Like many other industries, real estate is experiencing extremely turbulent times as a direct result of COVID-19. Restrictions on everything from home inspections to auctions are forcing a rethink of how estate agents do their jobs – with technology proving to be a great enabler of change.

For example, the number of scheduled auctions has fallen by more than 50% since the Australian Government announced stricter social distancing measures on March 24. At face value, this is really bad news for the industry. But, to counter the fall, many real estate agents are experimenting with virtual auctions or turning to online selling platforms like Openn Negotiation. By finding new ways to connect buyers and sellers using technology, they are keeping themselves in the game.

What about for more of the bread-and-butter tasks that need to be ticked off each day within real estate? Things like lease agreements and sales contracts? Getting these jobs done with everyone working from home and assiduously practicing social distancing is hard. The real estate industry thrives on relationships and face-to-face interactions – agents urgently need new ways to interact with buyers, sellers, tenants and landlords.

“We’re seeing a higher than normal number of real estate agents enquiring about DocuSign,” said Tom Hyde, Commercial Sales Director at DocuSign. “Getting a contract signed the traditional way in the COVID-19 era is simply proving too hard – real estate agents need secure, reliable, and ultimately contactless ways to get their agreements signed.”

Digitising the lease agreement process

 When it comes to residential tenancy agreements, electronic signatures have been allowed and legally enforceable for a couple of years now. Forward-thinking companies like Harris Real Estate have embraced this ‘always mobile’ model of collecting client signatures for some time now – well before the events of 2020 forced everyone to reconsider their ways of working.

Yet, until now, some real estate agents have stuck with the status quo – they have either been too busy to consider digital transformation, or they have filed it in the ‘too hard’ basket.

The good news? It’s a lot simpler to make the switch than some may have thought. Setting up lease agreements digitally can be as easy as integrating DocuSign to Microsoft 365 or whichever program you use to create your agreements – it works with the applications, services, and devices that brokers, agents, buyers, and sellers already use. Importantly, DocuSign’s electronic signatures are unique, documentable, encrypted, and tamper evident.

With DocuSign integrated into the lease agreement program, it’s then possible to send, sign, and manage contracts without having to see tenants or homeowners face-to-face.

Beyond the lease agreement

 For real estate agents who are constantly out on the road and on their mobile devices, electronic signatures have proven themselves to be a real game-changer. To save even more time and money, savvy agents are embracing further digital transformation by rethinking the way that the lifecycle before and after the signature is managed. Instead of a manual process – which slows things down, increases the risk of error, and frustrates everyone involved – they are turning to Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM).

DocuSign CLM – which in early 2020 was named a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for CLM – enables real estate agents to manage contracts and lease agreements from initial set-up through to either renewals or termination. It’s all digitised and automated, and the reusable templates save agents valuable time and money.

In these turbulent times, with the outlook for the housing market uncertain, anything that real estate agents can do to streamline operations, save time and money, and improve the experience for potential sellers and buyers is going to help them come out of the crisis stronger than others. Digitising key operational tasks is one simple step that can be taken now – from the comfort of any work-from-home office.

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