Monday, July 19, 2010
Topaz Signature Pad Review for REALTOR's.
The real estate industry is quickly voyaging into the world of paperless, mobile transactions, and we at iREALTY ThinkTank are busy keeping you informed of tools and services that help REALTOR’s make the journey less bumpy.
Recently I was very excited to test out the Topaz signature pad, for the purpose of marking up and signing real estate contracts.
In theory, it seemed to be everything one could want in a real estate digital tool, however I have learned through painful trial and error, that theory should not be confused with a practical effective tool.
The Theory: The Topaz signature pad I tested was a SigGem LCD pad. It is an easily transportable size of approximately 4 1/2 X 1 1/2 inches, and plugs conveniently into ones laptop with a single UBS port. The cost of the device is very attractive as well, retailing in the $250-$350 range. The idea of the Topaz signature pad is for one to apply a handwritten signature to a document. As the signature is applied where the cursor is placed, it seemed that the writing applied to a document could be any writing and not just a signature, allowing us to mark up contracts, initial, date, and sign where required. It even allows the signer to change the size and location of their writing for a better fit into the document. As the Topaz signature pad is LCD and backlit, the signer could easily see their handwriting on the pad and erase it to start over again if they chose. This creates zero need for a learning curve on part of the signer, as it looks and feels exactly the same as one writing on paper. As a bonus, most consumers now days are familiar with signing on such pads, as they are utilized by many courier companies and retails stores such as the GAP. Given such a laundry list of positive features, I was stoked to take the device out for a test drive!
The Reality: The practical application of the device for our real estate purposes unfortunately fell short of our general purpose needs. Upon first downloading the software packaged with the device, an hour long search ensued to find instructions on how to utilize the system. There was a demo program in the software that allowed one to test writing, erasing, and adjusting writing on the pad. However, nowhere was it explained how to actually apply the writing onto a document. The help desk at Topaz systems was extremely helpful and walked me through the process. We applied signatures and writing onto blank excel and word documents easily. The first blow came when I discovered I would have to purchase a full version of Adobe, to utilize the signing pad on PDF’s. The next blow came, when it was clear that though the writing is visible to the signer on the pad, it does not apply to the document in live time. The writing is to be completed and then applied to the document. This seems to be such a minor difference that it is hardly worth mentioning; however this little difference could make all the difference in many justice systems. Having a client see their signature sign the contract as they write it, is a different and often a more enforceable situation than signing a pad, then in a separate step, applying the signature to the document.
The last deal breaker for me was the discovery, when trying to mark up a mock purchase contract, that the background behind the signature is not transparent. I did not notice this initially, as I was working on blank sheets of paper. When trying to apply writing onto a contract, the writing is placed on the contract inside of a white box that is applied to the document. The white box covers existing lines, writing or anything already on the document. For example, if you were to counter a contract, and you wished to cross out the purchase price and write in another, the line drawn to cross out the price would not appear to cross out the number, but would obscure the number all together. Just the line would appear.
There are many desirable features and attributes to the Topaz Signature Pad and clearly with some minor development, these pads could be the number one future choice of REALTOR’s everywhere. In the mean time, its current faults make a practical and legally enforceable real estate transaction highly improbable.
We will continue to test and report on new digital signing systems and have no doubt that as time goes on we will have a plethora of choices. In the mean time, tablet computers, paired with software systems such as Real Estate Dashboard from Go Paperless (gopaperless.com) is still your best bet for the most practical and legally enforceable paperless real estate transaction.
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