When the concept of electronic signatures came to the forefront of the real estate industry, old timers in the business were horrified by that thought. How would we keep our clients safe? How would we keep up in a world that was moving swiftly towards electronic innovation? Since that time, most successful real estate professionals have made that transition just to stay in business and now electronic signatures (e-signatures) are the norm. These days, it is the exception for a real estate Purchase and Sale Agreement to be consummated with wet signatures, because no one wants to take the time to travel to a real estate office to accomplish that task. They would rather do it from their smarty-pants phone while sitting on the couch. Closing documents however, are still signed the old fashioned way, in real time with a real pen, in order to be properly notarized and then recorded at the court house.
In an article written by Matt Liebowitz in the Security News Daily in 2011, he says, “I don’t see the e-signature platform as a cybercrime target.” He then goes on to make the point that “in most cases the e-signature process is well protected by most server firewalls and behind every electronic signature is a multipronged, and strong network of provisions keeping the signers and their data secure.” Years later, we can attest to that fact, even though there were many skeptics among us in the beginning.
So if the process of e-signing is not such a risk,…what is the real danger? What I have noticed is an enormous level of apathy among the ranks of e-signers in understanding exactly what they have agreed to before they click to sign. Saving time seems to be the premium value, instead of careful clarity.
Since the legal consequences are the same as if you had been in the same room with the Realtor®, as you signed and obligated your next 30 years of mortgage payments, you would think that signers would take particular care to review those documents. The average buyer or seller can electronically sign a 30 page document in just a few short minutes,...but not if they read it first! Unless they have first taken the time to review those documents along with careful guidance from a real estate professional, the risk may be too great! Don’t be one of those who are smart enough to use your phone apps, but not smart enough to read before you click!