Going Paperless in Atlanta Real Estate - We're almost there!
Prior to my career in real estate, I worked for IBM.com and in 11 years only used my printer a handful of times -- everything was managed electronically. Once I became an agent, I was amazed by the amount of paper that was "necessary" to run our business. Just negotiating ONE contract could eat up 100 pieces of paper... and that's before the buyers even sat down at the closing table!
Although I've been pretty passionate about the issue, I somehow missed the 2011 ActiveRain/DocuSign Challenge: Going Paperless in Your Real Estate Business.... but I have been dedicated to researching solutions, services and apps over the last 3+ years in hopes that I can be at least 95% paperless by the end of 2013.
DocuSign was the first BIG step towards going paperless.
On a beautiful Spring day in April of 2010, I signed up for DocuSign.... and it was life changing. Not only was it a paperless solution, it saved time, money and several transactions!
The first time I used Docusign, it was a multiple offer situation and my buyer client had to leave for on a mission trip in a remote village in the Dominican Republic. She was going to lose her dream house if we didn't submit our "highest and best" offer by the end of the day.
Thanks to DocuSign, she was able to eSign on the dotted line and I was able to sell a stunning historic home to a very happy client!
Since that time, I've had several couples in their 70s and 80s sign with their eSignature as well asl buyers and sellers in Denmark, Spain and Hondouras. They all loved that Docusign made the home buying and selling process so easy.
Dropbox and Google Drive
1) CONTRACT STORAGE : Once I had beautiful clean PDFs of all my real estate contracts (thanks, Docusign!), instead of printing them out, I created folders in Dropbox. My closing coordinator also has access to the Dropbox folder, so we always have a complete, paperless file for each home sold. No more folders cluttering up my desk!
2) TEAM PAPERWORK: Instead of printing out a large 200+ page handbook for the agents on my team every 12 to 18 months, I created a team room in Google Drive this Summer. They can access common forms, marketing materials, home buyer info, reports and print if needed.
3) BUYER AND LISTING PRESENTATIONS: I used to print out a new listing presentation (with the latest marketing stats) every quarter, but now I store and manage them in Google Drive. When an agent on the team meets with a new or potential client, they can just pull the latest and greatest version of the presentation up on their iPad.
Apps and more apps
1) Sign Easy - Great way to have buyers sign their Buyer Brokerage Agreement just before you go look at homes.
2) Evernote - I use this for EverThing! If I'm out with buyers and they find a home or two that they really like, I take a picture of them in front of the home (with my iPad) and add any notes or questions the buyers have for the seller. I also use it to make notes before and after each listing appointment.
3) DocuSign for iPad
4) Scanner Pro for iPad - Allows you to take a picture of your paperwork and then upload it to Dropbox, Evernote, etc.
When I used to meet with sellers, I would have a big folder for them, filled with staging and showing tips, what to expect, samples of current sales contracts, marketing plans, checklists, etc. Now I've created PDFs that I host on my web server and sellers can just link to all of the information.
With my buyers, I would give them a 3-ring binder with a Buyer's Guide, neighborhood maps, tips and more. All of that is hosted on my webserver and they can just link to the client section (invisble to the public) and access the documents.
There isn't any way around this, but instead of using bulk mail and mailing to everyone in a zip code or neighborhood, I was able to tailor my mailing list, focusing on homeowners who purchased homes in 2+ years ago. It didn't save any money, but it definitely cut down on the mailers by about 15%. That may not sound like much, but over the course of a year, that's at least 1,000 fewer postcards.
Going forward, there still a few areas that I've yet to conquer:
- The MLS property print outs when showing homes to potential buyers (wish that the MLS will allow us to save the printouts as PDFs???)
- Property brochures for my listings
- Contract management for my entire team - 90% of all contracts submitted are PDFs but there are a few agents that prefer to do it the old fashioned way. I'm thinking of setting up a folder in Google Drive or Dropbox for each agent to submit their paperwork to me and the brokerage.
- Direct mail -- maybe reducing further and/or advertising in the local neighborhood newsletters instead?
- I'm also testing the Docs to Go app to better manage files in Dropbox, Drive, etc.
Can't wait to see what everyone else is doing to Go Paperless in their real estate business!
For more information about this challenge visit: