- The Washington Times - Friday, September 15, 2000

Changes came swiftly to the way real estate information passed from practitioners to consumers in the 1990s.
The first point of contact often is no longer a person, but rather circuitry on an international web of computers. The contents of a Realtor's cutting-edge marketing toolbox evolved from a color brochure, monthly mailers and firm handshake to Web sites, auto-responders and on-line forms.
All facets of the real estate buying and selling process have moved to the computer in the past 10 years, except for the contract and loan application processes. Corporate heads and government agencies still wanted a paper trail until now.
A few months ago, a pilot program in Florida tested the boundaries of the Uniform Electronic Transaction Act (UETA) by closing its first 20 completely paperless mortgages. A report in Real Estate Finance Today shows how the Broward County Recorder's Office participated in a completely paperless process with e-cloz.com, GMAC-Residential Funding Corp. and Mortgage.com.
It was completely paperless sort of. State laws still requires that the final pages be accompanied by paper signatures.
"The key to the entire process is version control," according to the report, "which tracks any revisions made to the original e-document, thus preserving its integrity."
Several states have adopted UETA standards. The Florida closings seem to demonstrate they work. Meanwhile, Congress recently passed the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, which grants legal validity to electronic signatures equivalent to that of signatures on paper.
While the act provides validity, it doesn't require a particular technology in delivery of those signatures. Realtor Magazine's Letter of the Law section of its Web page, however, explains the parties involved must demonstrate they have access to electronic signature capabilities before they can be allowed to use such technology. The new law will treat electronic transactions the same as traditional paper transactions, meaning all required disclosures and documents must still be given and signed, though electronically.
Even as the government passed these laws in the face of the technologies barreling down the information superhighway, officials still don't trust the cyberworld for all transactions.
Electronic signatures cannot be used in the "creation and execution of wills, codicils, or testamentary trusts; adoption, divorce, or other matters of family law," according to the Letter of the Law brief, presented by the National Association of Realtors' Government Affairs Department.
Other areas where e-signatures won't be allowed include court orders and official court documents; cancellation or termination of utility services; default, acceleration, repossession, foreclosure or eviction; cancellation or termination of health or life insurance benefits; product recalls; and hazardous materials transportation documents.
Once the electronic signatures act goes into effect next month, it could be feasible for real estate transactions to be fulfilled completely on line. The real estate industry is riding this wave of technological development to implement its own system of transaction management.
Julia Kriss, chairman of the board of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, wrote in the current issue of the group's magazine, Update, that the next computer system for Realtors to incorporate in their business is the multiple information system.
"The Realtors' MIS will be an e-platform that can be customized by region, by company and by agent," she writes. "This platform will enable transaction information for and to consumers. It will allow secure, real-time client access to their private portfolios set up by their Realtor. More than 21 different businesses will be incorporated, from leads management and communication packages to forms and administrative functions. We want it now, but it will come to us in sections and will take years to perfect. When it is complete, what a powerful tool it will be."
M. Anthony Carr has written about real estate issues for 11 years. Direct your comments to 8411 Arlington Blvd., Fairfax, Va. 22031; or by e-mail to [email protected]

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