electronic signatures real estate

Photo: Sebastien Wiertz/Flickr

If you’re planning to buy a home in Ontario, as of July 1st you’ll be able to sign on the digital dotted line. Thanks to changes to Ontario’s Electronic Commerce Act, electronic signatures will now be legally equivalent to signatures on paper documents for real estate transactions.

The changes are meant to modernize the home buying process. Prior to July 1st, any time a property changed hands, dozens of hard copy documents had to be signed and face-to-face meetings had to take place in order for the transaction to go through.

Ontario is a little late to the e-signature party: Quebec, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island all allow electric signatures for real estate transactions.

“For anyone buying or selling a home, signing and delivering documents can be a complex and time-consuming process. Modernizing real estate transactions will save Ontario families a lot of time and stress,” said Madeleine Meilleur, Attorney General of Ontario, in a news release.

Convenience is one of the most apparent benefits from the newly updated legislation, which came about after a series of public consultations.

Zoran Vukasovic, a managing partner of DealTap, a platform that aims to make buying a property a paperless process, says real estate was one of the last frontiers for e-signatures.

“You see a lot of real estate agents, waiting and sitting outside the house to counter-sign offers, that kind of thing. The entire experience becomes that much more convenient. It actually expedites things a lot quicker now as well. You don’t have to wait for travel times or wait for people to be available to meet. It really brings real estate into the modern world,” he said.

In other words, if you’re buying a cottage, you won’t have to drive two hours away to sign the papers.

DealTap is also meant to make it easier to track changes in documents as well, especially last minute changes that often go unnoticed in piles of paper. Vukasovic gives the example of someone seeing a house with stainless steel appliances, buying the home, and then being faced with white appliances upon taking possession.

“Someone made a change in the chattel, slipped it in, and no one noticed. And then there’s no recourse.” Platforms such as DealTap attempt to solve that problem by highlighting any such changes and asks the other party to acknowledge the change – a clear benefit over having hard copies.

The new e-signature rules come into effect the same day as other new provincial rules regarding real estate transactions. The first of July will also see Bill 55 come into effect. It will require listing agents to maintain written offers on every bid and counter bid on a property.

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