The power to make the paperless real estate transaction a reality is in the hands of real estate brokers, agents and county recorders, according to panelists in an Inman News audio conference on the subject Wednesday.

“On the front end, in terms of the real estate side, there is no barrier to entry. It’s legal, it’s valid, it’s being practiced today,” said Dan Tealdi, chief executive officer of Criterion’s REDTablet, a tablet PC company. “We need to see county recorders adopt technology on the title side.”

While fellow panelist Brad Dick, senior vice president of document storage firm Zodas, agreed, the third panelist on the “Paperless Real Estate Transaction” online conference went one step further.

“I’d amplify what the two gentlemen said,” commented Court Lorenzini, chief executive officer of digital signature company DocuSign. “It’s a business decision that is available today. The county recorder is falling in line quickly. Even the mortgage and brokerage side is falling away. It boils down to adoption at the beginning of the transaction.”

All three agreed that the technology and legislation are in place to make paperless transactions available.

“I think the real factor is brokers and real estate agents making the decision they want to do some or all electronically,” said Dick.

Asked if there is actual demand on the part of buyers and sellers for the paperless transaction, Lorenzini gave a qualified “yes.”

“You’re talking about millions of transactions going on. Only a fraction of those are demanding it, but a fraction of millions is still a large number,” DocuSign’s CEO said. “Mortgage brokers, agents all believe this is inevitable. A year or two or three from now everyone’s going to be signing electronically.”

Seattle-based DocuSign’s product makes it possible for a buyer or seller to sign documents using only a PC, without additional hardware such as a stylus, from any location. REDTablet, owned by San Bruno, Calif.-based Criterion, makes tablet PCs that can capture a signature done with a stylus and apply that signature electronically to documents in a transaction.

One listener asked what would happen to brokers trying to access their documents if electronic document security and storage firms such as Zodas went out of business.

“We set aside money for every transaction to make sure access to the transaction will be available for the seven years or five years or whatever is required,” said Dick. “In addition, we can provide either a DVD or CD-ROM copy of the document we’re storing on our servers. They can keep that in a bank or safety deposit box. We have no plans of going out of business, but if it happened, they would still have their documents.”

Another listener asked if paperless mortgages and real estate transactions could gain traction until county recorders can actually handle electronic recordings.

“Where it stops is where loan documents go into title on the West Coast or with an attorney on the East Coast. A notary has to sign those documents. That’s where on the lending side the holdup causes frustration,” acknowledged Inman News publisher Bradley Inman, who moderated the panel.

One listener asked what the benefit of a paperless transaction would be to a home buyer or homeowner.

“Right about tax time, clients need documentation for the sale of their house and they look at each other, ‘Where are those files?'” This way they can always access them electronically,” said Dick.


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