I’m planning to buy a home after being out of the market nearly 25 years. My real estate broker suggested we use an electronic signature to sign my offer. Is that allowed?

The short answer to your question is: Yes — electronic signatures are permitted on offers and other legally binding agreements related to the sale of a property.

Traditional signatures are still allowed, of course, however electronic signatures can be more convenient for some parties involved in a real estate transaction.

With traditional signatures, you may find your rep is scanning or faxing a lot of paperwork back and forth with the seller’s agent. It can be a cumbersome process, and it can even reduce the legibility of the text in the documents. Using electronic signatures avoids this problem.

If you have additional questions about electronic signatures, ask your real estate rep or your real estate lawyer. They should be able to clarify how their software ensures that the signature is tamper-proof and permanent. If you still feel hesitant or uncomfortable, remember you don’t have to use electronic signatures. It’s your choice and no one can require you to use an electronic signature.

In addition to understanding how you will sign your agreement, you must ensure you understand the agreement itself. An Agreement of Purchase and Sale is a legally-binding contract between you and the seller, so take some time to thoroughly read what you are signing.

You’ll find many things have changed if you’re re-entering the real estate market after being out of it for decades. Today, email is often used to submit offers, and money can be transferred electronically, too.

In addition, buyers and sellers now have access to more information about trends and the real estate process, and real estate professionals are now more accessible than ever, thanks to mobile technologies. What’s more, many real estate professionals now offer specialized services. It is now easier than ever to find brokers or salespeople with expertise about particular markets or types of properties.

Another key change that came about since you were last in the real estate market was the creation of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) by the Ontario government. Since 1997, RECO has been enforcing the rules for real estate salespersons, brokers and brokerages, and offering helpful home buying and selling guidance to consumers. RECO also provides insurance that protects your deposit when it is held by a registered brokerage.

All these changes benefit home buyers and sellers, and just as it’s always been, it’s important to make informed decisions and feel comfortable with them. Good luck with your hunt for a new home!

Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RECOhelps.

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