Differences between DotLoop and Cartavi

Info For Pros · Read in 8 minutes 

DotLoop vs zipForm, DocuSign, Cartavi

There’s been a lot of hubbub about DotLoop and Cartavi (pronounced more like “cart-of-e” than “cart-ah-vee”) recently because DotLoop released its “DotLoop Now” update, touting “Peoplework, not Paperwork”, and Cartavi recently got bought out by Docusign.


DotLoop logo

DotLoop’s philosophy is that a document should live at dotloop.com and people should come to the document to view, edit, or sign. This benefits all parties because the documents never get misplaced, each user (e.g. buyer, seller, buyer agent, listing agent, title rep, loan officer, etc.) has access to all files from any web browser, and everyone can eSign and do whatever else they need to do with the documents they have been provided access to.


Cartavi logoCartavi is more of a document storage and viewing space. Here’s the workflow:

  • Complete forms in zipForm
  • Send from zipForm to Docusign
  • Add users to the Docusign envelope (i.e. share each document with the appropriate users)
  • Once forms are completed, store in Cartavi (happens automatically) for “take with you anywhere” access and sharing (called Transaction Rooms)

Why is this such a Big Deal?

In years past, zipForm was all the rage — “Wow, I don’t have to hand-write forms anymore?”

zipForm had a major issue a few months ago when Java’s security “blew up” so bad the government suggested disabling or uninstalling it. zipForm ran (and still runs) on Java. They’re planning an HTML 5 version (zipForm Plus), but who knows how far away that beta is from going live. It’s no small job to change over a system that millions of people rely on. There are templates, saved phrases and paragraph texts, and so many little pieces to the eForms puzzle. I sure hope it goes well for them and they don’t push it live before it’s fully ready.

zipForm Plus revolution

Back on point… zipForm creates the forms and exports to email, fax, printer, or Save as PDF, which used to be good enough. Nowadays, it exports to Docusign’s system (totally separate but integrated company and system), and Docusign is integrated with Cartavi. So the good news about Cartavi’s acquisition is that there are only two companies instead of three integrating with each other. That’s a positive for picking a long-term solution. It also provides Cartavi’s development team with increased access to Docusign’s internal workings and financial resources.

All this innovation and integration is a big deal because real estate forms technology is trying to catch up with how real people work. Real estate agents have mobile, electronic, e-everything clients to offer a pleasing document process to. Plus, agents are busy themselves, always trying to leverage technology to afford them more free time or more time for more deals. And brokers need to keep an eye on compliance.

In the past, the zipForm “print” and “fax” commands were used extensively. More recently, “email” and “Save as PDF” were more popular. Now, we want a “direct to eSign” option.

What’s the Difference between DotLoop and zipForm + Docusign/Cartavi?

Basically, DotLoop is one company that does the job that three (now two) companies were doing.

Typically, this means tighter integration, better ease of use, and therefore a more pleasing experience. DotLoop states their rate of adoption is double or triple that of other “paperless office solutions”, of which there are many to choose from.

With DotLoop, however, individual agents (i.e. broker not signed up) need to upload their own forms and manually place the fields (e.g. text box, signature field)… unless the MLS or broker is the one providing DotLoop, in which case the broker sets up the forms once and all their agents can use it like the zipForm library you’re probably accustomed to.

How Do I Choose?

Most of us are provided zipForm or another eForms solution via MLS or brokerage, at which point you may want to consider a few items:

  • Does my broker use zipForm and consistently add new or edit existing forms? If yes, it may be more trouble than it’s worth to always check back at zipForm to see what’s new or changed, and detecting new and changed items may be neigh impossible.
  • Do I have forms of my own to add? zipForm is good at being consistent, but it’s not easy for an individual agent to add their own forms (e.g. home buyer questionnaire, post-closing survey). It can be done with ZipVault, which is an additional (albeit tiny) additional subscription, but it’s not fully integrated (until the new version). It’s a bit cumbersome to work with, and that’s where Cartavi can help. Brokers could digitize their own forms for however many hundreds of dollars (depends on the number of pages), in which case, they’ll be available to all agents.
  • Am I Super Technology Challenged? If you’re a tech-scaredy-cat (yeah, I just said that), I commend you for reading this far. Give yourself a pat on the back and just use what you’re provided with… Or… Get someone to help you figure out your current processes and teach you the best way to accomplish your tasks. It might mean sticking with your current solution, or you might need to learn something new. Bottom line, anything’s better than paper, and getting help from others is always good for the sake of refreshing and refining your processes.


DocuSign logo

Assuming zipForm is provided to you via MLS, you would need to pay for Docusign ($180/year or $25/mo, or free if 5 or less envelopes per month) and Cartavi ($99/year or $10/mo, free version allows 3 Transaction Rooms). That’s $279 per year.

DotLoop is free for agents. Yup, 100% free. It includes eSigning, inviting participants, etc. If you’re a tech-savvy agent and you’re able to do DotLoop on your own and totally ditch zipForm, you can upgrade for $20/mo to be able to create Document Sets, which are grouped sets of documents, a.k.a. “templates”.

However, a major downside to DotLoop is that the agent-only plan (i.e. no Broker Dashboard) doesn’t allow auto-filling of forms. Instead of entering the address once and it copies to all the “enter address here” fields in the contract, you just have to type once and copy/paste the rest. Okay, “major downside” might sound extreme, but it just doesn’t make sense.

I’ve called multiple times about it and the answer was “we are not a forms provider”… yet, they can do this on the Broker Dashboard plan (starting at $200/mo for 10 or fewer agents and includes digitizing of all state and MLS forms and includes a few freebies for broker-specific forms). Oh well. Just be informed.

Assuming you have zipForm provided and you have DocuSign free (5/mo), you’ll need a paid Cartavi plan if you want to go from Cartavi to DocuSign or to fax out of Cartavi. Otherwise, you can go from zipForm to DocuSign to Cartavi (via download and upload).

Cartavi allows uploading of PDFs, images, and Microsoft Office documents, but not .zip files or other files like Photoshop. DotLoop only allows PDF uploads at this time.


Did I set out to write this long post? No. I didn’t think there was going to be too much to say about it. But I’m glad I wrote it all out because now I know why there’s so much confusion with agents trying to figure out what DotLoop is and what Cartavi is.

I lean DotLoop, but beware of CAR’s legal position. They own zipLogix and told DotLoop “hands off our forms”, which many think doesn’t have legal standing, and most agree it’s bad for the industry. Moving on… I lean DotLoop because it’s the way I would create and use real estate forms if I were to create my own solution.

However, we’re not starting from scratch, and I think DocuSign/Cartavi is a smart solution for people who actually enjoy zipForm. If it does what you want it to do and you like how it works, just pay a couple hundred bucks per year and get the benefits of DocuSign and Cartavi.

Once zipForm Plus goes live, I think I’ll dislike the zipForm experience less and therefore be able to truly consider DocuSign/Cartavi.

A free alternative (assuming zipForm is provided by your MLS or brokerage) would be completing forms in zipForm and then export via email to your unique DotLoop upload email. Then, in DotLoop, copy from your unique email inbox into the appropriate loop and take it from there, sharing it with your participants and keeping your archives in DotLoop for years to come. Cartavi also has a unique upload email address per account.

If you’re a broker, there is no broker-level plan for Cartavi at this time, but one should be available by the end of 2013. Cartavi has some nice features like being notified when someone views a document (not just when they finished signing it), allowing someone to simply “acknowledge receipt” instead of requiring a full signature, and being able to view the list of documents each user has access to. I expect DotLoop to add some enhancements to its new system once the transition period settles down, and I expect Cartavi to release new features before the end of the year.

Still Can’t Decide?

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