we can’t meet face to face. In fact, because so much of our communication is electronic, even owners we could meet seem to prefer other options.
We have an owner who lives overseas. In the old, old days we would have used snail mail to get a contract or lease executed. We would have worked on a telephone authorization (risky and not going to hold up in court!) and wait 2-3 weeks to receive a signed document.
Then, in the 1980’s we had this amazing device that cost $1000 called a fax machine. (Am I dating myself?) We had documents that were printed on this thermal paper that curled and faded! Powerful stuff when a year later you could not read a document! So, we still needed snail mail to get a original copy.
Faxes improved and in the 1990’s you could get a plain paper fax. No more fading, but often very poor resolution. So, we still used mail to have an original copy, but by then we had options that sped up the delivery of documents such as FedEx and UPS.
Then email became popular and all we had to do was figure out a way to make it easy for clients to return a nice looking document from their email, with their signature. There are two options, printing and scanning, or faxing the returned document. Faxing works pretty good unless their fax machine is dated or the telephone connection is bad (overseas connections). We still like to have the documents in case the resolution is poor. There is often enough savings that visiting an office store is cheaper than using a delivery service. Printing, scanning, and emailing the documents back to us is the preferred method.
Our clients and Associates are recommended to install a free program on their computer for creating pdf documents. There are a number of ways to send back an executed copy to us via email. After printing and executing the document, our client can scan or fax to make an electronic version. We really prefer not to receive the fax because the phone line issues can often cause resolution problems. Most of the simplest printers today also offer scanners and copiers for pennies additional. A document can be scanned with the signature and saved to a computer. If the scanner does not offer a pdf converter, and makes photograph type faxes, these need to be converted to a pdf. In fact, a free pdf converter program is a wonderful addition for many different uses. Check out pdffactory or cutepdf.
Today we actually have electronic signatures making their way into the popular mainstream. We have not gone this far but I suspect it won’t be long until we offer this service. Of all the improvements over the last 30 years, this one may take the most getting use to. An electronic signature does not actually provide a signature in the traditional sense. It provides a verification that the person who executed the document on a computer, can be traced to a computer. In some cases there are verification processes associated with a person but most I have seen go back to an IP address and involve a check box or initials typed. The most popular service in real estate for this is called Docusign.
Be warned though, the future is in electronic documents. The improvements in speed, resolution, and legal enforceability have been made. We are really just trying to decide which vendors and how to implement. For now though, the suggestions above should cut your delivery costs substantially and provide all parties a faster turnaround on document execution.