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Electronic documents make real estate transactions more efficient

In 2014 alone, Ontario saw more than 205,000 real estate transactions. At the time, each of those transactions meant dozens of printed contracts and forms -- and dozens of hard-copy signatures from buyers and sellers. Not only is the process not environmentally friendly, but it is also cumbersome for buyers and sellers -- especially those conducting business over a distance. In July 2015, Ontario made changes to the Electronic Commerce Act. Those changes allowed real estate to be bought and sold via electronically signed documents.

Electronically signed documents are signed without a pen; special software is used to record an electronic signature of some type, along with a date. Electronically signed documents can then be printed for appropriate filing or saved in digital format to reduce the amount of paper required for a process.

By allowing electronic documents, the province helps agents, buyers and sellers reduce the environmental impact of the real estate process. It also increases real estate efficiency; documents can be emailed or transmitted in other digital fashion, saving travel and meeting times.

Changes to the Ontario law are not the first such changes made in Canadian provinces. Five other provinces already allow electronic signatures on such documents. The law also doesn't require electronic signatures. Industry professionals, as well as buyers and sellers, still have a choice to use paper documents if they make more sense for the transaction or person.

The law change was met by praise from numerous real estate officials and professionals, including the president of the Ontario Real Estate Association. While electronic signatures will make real estate processes easier for some, sale and purchase contracts are still complex legal documents that require experienced handling to protect those involved.

Source: Ontario Newsroom, "Ontario Allows Real Estate Documents to Be Signed Electronically," accessed Oct. 09, 2015

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Yigal Rifkind, Barrister & Solicitor Attorney

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