How to Cram 8 Days into a 7-Day Week

Real Estate Agent with Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.

Going digital is like adding an extra day to my week.

However, it's not possible to wave a magic wand and instantly go from "buried in paper" to "paperless."  Let me tell you how I've done it.

I ran into a former client in the grocery store a few months ago and impulsively asked this stay-at-home mom if she'd like a part-time job helping to digitize my paper files.  She accepted my offer and, since then, she has worked in my office for two hours every Tuesday and Thursday evening.  Now, six months later, real estate files no longer overflow my desk and file cabinets. 

Go Paperless

Here is my recipe for going digital:

  1. Create digital folders in Dropbox for Sales, Listings, and Rentals.
  2. Create sub-folders for each case within the appropriate digital folder, including separate sub-folders within Listings for listing and sale documents.
  3. Go through the client folders in my email account and save attachments to the appropriate Dropbox folder (and ultimately a CD).  I save documents by date (2012.07.20), street name, brief description.
  4. Go through corresponding paper folders on top of my desk, in file drawers and in boxes under my desk to identify duplicates of the saved attachments... and discard them.
  5. Scan and save in Dropbox all remaining documents from the paper folders, and discard paper documents.
  6. Back up Dropbox folders to CD, and give current clients a copy of the CD at closing.
  7. Create digital folders in Dropbox for Forms, Business Expenses, Monthly Market Statistics, Mailing Lists, and General Inf ormation; 
  8. Scan and save blank forms, receipts, etc. in appropriate digital folder and discard paper documents.


It's not easy to let go of that paper... after all, someone might need one of those receipts or documents in the future. The truth is that it wasn't easy to find anything in the mounds of paper that previously filled my office.  Now I can use my iPad, mobile phone, or any computer to access my digital files - anywhere, any time!

Having a part-time assistant take responsibility for this project was the key to success.  The expense to me has been minimal, but the payoff is huge. The truth is that any time you delegate some of your workload, you can add their time to your week.

If you want to go digital, but you're having a hard time getting started, think about people you know who might help.  It really will empower you to cram eight days into a seven-day week!


P.S.  Check your state requirements to determine if "originals" of real estate contracts and other paperwork must be saved.  If so, consider submitting those originals to your office.  Let the broker store the paper!

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This infoMargaret Wodarmation was provided to you by Margaret Woda, an Associate Broker with Long & Foster Real Estate in Crofton Maryland. Contact Margaret today for general real estate information or to learn how she can help you buy or sell a home in Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton, Davidsonville, Gambrills, and Odenton. 

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Tamara Elliott-Deering
Central Metro Realty - Austin, TX


Great advice.  I'm pretty good about the going digital part, it's the getting rid of the paper copies that I'm really struggling with.  I like your ideas about dropbox.  I've used it for some active files but I've never used it for an archive.  I think I'll start working on that.  I'm also considering taking all of the paper that I think I "might need some day" and throwing it into storage boxes and taking it to the shed, I'll still have it but I won't be in danger of drowning in a paper sea.

Thanks for taking the time to write the blog.


Jul 24, 2012 12:16 AM #1
Jenny Durling
L.A. Property Solutions - Los Angeles, CA
For Los Angeles real estate help 213-215-4758

I already have a digital archive of all of my files on CD but I do still have boxes of closed files in the basement anyway. I suppose I could simply have a bonfire!  Over the last year I've turned into a 'green' office and ask that nobody send me anything in hard copy. Escrow emails me documents, I have everything signed digitally and I save to individual folders in dropbox as you suggested.  So nice not to deal with all that paper!

Jul 24, 2012 12:22 AM #2
Kathryn Maguire (757) 560-0881 - Chesapeake, VA
Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach

Dropbox is one of my favorite apps but I still hold on to paper.  Perhaps this is the year to make the switch.

Jul 24, 2012 12:32 AM #3
Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation

Tamara - Leting go of the paper is hard.  That's another benefit of delegating this project to an assistant - he/she won't have the same emotional attachment to all that paper!

Jenny - Hire someone to digitize those boxes of closed files!  My assistant recently completed the real estate course, and she reminded me that we only have to keep case files for five years.  We are digitizing them before we discard them, however.

Kathryn - There's no way to do this project while conducting business as usual.  The key is to have someone else do it.  I can't tell you how many times I've gotten some random phone call from an old client asking for a copy of some document, and I've been able to send it from my iPad (sitting on a bench in the mall) rather than waiting til I got back to the office.

Jul 24, 2012 01:02 AM #4
Dorie Dillard
Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.346.1799 - Austin, TX
Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate

Hi Maragret,

Great tips! We have been storing our files in Sugar Sync and can access them from any more files in boxes and cabinets. We have 2010, 2011 and now 2012 in Sugar Sync..still holding on to the older files (need to save for 5 years) but will soon have no more paper files!

Jul 24, 2012 03:45 AM #5
Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation

Congratulations, Dorie.  That's about how far I go back now with digitized files.


Jul 24, 2012 04:44 AM #6
Heidi Kelley
Keller Williams Realty Leading Edge - East Providence, RI
Your Rhode Island Real Estate Connection

Thank you Margaret.  As an real estate agent of almost 1 year I am finally accumulating massive amounts of papers, folders etc.  I have recently started using Dropbox and I'm lucky enough to have caught onto this digital file saver early on.  I try and embrace technology especially if it saves time and money.

Jul 24, 2012 06:39 AM #7
Tatyana Makarov
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - South Windsor, CT
Your Greater Hartford Area Realtor

I know, I know, Margaret... It is a lot of extra work..

I use Dropbox. That wolks good for now.

Jul 24, 2012 09:16 AM #8
Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation

Heidi - You ARE lucky!  When I think of all the paper accumulated over a 40-year career...  Don't get me wrong, there's still a lot of paper, but it helps to eliminate all the duplication - especially after closing.

Tatyana - Huge help, isnt' it?  But don't forget to back up to a flash drive or CD, just in case they ever go down and your case files are lost.

Jul 24, 2012 10:05 PM #9
Kathy Clulow
RE/MAX All-Stars Realty Inc. Brokerage - Uxbridge, ON
Trusted For Experience - Respected For Results

Margret - Your title drew me in as Barrie has always said people think we work 24/7 with some trying for the 25 hour or the eighth day.  .....  I keep poking around at going virtual but I am still stuck in the paper world for now ..... hiring some one to do sounds like it would be a good solution.

Jul 25, 2012 04:22 AM #10
Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation

Kathy - Every hour that someone else works on our behalf is an extra hour in our week.  'Wish I could afford more!

Jul 25, 2012 10:06 PM #11
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Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation
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