Technology Solutions

PDF Power

Adobe Acrobat helps brokers send and manage transaction documents.

Brokers often negotiate and finalize contracts by exchanging revisions with the other party. In many instances, the seller's broker e-mails the buyer's broker a contract as a Microsoft Word file, which the latter opens and changes. But is it wise to use editable text files for such important documents? Faxing is one alternative, but using Adobe Acrobat's portable document format is a more efficient method.

PDF files are documents that computer users with the free Adobe Reader can open, view, and print. However, individuals who have the full Adobe Acrobat program can convert documents from other software formats to PDF, incorporate comments into documents, add security features such as coded access, as well as control the receiver's ability to copy, change, and even print documents.

Thus, during the exchange of PDF contract documents, if the buyer's broker has the full Acrobat software he can add his comments to the original contract and e-mail it back to the seller's broker. If he only has the Adobe Reader or if the document has security features that prohibit annotation, the buyer's broker can print the document, write in revisions, and fax it to the seller's broker. Because the PDF file is an exact copy of the original document, the content and page references are identical.

PDF Files Save Time

Brokers, property managers, general contractors, developers, and lenders benefit greatly from using PDF files due to the sheer volume of transaction documents generated during commercial property sales, leases, developments, and loans. These documents may include site and building plans, architectural renderings, property title information, environmental and soil studies, zoning and flood zone information, permitting applications and approvals, tax records, appraisals, financial projections, and loan papers.

Typically, brokers place these materials in property file folders, occasionally reference them, and, if needed, copy and send them to a recipient via fax or overnight delivery. Yet sifting through the files to find specific documents takes valuable time. A better solution is to scan documents into transaction-specific PDF files.

For instance, during a transaction's due diligence phase, brokers easily collect hundreds of paper documents. Generally, they file materials chronologically or by category in property or client files. To find a certain document, they have to hunt for it.

But by using a good scanner with a document feeder, brokers can scan all transaction documents into the property-specific PDF file, saving them in electronic form. As additional documents arrive, they can be added to this electronic file, as there are no specific filing rules or size limitations. Acrobat even compresses photographs without loss of detail.

Moving to an electronic file system eliminates hundreds of papers, saving storage space and time. In addition, users can convert scanned documents into fully searchable text files. After scanning a document into PDF, click on “paper capture.” The software performs optical character recognition on the file, turning the PDF image into searchable text.

Using Adobe Acrobat

To convert documents to PDF, brokers must purchase the Acrobat software, which is different from the free Adobe Reader.

After installing the full Acrobat software, users have several helpful conversion tools. Many scanners automatically will convert documents to PDF. Users also will find a PDF button on all Microsoft Office application tool bars, including Project and Visio. AutoDesk's AutoCAD program also has one-button PDF conversion ability.

If a software program does not display the conversion icon on its tool bar, open the document and click on print. Select Acrobat Distiller as the printer from the drop-down menu on the dialogue box. Click print again, and a second dialogue box pops up, which asks for the new file name and where to store it. Enter a file name, choose the location, and save the file. Users then can merge newly created PDF files into single, fully viewable, archived, and printable documents.

Saving documents in PDF makes it easy to review, annotate, find, or print a single page, a specific document, or the entire file. Users can index files, separate sections, or denote important pages with bookmarks. Afterward, clicking the bookmark title automatically takes the user directly to that file page.

Users' annotations, or notes, are readily available when they revisit files. Small yellow boxes represent the annotations within PDF documents. Users click on a box to view the entire comment. All parties working on a project can add their comments to documents if they have the full version of Adobe Acrobat. Notes are searchable by author and can be viewed, sorted, and incorporated into a new Word or PDF file. Users also have the option of printing PDF documents with or without annotations.

Accessing the Program

All computer users can view and print PDF files, regardless of their operating systems, as long as they have installed the Adobe Reader, which can be downloaded free online at

The most recent edition of the full software program is Adobe Acrobat 6.0, which costs $299 for the standard edition and $499 for the professional version. Upgrades from earlier Acrobat versions are $99 and $149 respectively.

Commercial real estate professionals who want to improve their business efficiency should consider investing in a full version of Adobe Acrobat 6.0. As more of the commercial real estate industry's day-to-day business takes place electronically, those brokers who know how to use PDF files will be a step ahead. Not only will brokers save time, they will create a more accessible filing system.

Thomas Jaekel

Thomas Jaekel is manageing director of the Merchant Banking Unit at Cohen Financial in Chicago. Contact him at (312) 803-5885 or


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