Paper is becoming a thing of the past in real estate, an industry where professionals once ”lived by the sheet.”
Here are five tools that can help you keep the paper monsters at bay and put you on the path to increased mobility and organization:
1. Document scanner or fax to e-mail services for moving documents online
There are now multiple options for high-quality, reliable document scanners. In fact, many desktop printers include a scanning function as well. Being able to scan your documents might not eliminate the need for paper, but it will make your files easier to manage and organize by enabling you to sort and move them with the click and move of a mouse.
If you have a fax machine, another option for turning your paper documents into electronic files is by using a fax-to-email service like eFax or MyFax, which both give you your own fax number that sends documents to your email address as a PDF attachment. Prices for both start around $10 monthly and increase based on how many pages you send or receive each month.
2. Electronic document services to sign and manage contracts from a mobile device
Significant advancements have been made in the area of electronic document management and signatures for real estate. Now it’s possible to create, negotiate, and sign all of your real estate documents without ever printing a single piece of paper.
Agents interested in e-signatures have a few great options today. If you’re a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, you can start using DocuSign for as low as $14.99 per month. If not, other popular options for agents are Digital Ink from ZipLogix and Authentisign.
3. Smart phone receipt scanners
Tracking expenses can be both a benefit and challenge for agents on the go. When tax season rolls around, you’ll be glad you have access to your receipts. While it’s been a challenge to keep up with receipts all year long, your smart phone can help.
There are many apps like Expensify and Shoeboxed.com made for tracking expenses by scanning documents or receipts using your phone’s camera. These apps are available on every phone platform and vary in price from free to a few bucks. If you have trouble keeping track of all those business expense receipts, you owe it to yourself to check out these apps. Your accountant will thank you.
4. Google Docs for transaction templates
Google Documents provide a very powerful and totally free way to organize all of your documents. You can create and store just about every type of popular document and organize them into easy to search (and find) folders.
A great real estate use for Google Docs is to build a transaction template folder to store all the files, forms, and documents you might need for a transaction. This folder can serve as your starting point for organizing every transaction.
You can access all your Google Docs from your smart phone or tablet, giving you the ability to draft a contract or a listing agreement from anywhere.
However, Google only gives you 1GB of storage, so it’s only good for templates. When you’re ready to archive or are actively working on a transaction, cloud storage tools like DropBox are your best resource (see below for more details on Dropbox).
5. DropBox for sharing and tracking document versions
Another free option for storing and organizing your documents is Dropbox, which enables you to upload and share files with anyone who has an email address. This means you don’t always have to have your files with you. Just upload them to Dropbox, and you can access them from anywhere you have an internet connection (including your phone, laptop, or tablet).
Dropbox also offers version tracking and cheap expanded storage options. Since you can see previous versions of a document in Dropbox, you can view the progress of a contract you’re negotiating or past marketing materials and see how they’ve changed.
Dropbox provides 2GB of files for free and has paid plans offering more storage space.
Despite continued promises from technologists over the last two decades, we still haven’t quite reached the totally paperless office – but we’re closer than ever.These tools can help you jump into the next generation of transaction management, the mobile frontier.