If a Real Estate Brokerage Can Go Paperless, Then Why Can't I?
Anyone who knows me will tell you I am a recycle fanatic. I have made a concerted effort for many years to cut down on the amount of paper that comes into my life.
Several years ago, I went to on-line banking and bill paying. The only bills I receive in the mail are my water and electric. They are the only companies in my life that haven't gone entirely paperless yet. I have opted out of credit solicitations to prevent unwanted mail. I have even cancelled subscriptions to newspapers and magazines. With the exception of my beloved Southern Living, just can't seem to part with that one.
I have made some real strides this year to go paperless. It all started with a change in my brokerage. Benchmark Realty uses a paperless pipeline to transmit all our contract documents. While that isn't the reason I left my previous brokerage, I am so happy to be part of an office that is conscious of the endless amount of paper that passes hands during a real estate transaction.
This got me thinking...if a real estate brokerage can go paperless, then why can't I?
I quickly discovered there were steps to going entirely paperless. My journey looked something like this:
- iPad - The purchase of an iPad was the first step to going paperless. What I used to do with paper, I now do with my iPad. I no longer print up MLS sheets for showings. I email the listings to my buyers prior to going out. They can then refer to those with their iPads or smart phones. I also pull up the listings on my iPad to review the information. Through the use of Open Home Pro, I now use my iPad at open houses for registration. I use my iPad for listing presentations. I no longer leave a paper copy of my presentation. The sellers love this technology and I can tell by the stacks of paper they have from other agents that no one else is using this approach. And finally, I am able to use my iPad for electronic signatures.
- Electronic Signatures - After showing the homes, the next logical step came to preparing offers. This is where DocuSign entered the picture. I was easily able to upload documents and then send them via email to my clients for signatures or have them sign via my iPad. This is especially nice when I am traveling. I went to Chicago for a week this summer and my clients didn't even know I was gone because I handled everything through electronic signatures via email.
- Single-property Websites - I have been using this paper saver for quite awhile. I create a single-property website for all my listings. I then have a sign rider with a text code. Buyers input the text code and are directed to the single-property website. Their phone number is captured immediately and sent to my iPhone. I can then call them while they sit in front of the house. No need to monitor flyer boxes anymore.
- Email Marketing - The use of the iPad has really helped in this area. Open house visitors sign in through Open Home Pro. Buyers seem much more willing to provide their email address because they are promised a copy of the listing will be sent to them. This has given me more opportunities to market using email vs. direct mail. I do some farming through direct mail but everything else is sent via email.
- Google Docs - I currently use my computer and Google docs to store contracts electronically. Google docs gives me the ability to pull up these documents anywhere. It even has the ability to share documents. Over this next year, the goal is to use Dropbox to do this.
Future plans include getting a ScanSnap to scan business cards and receipts for electronic storage to further augment my plans to go paperless.
While I haven't gone entirely paperless, I am moving in the right direction. I hope by this time next year to have eliminated paper files completely from my life. Think of the cost savings in paper and ink that we use. Sounds like a great way to cut our budget doesn't it?
After all, if a real estate brokerage can go paperless, then why can't I?