As real estate professionals continue to grapple with the changing landscape of the industry, and the rise of new uncertainties and government policies, it is critical that real estate agents remain nimble, open to new technologies, and be willing to adapt further. After all, success in the business of lettings or selling property is based primarily on closing deals.
Two years ago, the best economic forecaster could not have predicted that the world would come to a stand-still in the face of an on-sought of a global pandemic. Transactions that were based on signing documents in-person became challenged, as governments across the world implemented aggressive social distancing rules. Fortunately, technology platforms have already been developed to handle such situations, albeit adoption had been moving quite slow.
Going forward, as governments across the world ease social distancing rules, some real estate agents might feel that it is time to take the "pedal off the metal" and relax a bit. Is it really time to become complacent? In the past few days, a new variant of the disease "the Omicron" has been spreading across the world, forcing many to contemplate whether lockdown 3.0 may be necessary. This new variant is one of a series of 15 new strains of the virus that have surfaced since the initial COVID-19 began spreading. At this point, it is safe to say that we will be dealing with the disease in one form or another for the foreseeable future.
With the goal of providing the best client experience at the forefront of our minds, might I suggest that the best position to be in is one where you have reliable options. Choosing a reliable electronic signature platform as a partner is a great value add to your businesses, as you can avoid disruption to your sales channel in the face of ever-changing lockdown policies. One of the greatest salesmen in history said the following:
When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there.— Zig Ziglar
The inevitable and inescapable fact is that, in the future, increasingly more clients will prefer to do business remotely instead of in-person. As the world continues to speed up, real estate agents competing for business will have to be in a position to consistently get things done faster. Also, in order to protect one's sales process from unwanted competition, agents may need to find more effective ways of hand-holding clients through the process. Undoubtedly, using electronic signatures will speed up the pace at which deals close, as it reduces the friction involved in getting the client to sign on the dotted line. Going beyond that, a good electronic signature platform also enables an agent to better follow up and keep his/her clients more engaged during the sales process so as not to allow good deals to fall through the cracks.
As outlined before, keeping your options open is critical in a constantly changing environment. The workflows that characterise your business as a sales and lettings agent today, will not necessarily resemble that of tomorrow, though the fundamentals of the role may remain the same. In navigating a changing landscape, it is therefore critical that estate agents choose a business technology partner that is always listening to the needs and demands of his/her business and is always ready to come up with new solutions to accommodate new workflows and new ways of doing things. An electronic signature partner that has a flexible developer team and a nimble business structure is best positioned to deliver these services.
With the UK government modifying the rules around the use of electronic signatures in transferring titles from July 2020 onwards, the door is now open for sales agents to use electronic signature tools to handle a greater volume of transactions involving the sale of land, residential and other properties. Going forward, conveyancers and sales agents can use the "witnessed electronic signatures" approach to facilitate title transfers. According to Simon Hayes, Chief Executive, and Chief Land Registrar:
What we have done today is remove the last strict requirement to print and sign a paper document in a home buying or other property transaction.— Simon Hayes
The modification of the rules came shortly after the government (HM Land Registry) began accepting deeds that have been signed using the "Mercury signing approach" - more on this later.
There are specific guidelines around the use of "witnessed" electronic signatures for the purpose of transferring titles, and a good electronic signature platform should possess the technology to facilitate meeting these requirements. For doing deals using the "witnessed electronic signatures" approach, agents should demand that an electronic signature platform has the following features:
The "Mercury approach" involves a somewhat different experience and is more involved. This approach involves each party physically signing the document (or a signature page) in wet-ink in the physical presence of a witness. The signed page is in effect digitalized through either a scan or a photocopy of the signature which is then sent via email to the conveyancer.
There is a broad consensus that the "Mercury approach" offers a less smooth user experience and more friction, something that is not good for the real estate agent. On the other hand, some people might argue it is more secure as the application of the signature is done physically. In considering the security of both methods, agents should pay close attention to the fact that eventually (in the case of the Mercury approach) the signature is converted to digital form and sent over an email network. In addition, while you can carry out your own audit trail, forensic level data is not readily available for the regular user to make an informed assessment of the quality of the signature on the go.
This is where good electronic signature platforms come in. At DocEndorse, all signatories are able to readily receive a detailed audit trail of the entire signing process. This audit trail tracks all changes made to the document, along with information on IP Addresses, email addresses, timestamp data, and device type. With this information readily available, any party to the deal can react swiftly to any potentially suspicious activity and make decisions on the go.
In the months and years ahead, no one knows for sure the obstacles that he/she will have to mount to keep moving forward and keep doing business. Nevertheless, if we are prepared to adapt quickly, we will always be in the best position to react. In some cases, it is the willingness to try new things that allow us to see a little bit around corners. As estate agents look to meet ever-increasing targets and keep clients happy, partnering with the right technology platform puts you in the driving seat of change.