Going Paperless; The Causes & The Cautions
Did you know that paper consumption has tripled since 1960 and Americans contribute 85 million tons of paper into the waste stream? Or, that EPA estimates there is more than 400 million ink and 100 million toner cartridges that end up in landfills each year? Businesses are a major contributor to these numbers, and as today's technology is advancing our society needs to realize the importance of the paperless future and the impact we can make on the environment.
Every year, the average office worker prints about 10,000 pages. If we were to make just 1,000 of these workers paperless, approximately 2,500 trees, 56,000 gallons of oil, 450 cubic yards of landfill space, and 595,000 kilowatts of energy can be saved annually.
Going paperless not only positively effects the environment outside the office, but it also effects the environment inside the office. We all love saving money and this 'Go Green' trend is being undertaken by companies more and more each day. It allows companies to alternate from the usage of storage rooms and the extremely costly industrial filing cabinets to the click of a button into a digital file. It reduces the cost of printing, be it the ink we use in the printers and copiers, the equipment for the machines, or the extremely reduced amount of paper used. Many companies have begun to lease machines, which can cut the cost of paper and maintenance and only requires a small payment per print. Avoiding costs like these, along with the time spent looking for lost paper files, improves the efficiency of the company and the overall atmosphere of the office environment. Not to mention, having a myriad of paper on hand can be a dangerous fire hazard if not stored properly.
Now, you may be asking yourself, what does this have to do with the Real Estate Business?
Chairman Elect of the MBA, Bill Cosgrove, begins his recent speech at this year's Mortgage Banker conference in Los Angeles, "There is no doubt that technology is the key to reducing costs and closing loans faster." A large part of this technology is taking the industry paperless.
Let's take a look at how this impacts the most important part of our business, the consumer. "Because this is the 'plugged in' generation, and more people throughout the United States turn to their smart phones for information, utilizing technology is by far the most effective way to reach more consumers," says Cosgrove. Online apps, automated texts message alerts and online interactions add convenience for the consumer. Along with that, many of us are already used to the flexibility of online shopping and are expecting the same when looking for mortgage loans. The mobile app features, such as comparing mortgage products, calculating affordable loan amounts, viewing payment history and balance, viewing application status, and even paying the mortgage gives consumers ready access and the ability to be more productive. This all starts at the paperless application. Technology allows consumers to make more informed decisions; this is due to the improvement of information availability along with more reliable and reachable customer service. Being efficiently informed and alerted leaves the consumer with a feeling of security and a good impression of your company.
Not only is a paperless solution highly beneficial to the consumer and the environment, it greatly improves the efficiency and productivity of the Real Estate Professional. The mobile apps and other mediums benefit the loan officers and Realtors with convenience as well, as they are able to use devices, such as a tablet or smart phone, to populate application forms, save loan data and transfer that data to their lead generation and loan origination systems. This allows them to expect more business each month, which directly impacts profit.
And let's not forget about that almighty elephant in the room, compliance. A digital marketing, lead generation, customer contact, and loan origination system allows compliance to monitor and save all outgoing information to improve performance and prevent any Truth In Lending or Fair Housing violations.
So there you have it, a paperless solution benefitting all aspects of the Real Estate Industry. The only downside to turning your paper into digital files is that information in a digital medium is inevitably more vulnerable than in its paper form. A word of caution to those considering the switch, make sure the necessary security measures are taken before you make this change. Change can be difficult for some, but it's important to remember that the only constant in this world is change. With the new generations of buying behavior changing at a rapid pace, it's not only important to do what works today, but also what works tomorrow.