Every field, whether in the public or private sector deals with documentation. The most common way to document information is through paper despite the technological advancements that have taken place over the past few decades. Paperwork is a catch-all term for the forms, contracts, reports, and other paper-based documents used in business settings to move a particular process forward. It is synonymous with inefficient and outdated customer experiences. This is primarily due to its pervasive nature throughout industries that are known for lengthy bureaucratic processes such as government services, insurance, and banking. These rely heavily on paper documents and forms; often required in duplicate.

The use of paper like in many other industries is still common in the real estate space. If you have bought a home previously or you are going through the process of purchasing a home the one thing you can certainly remember is the “PAPERWORK”. The constant influx can be very overwhelming for both the client and the administrator. But why do we still have so much of it while we have other means of documenting information?

Well, it may be because it has had so much value in the real estate sector as it is a dominant instrument for moving processes forward. Paper forms offer a quick analog way of capturing consistent information from customers. In industries that rely on advisors and channel sales, like asset management and estate agency, paper forms offer an easy way for non-internal employees to engage with corporate services without the requirement of technology integration. Paper is also “always-on”, meaning processes built around paperwork can continue operating in remote/rural environments and do not have the risk of outages or downtime.

Paperwork is currently also mandated and audited to ensure proper care, consideration, and consent is captured before the initiation of potentially problematic processes. It provides a paper trail for those that come later in the process to be able to understand agreements and procedures. A good example is the mortgage process. The forms filled are mainly to try and figure out who you are, what you do, how much you earn, and your capability of actually servicing the loan while providing a paper trail for those that come after the banker such as auditors and accountants.

The paperwork also forms part of the processes and procedures that are required to be undertaken by different departments, especially government departments such as the deeds registry. The importance of paperwork and documentation in real estate cannot be overemphasized. It is important to note that 75 – 80% of real estate business is legal and these legal transactions cannot be void of documentation. Before any real estate transaction can be said to be successfully concluded, all documents have to be up-to-date and duly signed by the relevant parties.

Despite all these benefits, the relevance of paperwork can still be challenged. Emphasize is currently placed on process improvement and the digitization of almost every industry including real estate making it increasingly difficult to sing praises of paperwork. The need to use paper is slowly deteriorating because of the advent of technology. Simple things such as signing and filling in forms can be done online. This reduces costs and saves time compared to the use of paper. It also allows for real-time data to be captured allowing for further processing and instant access and tracking.

Essentially, we are moving towards completely paper-free offices, organizations are already storing their documents online, whether it is with free tools such as dropbox or google drive or highly secure and customizable solutions. Paper-based processes just don’t meet the modern consumer’s expectation of service. If customers are looking for a mortgage loan and have the choice between a bank that has a digital application and one that requires them to visit the branch to fill out forms, which one do you think will perform better?

For those customers that do go with the paper-based bank, how long will they be sitting with an advisor watching them fill the documents or while they walk through what’s required?  Time is valuable and any employer would certainly prefer their advisor to make better use of their time; servicing new clients or helping identify even more products that would be beneficial.

As much as paperwork is a pristine part of the real estate industry, it might just be high time we move away from paper. The analogy that it is easier to capture consistent information on paper may be somewhat false. Digitization of the paperwork process by both the public and private sector will save time for those that are purchasing property and it will make the process less exhausting.

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