Should Ontario Allow Electronic Signatures for Real Estate Transactions?

Electronic signatures are becoming more and more common in a world that’s going paperless and where consumers are doing more and more of their buying over the Internet. First seen in the world of online shopping, it soon spilled over into other industries such as the real estate market and legal documents – but only for some provinces. Now, the Ontario Progressive Conservatives are saying it’s high time the province get with the times and move to the world of electronic signatures.

Electronic signatures work very simply. When a real estate agent has to email documents such as offers to purchase or home inspection reports, the home buyer or seller often needs to sign those documents. In the past for agents, this has meant that paperwork needed to be constantly faxed back and forth, or printed out, signed, and then sent back again. If that offer wasn’t accepted, it meant more paperwork and even more red tape. And even more time being eaten up when, if there were another way, the transaction could be moving forward.

Electronic signatures take away all that paperwork, free up a lot of time, and move things along more smoothly. Instead of needing to have a hard copy of the actual document the home buyer, seller, or real estate agent can simply be emailed the document. With their mouse they can find the areas where they need to sign or initial, and click on them. An electronic signature field will always clearly indicate that this is a legally binding signature, and that they are agreeing to the terms of the document within.

Many provinces have already turned to electronic signatures within their real estate markets, knowing how much they can speed the process along. Now, the provincial PCs say it’s time Ontario do the same.

It was Belleville-area Conservative Todd Smith says that this province is one of the very last to get on board with electronic signatures; and that by not instating them as part of regular real estate practice, we’re slowing our economic growth.

Sharon Short, of the Quinte and District Real Estate Association, says that she agrees. Consumers are ready to go paperless and with today’s busy world, are looking to make life easier for themselves. So are, she says, real estate agents.

The bill to start allowing electronic signatures goes up for debate on March 21. Smith says that his proposal is strictly for the real estate industry, but he can also see how it would be applicable to many other sectors as well.