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2010-08-02 22:12:07

eSignatures Come of Age

What a difference a decade makes. Since Congress enacted the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, (ESIGN) on June 30, 2000, real estate brokers and agents are getting contracts, disclosures and other important documents signed electronically, saving time, money and their sanity. See:
In the time it takes to buy a pair of shoes, you can present an offer e-signed by your buyer to the seller’s agent. A few minutes more, and the seller has also e-signed.
You’re happy, the absentee seller’s happy, and your buyer stationed in Iraq is happy.
If you’ve ever presented a contract, only to find that someone forgot to initial a change, and had to drive 30 miles back to get it, and found no one home, you can appreciate why the real estate industry needs e-signature technologies.  
Brokers love them, too; e-signatures keep them out of court. Mr. Lawsuit Happy can’t come after you if you have his digital signature on a disclosure, complete with a time stamp.
So, why wouldn’t any agent want to use e-signatures? Well, some ideas take a little getting used to.
“People may think e-signatures are harder to use than they really are,” explains Steve Mapes, vice president of sales for Instanet Solutions. “But e-commerce has paved the way. Do you know anyone who doesn’t bank or shop online? E-signatures are that easy, too. ” See:
Instanet Solutions provides an all-in-one transaction solution, something Mapes says his company has had for over 17 years. It added Authentisign five years ago, and unlike other vendors, makes it available to individual agents, as well as brokers and entire associations who wish to provide associate and member benefits.  
Just log into the secured server, select Authentisign, pick the appropriate form, add the principals, prepare the document, and click to transmit to the signing participants in the right order.  All you need is an Internet connection, and the e-signing can begin. 
So how do you get your signature and initials on the documents? Answer – you don’t. You have an identity string that’s your own – like a VIN number on a car. You securely authenticate your identity, pick your font, and you’re good to go. As you read through the document, you click your “signature” onto the appropriate box.
The form doesn’t let you go forward until the page is complete. Authentisign even has a countdown, so you don’t skip an initial or signature. And like any prudent “are you sure?” button that keeps you from disastrous mouse clicks, Authentisign lets you review your document to make sure you signed where you meant to sign.
But not all e-signature companies are so professional.
Docusign, an equity partner of the National Association of REALTORS®, warns that some vendors aren’t ready for prime time. To try before you buy, ask any vendor you’re considering for a test transaction - look out for stray marks, signatures in the wrong blanks, signatures traced with a mouse, and other problems that can render a real contract null and void.
Look for a vendor with a mature product that works with other forms your association or broker provides like InstanetForms, zipforms, and others. 
Make sure the vendor is ESIGN compliant, that the technology conforms to federal standards. All 50 states have either adopted the federal standards or recognize them.
Choosing an e-signature vendor is just like getting cell phone service – don’t pay more if you don’t have to.  An individual agent can order Authentisign by the transaction ($8.00), by the month ($13.95 to $19.95) or by the year ($129 to $199.) See:
Docusign is $19.99 to $24.99 per month, and $215.89 to $269.89 for individuals. See:
Both companies offer special pricing for enterprise users. 
You got used to a FAX machine, e-signatures are even easier. The downside? There isn’t one -  unless you think you’ll miss those paper jams.

Blanche Evans is CEO of Evans Emedia, Inc. and publisher of The Evans Ezine. As an award-winning journalist, Blanche has been named one of the "25 Most Influential People In Real Estate" by REALTOR Magazine, and twice recognized as one of the industry's most "Notables."   

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