Real estate documents have been a part of my father’s life for more than six decades. At 80 years of age, he still conducts business from his office in one of Philadelphia’s toughest neighborhoods. He can recall when an agreement of sale was two pages, printed on both sides. Now, the document can be up to 19 pages. Of course, back in the day, he added, you could also make a deal on a handshake.
At that time, too, a salesman came by on a regular basis to provide his business forms, but eventually the increasing prices were keeping pace with the neighborhood’s escalating crime, and the computer hit the scene. Now, the Realty Board’s Internet link and the local Staples provide any products he needs.
Whether working in a small neighborhood office or for a large national franchise, brokers list the three most important things in real estate as documentation, documentation, documentation. Their shared pains are a confounding amount of paperwork for agents and clients—driven by a litigious society necessitating original documents and signatures—and places to store it all.
Technology is enabling workflow efficiencies, but the tools only work when brokers and clients accurately complete forms used to populate electronic templates. Even then, the general consensus is that electronic tools improve services to clients, but inadvertently exacerbate realtors’ paperwork.
Shaun White, a Denver-based Re/Max agent, explained that he and his colleagues actually stock very few forms. Instead, they rely on the industry-specific WINForms software. The program provides access to up-to-date real estate forms from any computer with an Internet connection, enabling required documents to be printed out and used as needed. The software library is automatically updated as it resides on Web servers, and template-creation tools allow realtors to group forms commonly associated with a transaction.