Since Congress passed the ESIGN Act in 2000, electronic signatures (or e-signatures) are quickly eclipsing traditional wet signatures as the legal standard. This is as true the real estate arena as any other, and it’s no wonder. Electronic signatures have done almost as much to bolster security in the signing of documents as they have convenience. However, electronic signatures are not without nay-sayers.
In July of 2014, Commerce Secretary Penn Pritzker received a letter from three of the ESIGN Act’s original supporters, Senator John McCain (of Arizona), Senator Ron Wyden (of Oregon), and Representative Anna Eshoo (of California). In this letter, they voiced their concerns about the federal government’s slow adoption process of electronic signatures. Indeed, this legislation had been passed to help streamline federal affairs, but 14 years later, lingering wariness of electronic signatures has stifled full implementation. So much so, in fact, that these three legislators demanded a “a report on the state of this Act’s implementation by federal agencies.”
Many traditional professionals have been conditioned only to sign their documents by hand in blue ink. Hesitation in adopting new technology in this area is understandable, especially with transactions as crucial as those involving real estate. However, today we’ll talk about why you don’t need to worry, specifically focusing on real estate law.
The Benefits Of Electronic Signatures
Electronic signatures are unparalleled in their efficiency, whereas conducting business via original signatures (wet signatures) is cumbersome. Documents containing wet signatures would need to be faxed, scanned, or mailed from one party to another, and this not only labor-intensive, but error-prone. Sometimes mail is delayed, or delivered to the wrong address. Sometimes faxes do not go through, or are illegible. Once the documents have been signed, they need to be physically stored indefinitely for purposes of record keeping. This introduces another layer of work into the equation. The entire process will consume hours or even days of your valuable time.
Electronic signatures streamline this whole process so that it takes mere minutes, and stores your documents automatically. This will allow you to expedite your real estate closing without needing to worry about human error or contract storage. And remember, when you are conducting a commercial transaction, saving time means saving money.
Purchasing real estate is one of the most important investments that you, or your business will ever make. Emotions are likely to be running high, so it is imperative that the transaction is carried out without any problems. Introducing new technology can cause some uneasiness, but you don’t have to worry.
In fact, electronic signatures made via PDFs offer the same level of security as wet signatures do. However, if the complexity of the transaction demands it, there are other platforms, such as Docusign and PandaDoc that can be much more secure than traditional wet signatures. How are they more secure?
- Resilient document encryption ensures your privacy. Not even the service providers themselves will have access to the information their software encrypts!
- Access to your documents is secured by a variety of robust authentication mechanisms, including names, digital signatures, email addresses, IP addresses, geo-location, time stamps, and more. All of this is recorded instantaneously, and the details of the chain of delivery (sent, viewed, signed, etc.) will be recorded.
- Documents signed with electronic signatures have a high level of enforceability and non-repudiation. Documents signed with electronic signatures will be admissible in court, and equipped with tamper-evident technology to ensure that all the information is 100% accurate.
- Applications and platforms for electronic signatures are required to adhere to strict security standards. Most software facilitating electronic signatures have obtained a variety of different security certifications, including SSAE 16, xDTM Standard, PCI DSS, TRUSTe, and more.
If the efficiency and security don’t sell you on electronic signatures, the convenience factor should. Electronic signatures can be performed remotely, even when the concerned parties are all in different hemispheres. That way, if you are going to rent to a prospective tenant who has not yet physically arrived into your city, you can conduct the transaction remotely without fear of fraud. If your business is buying a property that is owned by somebody that lives in another city, state, or country, when the time comes, you can close the deal instantaneously without ever having to travel to meet the other party.
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