It seems like there is less paper involved in doing a real estate transaction today. What should I know about reviewing/signing documents online?

It’s no secret that advancements in digital technologies have made our day-to-day lives easier. Even the simplest of transactions have been streamlined with digital capabilities, and in some cases auto-fill technology, to make a process more efficient. Sharing money is as easy as an e-transfer and most businesses accept payments by debit or credit card.

The world of real estate is no exception. When dealing with real estate contracts and related documents, the use of digital documents can be a convenient and quicker way to process a transaction. However, it is important that you and your real estate agent carefully consider what’s best for you.

Agreements with a brokerage
The first thing you will likely discuss is the type of relationship and services you would like from your brokerage and agent. Once you have discussed your options, you can expect the brokerage to present you with an agreement that explains what you can expect from the brokerage and what is expected of you. You could review that agreement electronically or you might prefer paper. It’s a personal choice. Both are legally binding once you and the brokerage have signed it, either with a pen on paper or applying your digital signature using a device.

For sellers, the ability for their property listing to be readily available online through the brokerage or through provides ready access to thousands of buyers. For buyers, having the listing information available through their computer or phone, can give them what they need from just about anywhere. However, many buyers prefer being able to make notes on a printout of the listing. Discuss your preference with your agent.

Purchase agreements
Whether you prefer a paper or digital purchase agreement, your brokerage and agent can accommodate your preference. Some clients still like to read the paper agreement and to sign it using their favourite pen. Others appreciate the flexibility of reviewing contracts electronically, using an electronic signing app. The app can give the parties access from virtually anywhere and allow them to be reviewed clearly and legibly, and to be signed by applying an electronic signature. They also make the documents and agreements readily accessible later, showing every change made by each party and when.

Verifying authenticity
Signing an agreement with your agent and handing it to them can give some a sense of security. Though security is in place to deal with contracts electronically, cyber threats are ever-present, and there is no question that we all must be more cautious in verifying messages and documents we receive by text or email. Before clicking on any links in the email or text, be sure to verify with your agent or other party that the documents you receive are from a legitimate source. Real estate transactions can be a profitable target for fraudsters, who have ways of sending you messages at just the right time to trick you. Be vigilant.

Security and Privacy
You can expect your brokerage and agent to protect your information and to use legitimate electronic signing applications. Take the time to ask your agent about their security measures and then decide how you want to proceed – digitally or using a pen and paper.

If you have a question for Joe about the home buying or selling process, please email

This column is for general information purposes only and is not meant as legal or professional advice on real estate transactions.

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, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at

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