The real estate industry has been ramping up its use of technology to conduct business over many years. Now, more than ever, buyers and sellers frequently execute signatures to seal the deal on contracts for efficiency and convenience.
Digitally signed real estate contracts became more popular about 15 years ago with the passage of electronic signature law. These laws support the principle that e-signatures and records hold the same legal authority as pen and paper records. E-signing documents is mainstream in 2020.
But before you sign on the virtual dotted line, please follow these important suggestions:
DO realize that electronically signed contracts are legally binding just like a traditional, hand-signed document. Treat it as you would any legal document.
DON’T sign too quickly. One of the beauties of electronically signing documents is that it is quick and easy. But it’s not a race. “But I didn’t see that” is not an excuse to present later. All electronically presented documents should comply with legal requirements to enable to signer to view and read the document prior to signing.
DO read the entire document. Don’t just view the document – read it. You know there is a difference. Missing a checked box about the survey, financing, deadlines, etc. could cost you big bucks later.
DON’T rely on your verbal requests to actually appear in writing on the contract. If you want a home warranty, check to see if it is there. If the dining chandelier is supposed to be excluded, ensure that it is in writing. Verbal agreements are not legal in Texas real estate.
DO keep a copy (either electronically or printed) of the documents you sign. I like to save resources and operate paperless as much as anyone. But keep in mind the size of your real estate investment and commitment. All too often, a buyer or seller doesn’t have a copy of the contract they signed until someone like me sends it to them days after they have signed.
DO track, save and label all signed documents. Often a contract may go back and forth between parties while they are negotiating. The changes may be slight but significant. Keep a copy of the last document that you signed to avoid misunderstandings. Just like paper documents, electronic contracts can be altered after they are signed. Unlike a paper document, electronically signed contracts are time stamped if proof is needed.
DON’T blame your agent or anyone else if you sign a document electronically and later claim it isn’t what you intended. If the terms and conditions are not clear before you sign, then don’t rush into signing.
Today’s technology options make it quick and easy to digitally sign most documents on smartphones, laptops, tablets and workstations. The processes for authentication and verification of signers is safe and sophisticated.
Although real estate contracts can be executed completely electronically, the use of e-signatures is optional. If you’re unsure about electronically signing a contract, the traditional process of using ink and paper still works.