The purchase of a new home feels like it ought to be a significant event in a person’s life. An event worthy of a signing ceremony, perhaps, with a nice pen and official looking documents, an anxiously relieved exhale immediately following the signature followed by smiles and handshakes all around.
Well, if you’re at all attached to the pen-and-ink aspect of this ritual, you’d better buy now, because in concert with the passage of Bill 96, meant to amend Ontario’s Electronic Commerce Act of 2000, through that province’s legislature, the Canadian Real Estate Association has come to an agreement with London, Ontario-based Instanet Solutions to use its Authentisign electronic signature software, which has been in active use by American realtors since 2004.
“Our relationship with CREA includes a deep integration between Authentisign and WEBForms, CREA’s existing online forms system, allowing CREA members to easily share documents electronically,” says Instanet’s President and CEO Martin Scrocchi. “This means Authentisign can be accessed directly from WEBForms and all of the completed forms and contracts will be automatically available. This will make it very easy and convenient for CREA members who want to take advantage of electronic signatures.”
Electronic signatures have been legal since 2000 in the U.S., through its ESIGN Act, so the amendment to Canadian law is seen as a bit of catch-up for the real estate industry. Canadian realtors’ existing WEBforms system will be integrated with Instanet software, the difference being that where a scanned or faxed copy of a signature had been legal, the electronic version will be equally so.
Meanwhile in Canada, while Manitoba continues to hold out on the national e-signatures trend, Alberta hews to its own path, with Calgary-based Repree providing the 10,000-plus members of the Alberta Real Estate Association with access to its suite of online contract management services (with DocuSign e-signatures available as a paid upgrade). The next industry to be hauled into the 21st century with e-signatures? Insurance.