Year 3 Results: My Personal Paper-less Challenge

Real Estate Agent with Diamond Ridge Realty

I took a personal challenge to reduce my footprint on the planet in 2008 when I realized that I was spending thousands of dollars on printing costs for my small Eastvale based real-estate brokerage.  Along the way, I've implemented electronic faxes, electronic signatures, GPS techology for mileage tracking, online transaction management & storage to eliminate paper files and receipt scanning to tame the chore of expense reporting.  I was even featured in a short blurb on REALTOR magazine in spring 2010 about becoming paperless which was a thrill for me.  But alas, the link no longer works and I didn't keep a HARDCOPY of the article (!!) but read my blog about it as I summarized the main points of what was in the article so all is not lost!  :-)

There are huge financial payoffs in the quest to go paperless.  In addition to reaching a more zen-like stake in my office without having huge piles of paper, I am seeing an improvement on the bottom line to boot.  In 2008 I spent more than $5,000 on 'printing supplies' which improved to just over $3,000 in 2009.  I'm just about finished with my year-end accounting for 2010 and I'm finding that the total is now less than $1,500.  While it's true that I was sidelined for a little while late in 2010, I still doubled my commissions from 2008 to 2009 and was flat in 2010 so I was still pretty busy so my cost reduction is not related to sales volume reduction but rather better business practise.

In looking at my desk-office space currently, there's still room to reduce clutter as well as improve the bottom line.  The biggest problem I'm having is client management and quite frankly, this has been a problem for a while.  In addition, I have a ton of business cards from people I've met both as potential clients and as business connections.  To solve this I'm going to be working on the following technology tools to improve my organization and provide better customer service:

1. Top Producer - It's time.  I am getting too many good leads and too many contacts to try to manage it all within Outlook.  I have a stack of little notes on random pieces of paper like litter at the bottom of my computer screen.  They must go into a management system, period.

2. Business Card Scanner - I've used Neat Receipts for years for receipt management and it's a FANTASTIC product.  It's time to enter the business cards into the business card module - and very important here so pay attention - BACK THEM UP.  I had already tamed business cards in the past but lost the whole thing.....

3. Online Listing Presentations - I'm thinking that a 3x5 index card is the goal for my leave-behinds for listing presentations.  This year is the year in which I'm going to really work on getting my listing presentation online and customized for the client.  All I'll need to do is leave them a 3x5 with the url to their presentation.

I'm not 100% paperless (nor do I ever expect to be) but I'm probably closer than most of my peers.  But even I can improve and reduce even more!

 This post is written as a submission to the ActiveRain & Kodak Paper-less Challenge contest.  I have the chance to win the high speed KODAK SCANMATE i1120 Scanner, great for helping real estate professionals reduce their stacks of paper by scanning contracts, photos and business cards in seconds.

Comments (19)

Susan Emo
Sotheby's International Realty Canada - Brokerage - Kingston, ON
Kingston and the 1000 Islands Area

Great article explaining your sensational success going paperless!   I especially like your plan to customize listing presentations and providing a URL to the client.  Great stuff!

Feb 22, 2011 01:53 PM
Kristal Wilson
KB Home - Fontana, CA
Cause We Like 'Em New ~ New Home Specialist!


I have been interested in "greening" my business for some time. With your impressive results before me I will have to swallow the pill and join you.

Still planning to get together sometime to celebrate the closing!

Feb 22, 2011 01:56 PM
Tony Morganti
RE/MAX Crossroads in Cuyahoga Falls and Stow, Ohio - Cuyahoga Falls, OH
CRS, ABR, SRES - Cuyahoga Falls, Stow

Michael - Some very good information to help us all move down the road to going paperless.

Feb 22, 2011 03:16 PM
Steve Scheer
Realty Oasis - Metro Brokers - Highlands Ranch, CO
Highlands Ranch Real Estate - Denver Real Estate

Michael - That is significant savings!  And the time you save as well - very nice.

Feb 26, 2011 05:08 PM
Tiffany Torgan
Harcourts Prestige Properties of La Jolla - La Jolla, CA
Featured on HGTV's New Show! How Close Can I Beach

Hi Michael! I'm back!!! That is a great challenge. I have been doing my own just to save money on paper!!!$$$

Mar 16, 2011 06:33 PM
Ron Jesser
Real Estate eBroker Palm Springs - Palm Springs, CA
Palm Springs California Homes For Sale

I agree that total paperless may never come about but we can strive for that nirvana anyway. We have been mostly paperless using DocuSign since last year and intend to keep it that way.  Our only problem at this time are banks that must have a wet signature or agents who just deem it impossible to attempt digitlal signing which makes me laugh as digital is far simpler and is easier with keeping good records. And I've been using Dropbox as well.  We now have file availability for our staff making it seem as though we have a file server.

Mar 21, 2011 05:30 AM
Matthew Johnson
Keller Williams Premier Realty - Woodbury, MN

Some great ideas here, I always wondered if there was a product for the GPS units!

Mar 21, 2011 05:57 AM
Kathy Opatka
Serving Ocean City, MD, & The Delaware Beaches

I still have the FEAR of losing ALL my info. if I don't have it written on paper!  I do put it in my computer and back it up, but....what if....????

Mar 21, 2011 06:24 AM
Michael (Mike) Robinson
Broadmoor Realty, Inc. - Long Beach, CA

i too fear losing it, kathy.. so i- burn dvds on jan 1 every year.. and pu then in safe deposit box at my bank.. and then pot other copies in fireproof cabinet at home.. as well as carbonite..

Mar 21, 2011 06:42 AM
Woody Edwards
First Choice Realty, Inc - Chesterfield, VA
A RealtorĀ® Who Answers His Phone!

I just opened a new office in January with the goal of going paperless.  I have set up a Google email account for the office where I set up files on each listing and contract!  I have never heard of Google losing anything!  Hope I'm right!

Mar 21, 2011 07:56 AM
Michael J. O'Connor
Diamond Ridge Realty - Corona, CA
Eastvale - 951-847-4883

Thanks for all your great feedback! 

I'm a huge fan of DocuSign and I'm pushing back really hard on any banks that are 'rejecting' the electronic signatures as these are completely legal & valid signatures.  I've gone so far as to bill banks for 'wet signature' as this is a service which has a cost that I don't feel *I* should just absorb.

As to backup, I'm still a little bit old-fashioned with my approach but it works and I sleep well at night.  I have a "My Passport" external drive which does continuous backup of my files.  If I should ever have a problem with the hard drive, I'm fully covered.  It's also nice because it is so small (size of a large wallet) I can grab-and-go if I ever need to get out in a hurry (I live in the land of earthquakes & fires).  I have another level of redundancy with QuickBooks Online backup where a core set of my files (including data such as my QuickBooks and NeatReceipts) is backup up nightly. 

And finally, as to mileage tracking my favorite find of 2010 was the Mileage Autolog product that I put in place mid-year.  It's saved me a ton of time and captured more money and look for an upcoming blog on this subject as I think it will motivate everyone to finally get a GPS, even those who know their cities & towns like the back of their hands.

Mar 21, 2011 08:22 AM
Dimitri Matsis-REALTORĀ® (818) 599-6083
Troop Real Estate Inc. Westlake Village CA - West Hills, CA

Hi Michael,

Good for you on saving 40% and then 70% on paper spending from 08 to 10. Also, you're absolutely right on the attitude and state of mind of a less cluttered desk, and the backing up info. I hate when Hard Drives crash...urgh....

Our company has started the paperless movement and should be complete soon.

Thanks for posting.

Mar 21, 2011 09:07 AM
An Bui
DocuSign - Seattle, WA

Michael, Ron:

It's An from DocuSign. Thanks for letting me listen in on your conversation about going paperless. Wile we talk with mortgage lenders who ask for wet signatures to understand and overcome their objections, we need your help to educate those requesting wet signature and encourage electronic signature acceptance. 

I wanted to share with you a Lender Acceptance Toolkit we put together that you can use when you find yourself working with someone who is requesting wet signature. It contains white papers and other documents from the FHA, NAR and DocuSign - if you have feedback or want to share objections you've heard, please know that I'm available and let's work together to encourage electronic signature acceptance!



DocuSign Social Media

Mar 21, 2011 11:42 AM
Sharon Alters
Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308 - Fleming Island, FL
Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL

Michael, you have some great new things to mention that I have not seen in other paperless posts in the challenge. Going to have to investigage Neat Receipts and Mileage Autolog. My husband absolutely LOVES our GPS so he will definitely want to try this out.


Mar 21, 2011 12:28 PM
Michele Norris
Crystal Realty - Incline Village Nevada - Incline Village, NV
((( Buy or Sell, Call Michele ))) Lake Tahoe NV

Michael, good pointers! What did we do without GPS. So far, I'm just using iPhone/Google maps, and that seems to work, since most everything is within a 6 or 7 mile area. But to know that it's one less thing to keep track of-yes!

Mar 21, 2011 03:30 PM
Jirius Isaac
Isaac Real Estate &TriStar Mortgage - Kenmore, WA
Real Estate & loans in Kenmore, WA

The banks are really the biggest hold back.  Of, course, they also still want stuff faxed instead of emailed!

I use because it works well & at $10 a month or $99 a year, it is way less then Docusign. You can try it for free, but really, for $10, just pay the first month & get the full version to try out.  You will never go back!!  I just wish I had done it years ago and saved all that gas & paper.

If you decide to sign up, put my name in that I referred you & they will give me a free month.  And, of course, they will do the same for me if someone signs up because of you.

Do not waste your time or money on Top Producer.  Mark-It Advantage Xi is years ahead & more powerful and they actually listen & make changes for us when we ask.  Call me if you have questions.

Mar 21, 2011 05:00 PM
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

Docusign is a great tool that I have been using for years. My only issue is that some people will not accept digital signatures. I also use the e-fax and love it too.

Mar 22, 2011 07:13 AM
DeeDee Riley
Lyon Real Estate - El Dorado Hills CA - El Dorado Hills, CA
Realtor - El Dorado Hills & the Surrounding Areas

Michael, sounds like you've cut your paper usage down considerably. Good for you!!! Keep it up.  Love the 3 x 5 " card idea.

Mar 22, 2011 04:48 PM
Kathy Clulow
RE/MAX All-Stars Realty Inc. Brokerage - Uxbridge, ON
Trusted For Experience - Respected For Results

Michael - the move to paperless is a good move for the planet and your bottom line it is something I need to get a better handle on ..... as for the ninth you are probably the closest to where I think it will happen but we will see

Apr 03, 2011 04:23 PM