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REAL ESTATE: How Electronic Signatures Will Help You In Uncertain Times

Person Kario-Paul
Read time: 7 mins


As real estate professionals continue to grapple with the changing landscape of the industry, the rise of new uncertainties, and new 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.

Facing An Uncertain Future

The best economic forecaster could not have predicted that today the world would be on track for a recession, inflation would hit double digits, there would be a war in Europe, and interest rates would increase by 0ver 400 basis points in less than a year. Even more unusual is the fact that all of this is happening shortly after a global pandemic where most face-to-face transactions froze. From aggressive social distancing rules to a cost of living crisis, technology has been and will be a key factor in maintaining resilience in the real estate industry. While a considerable number of agents have incorporated technology into their business processes, most of them have only begun to get their feet wet, and many have not.

The goal of providing the best client experience should be at the top of any business owner's mind even more so when customers are hard to come by. Invariably, an essential part of maintaining an exceptional customer service, is the ability to secure a reliable partner that will be there shoulder-to-shoulder with you as you deliver your service. 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 fast changing economic, technological, and regulatory environment (see starting an estate agency in a volatile environment). 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 need to do business remotely. 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, while providing greater convenience. 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.

Consideration also should be given to cost at which such technology services are delivered. We are heading into a period high prices and low demand, and in such situations productivity and cost effectiveness are essential. Our company prides itself on being among the lowest priced e-signature service anywhere, and a such we are ready to help companies maintain a healthy competitive position, as real estate agencies seek to win business in a tighter economic environment.

The proliferation of sanctions on individuals will create significant challenges for estate agents operating in many jurisdictions, and G7 countries in particular. To date, over 1,500 people have been sanctioned since the Russo-Ukraine war began, and this list is likely to grow. Governments in G7 countries have placed the burden for sanctions administration on local businesses. In this context, business are expected to know whether their clients are on a restricted list. Failure to meet sanctions legislation or the broader Anti Money Laundering (AML) rules can led to massive fines or the dissolution of ones business. It is virtually impossible to keep up with these responsibilities without the use of technology. DocEndorse facilitates the collection, and verification of identity documents remotely, which significantly enhances the estate's agents ability to do AML and sanctions list checks before onboarding a client.

Our platform is already integrated with a number of technology partners including payment providers, cloud storage providers, and Microsoft office. On top of the partners already mentioned, we have our SDK that allow our users to extend the platforms many prop tech service that they may already be comfortable with.  As such landlords and property managers can only enhance and not limit his/her capabilities when they choose an electronic signature partner like us even within a context where they are using other prop tech for other services.

UK Government Changing the Rules Will Others Follow

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:

  • Allow multiple people to sign documents electronically. It is important to note that each party to the transaction, in this case, must sign the document electronically in the physical presence of a witness who will also sign the document.
  • Allow the use of two-factor authentication. An authentication code will be sent to all signatories, a code that must be used to access the document and sign.

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  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 potential suspicious activity and make decisions on the go.

Going forward, it is quite likely that more estate agents will be using this approach to get deals done quicker, improve convenience, and cut costs. The estate agency industry has gotten quite diverse, and competition is heating up between the traditional estate agency and the new digital estate agency categories, and also within each category. Increasingly more online estate agencies are popping up, aiming to slash the cost involved in executing the transfer of property. In addition, there are also many hybrid estate agencies that are seeking to provide a combination of high touch, medium prices, and low touch, super low prices. Whatever category estate agencies fall, it is quite obvious that technology will provide an advantage, or at the very least help them to keep up with the competition.


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.