How to Write and Sign PDF Contracts on an iPad


*Update - I have updated this post as it remains extremely useful to many people and as the app store has developed, I've changed apps. Currently, the best app for this that I have found is PDF Expert and I have adjusted that further down the page. If you know of something that works better, please post a reply in the comments.

Previous Best App: 

Previously, the best app for this that I have found is TakeNotes and I have adjusted that further down the page and left the basic 'how to' if you want to use it. It still works very well, but does not fill in form fields the way PDF Expert does although it has a better user interface to create text box to add text.

**If you aren't interested in an iPad or you don't need to manipulate PDFs and/or sign them, you can probably skip this post. On the other hand, if you are a real estate agent or any other person who may want to get an iPad, but thinks that it is only a toy because all you can do is read the web (without flash ((which turns out to be less of a deal than I thought)), you may find this post interesting.

I was a doubter. I thought that it was really just a toy, but I really wanted an iPad anyway. Besides, I have a weakness for new electronic toys and I like technology and I like being an early adopter so I really wasn't able to NOT get one.

Now that I have one, I need it to make it work for business - and it does. I can search the GAMLS via (a well designed version of the GAMLS which many Atlanta estate agents dread using), I can read Word and Excel documents and I can write documents on Pages and export as Pages, Word or PDF. I can even create a flyer better than most flyers I see with built-in templates in Apple's $9.99 Pages app.

However, I was still skeptical about ditching my laptop. I'll definitely have more posts about how to make the iPad work for real estate, but understandably, the most important question seems to be centered around contracts and signatures and whether or not writing contracts and signing them would be possible.

The short answer is yes, you can write and sign contracts, but not without Apple's amazing App Store. Below is a tutorial on what you need to know if you want to use an iPad as your most frequently used computing device. It is my goal to do so and I am almost there. First, the contract writing tutorial.

Writing and Signing Contracts "How-To" for the iPad

What you need:

  • iPad
  • PDF Expert
  • An internet connection
  • A computer to set it up before you leave it ditch the laptop.

iAnnotate will allow you to sign your contract with your finger or a stylus. It's a powerful PDF editor. PDFExpert is the key to writing your contract. Buy this app from the app store and that's all the technology you need.

For PDF Expert: 

PDF Expert Can store your PDF files within the app itself. It seamlessly integrates with Dropbox to import/export documents so keep a store of the blank forms in a folder there or in a folder within the app itself.

For TakeNotes: 

Save to your computer all of the contracts you use frequently as background images in TakeNotes. I am going to upload my PDFs to the Takenotes Background Library via the Takenotes web server, but you can do so through a shared folder if you would like (As it turned out, using iTunes was easier once I learned how to do this). The Background Library becomes the source file that you will type on to input your contract information. Below is a screenshot of an uploaded Background Library PDF of a counteroffer form. You can enter as many text fields as you would like:

Takenotes ScreenshotAt this point, you have your PDF of choice uploaded to Takenotes and you simply select the one you need ie offer, counteroffer, etc...and type your text fields. Each text box like the one that says "Type Here" to your left slides around and increases or decreases in size by sliding your finger as easily as any other iApple-touch-device.

You can even create one time text boxes in all of the areas you need and then reuse the file over and over.

Once your PDF has been typed on to make the contract changes or offer you need, you simply email it as a PDF to yourself switch to the pen tool and scroll to the section of the docuement you need to sign and use your finger to sign.

Next, open Mail and open the attached PDF in iAnnotate. From iAnnotate, you need only use a custom pencil and to scroll down to where you and your client needs to sign. Once that's done, you are done!

All that is left is to email your document. There is a caution here and a couple of bugs, but it seems to work perfectly if anyone opens your annotated file in Acrobat Reader.

Go back to the TakeNotes main screen and click the "Share" button. The most convenient way for me is to share via email as a PDF. Make sure you turn "Create .Zip archive" off and then click export.

Here is a link to a PDF I created (This is a new link as the old one had the iAnnotate signature that some people couldn't see in the comments section). Please let me know if you don't see the signature. I will admit, I need to work on my fingermanship a little but you can order a stylus for iPad here and that should make for better signatures...

Good luck and happy contract writing from iPad!!!

One last thing - I think the image saves as smaller than 8.5 X 11 so when you print the image may be a little more pixelated. Make sure you adjust your print settings to print at a full page size.

One more last thing - Of you see any errors, please post them so others can learn.

Thank you,


#1 By Alex Cortez at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

LOL, not finding the iPad as good a value as you thought, eh? No worries, I'm sure you'll find more ways to play with it.

I haven't tried this iAnnotate app yet, but now I'll definitely give it a try. Thanks.

#2 By Ryan Ward at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Actually I like it for much more than I would. I don't really need my laptop very much. I can't edit photos on a large scale for a listing, but there is little I do on a laptop that I need to lug around any more.

#3 By Preston Guyton at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Nice post. I really want the HTC Evo from Sprint, debating on which one to buy first. The writing and signing contracts is a great feature. Now my signature is just going to get that much worse. It always looks that much worse with the stylus pens.

#4 By Toni at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Don't see the signature. I am having the same problem:(

#5 By Ryan Ward at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Toni, what program are you using that you can't see the signature?

#6 By Toni at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

iAnnotate - It doesn't save the signature when I email it. Is there a save function to apply before you email it?


#7 By Ryan Ward at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

I don't know why it doesn't show up once you have signed it and emailed it to yourself in iAnnotate, but I used this today with my closing coordinator and emailed the typed up takenotes to myself and then opened it in iAnnotate, signed it and emailed it to her and it had my signature on her computer. She opened it with Adobe and it worked perfectly!

#8 By Fitchburg WI real estate at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

I just downloaded these two apps so I could try to replicate what you did Ryan but then I clicked on your PDF file link and noticed I can't see the signature either.

#9 By Ryan Ward at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Jolenta, what are you using to view it? iAnnotate? For some reason, the app doesn't recognize its own signatures. I'd love to have another app to write on the PDFs and print them, but, I sent Instructions to Closing Attorney (a form we use for contracts) to another agent the other day from my car after showing property and it worked great. It was wonderful to have that freedom AND it was very fast. The iAnnotate app seems to work fine with Adobe Reader and Acrobat...

#10 By Panama City Real Estate | Jennifer Mackay at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Thanks for this great information Ryan.

Jessie and I have been looking into implementing this for agents as well.

We have Adobe pro we use in the office, but this may solve our on-site issue for our team agents.

Best wishes

#11 By Ryan Ward at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

I have a fix for not being able to See the documents that was easier than iAnnotate. I'll post a comment here tomorrow after I post an updated entry.

#12 By Fitchburg WI homes for sale at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Am I missing something here? Why do we even need iAnnotate? I was able to edit my contract (PDF) in TakeNotes AND sign it (using my finger) at which point I then emailed it to myself. Contrary to iAnnotate, I was even able to see all my edits, including my signature, in email. (With iAnnotate I had to go back to my computer in order to be able to see the changes.)

#13 By Ryan Ward at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

No, you are not missing something - that was what I was commenting about yesterday...there is still a problem though. TakeNotes creates a file that is about 75% as large as a regular 8.5 X 11 sheet of paper so when someone opens it, it tends to be pixelated. There is a fix for this in photoshop by enlarging the image a little bit at a time until it is the right size, but that isn't practical as it requires a separate computer which defeats the purpose. Right now, I haven't found a way to fix this from the iPad. However, I did need to use iAnnotate yesterday since iPad shows single page PDFs embedded in the email instead of attached. I was able to place one finger on the PDF in the email and copy it to iAnnotate and then send it to TakeNotes. At this point, there is not a true file management system so for now, this is the best I can come up with. I'm certainly open to ideas though :)

#14 By Ryan Ward at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Well, the truth is that the best way to handle this is to have remote access to your desktop - at least for now. I purchased ($30) the logmein app and downloaded and installed the software for my office desktop and for my primary computer which is a laptop. When I need something with flash or a contract, I can create and edit on my desktop and then email it to myself for signature from the iPad. This is the best of both worlds as I can print remotely to my office or to my home office making virtually all of the problems go away. I opted for the $69/year pro account and I truly will not look back. I can absolutely leave the computer and take only needed paperwork and my iPad.

#15 By Fitchburg WI homes at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Great to hear that. I've been curious about logmeinignition for awhile now. I've read mixed reviews. Question now is, will it work with a Mac (I know you're a PC shop). I've also heard might not let you in if your computer is in sleep mode.

#16 By Ryan Ward at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

It's very fast (change the output resolution), works on a Mac and changes the computer settings so it won't go into sleep mode when you set up the software on the computer you want to use...

#17 By Ryan Ward at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

I still have take notes and iAnnotate, but for now, logmein does it all for me without the hassle of a computer...there is still a possible use for it to open and export - I think. I will have to check...

#18 By David at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

It is amazing what can be done with the I-Pad! I will be getting one Monday and I cannot wait to use if for my business. What I think makes it even better is the look. It looks professional for a Realtor. Thank you for the insight on how to do the signatures. Wow, that will help out a ton.

#19 By Ryan Ward at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

I have a friend who says zosh is a good app to sign with -
I have not had any issues with Logmein. Simply install it and it works. I wrote a contract with it while I was at the hospital over the weekend...

#20 By Ryan Ward at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Until there is a file management system built into the operating system, it's not really going to work as a "computer" in the form that we think of. It will have to be some kind of cloud system, but even then, the iPad can't open documents well because you can't go to a folder, pick a file and then choose a program to open it with. You can't really print anything or rename and organize photos into folders of your own choosing, you can't actually do much with it except look at it and conceptually say that it would be a neat design if it was a computer, but it isn't. You can access the internet on a nice screen and store a few photos. The internet access allows you to virtually use it as a computer...

#21 By Ryan Ward at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Don't get me wrong Stephen - I absolutely love my iPad. But, all of these apps are really just patchwork programming compared to a computer with fully functioning programs and a file management system.

Maybe I'm still working through some functionality issues - I just signed up for Dropbox and that may solve some of my issues - I still think it needs to have a real file management system...

#22 By Ryan Ward at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Now if I could get Dropbox to open a TakeNotes file I would be in good it is now, I can modify a PDF in Takenotes and email it to myself because iPad does not know how to deal with one page PDFs (this is an iPad bug). I just found a workaround as many times, I need to edit and sign one page PDFs. This has been a big problem and still remains a bug though.

I can open a PDF in Dropbox and then open it in TakeNotes and fill out the form, sign it. Next, I have to email it to myself, tap and hold to copy to the clipboard. Open iAnnotate and paste from clipboard into iAnnotate. Then, I can open it in DocstoGo from iAnnotate and then sync it back to Dropbox where I can share the completed PDF. That is not right and is difficult. I suspect this problem will be resolved in the next software update.

#23 By Cliff Haiku at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Great info, Ryan. I just got my iPad and can't wait to play with it! Hopefully your post will help me with contracts.

#24 By Tasha at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

I was thinking that same thing- the iPAD can only be a toy- no way could it replace my laptop! I did get one, because I too, need to have the latest electronic devices just like everyone else. I like most of the features and do use it for work- however, it has not replaced my laptop- I have a hard time giving that one up! Thanks for the info- I'll try downloading that iAnnotate- it should be very helpful!

#25 By Howard Flaschen at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

We have been steering away from the IPAD due to some its limitations in regards to printing and such but I gotta tell ya, your post makes it come back on the radar and look really interesting!

#26 By Ian Marshall at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Ryan, What a great idea. Curious if you or any of the other agents in your office are utilizing this technology.


#27 By Ryan Ward at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Hi Ian, I have one and I use it - I only use the TakeNotes app as the iAnnotate doesn't actually do anything I need it to, but I bought the $15 DocstoGo app and a Dropbox account and I don't actually need the full blown computer for nearly as many things. I wrote an offer at 1 a.m. in the hospital the night my daughter was born last month - it closed the other day and I have signed contracts paperlessly several times since. It's very handy - it was also $ a few apps...

#28 By JB at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

I've been holding off buying the I-pad until Google comes out in November. Maybe I should go ahead I think Apple will always stay a couple of steps ahead of competition. Would you agree?

#29 By Ryan Ward at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

This post has been updated to reflect the best way I have found to write and sign contracts using only one app. Please let me know if you found errors or a better way...

#30 By Rita Burke at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Hi Ryan, We have had ipad for a few months now and just discovered this about a week ago. I must say this is making life easier from the document signing standpoint. YAY. Thanks for the update.

#31 By Jason Gilbert at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Thanks for the inspiration. I was feeling like my wife would tell me that I couldn't get one because it was a toy. Now, I have a real excuse that will really help with productivity.

#32 By Gloria Singer at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Hi Ryan,
I am about to take the plunge for the ipad. Wouldn't a forms program and docusign (which I use and love anyhow) be the best way to deal with contracts?

#33 By Terence Richardson at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Hmmm.. my first comment was detected as spam? Anyways, I've been using the ipad in my business since it came out to show properties. It replaced all the papers I used to carry around. I'm going to try it for contracts now that I've read this post though. Thanks Ryan.

#34 By Ryan in AK at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Thanks for pointing this out. I do not currently have an iPad but have been thinking about getting one. Just wasn't sure how I could justify it while still having a laptop. This would be great for signing some initial docs we are required to sign in Alaska before showing homes.

#35 By Ryan Ward at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Hi Gloria, what forms program?

#36 By Gloria Singer at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

I currently use Trueforms for all contracts and disclosures etc. Then I upload to Docusign for electronic signing...Docusign does have an iPad app but I think Trueforms only runs on explorer so I guess I would need to use logmein for that? I just got the pad last week so still trying to figure it out. Our MLS only runs on IE as well but i think I can get the same listing info on Listingbook.

#37 By Janis Gagliardi at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Great post Ryan! Atlanta buyers and sellers are fortunate to have such a tech savvy real estate agent such as yourself!

#38 By Gary Ashton at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Hey Ryan,
Did I tell you about I have this as well as Zosh and both are excellent ways of using the ipad to sign contracts abd docs in PDF form :)

Just upgraded to the new software so I'll let you know if there are any issues ;)


Gary :)

#39 By Janis Gagliardi at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM sounds like a good solution! I hope to get an iPAD for Xmas. Thinking about just getting the 16 GB.

#40 By Michael Wise at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

There's another tool from relevantsoftware that I use. I'm a photographer who has a constant need for capturing model and property releases while on-site. It's call Forms Tool PDF. Get it from the App Store. It's only $4.99 and it works really well for allowing you to complete, and sign, PDF forms.

#41 By Ryan Ward at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Hi Michael and Gary - both of these look good. Thank you.

#42 By Eric at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

I have an existing form I created in MS Word, then saved as PDF. I have the iPad stylus (for the iPad) and wanted to know if I can pretty much write anywhere when visiting a client. The intent is to use the form as a template, write on per inspection and save then email it when completed on site - is that possible with this app? (specifically the save each and email) I can save uniquely modified (written on) PDF's too from my initial template?

#43 By Ryan Ward at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Hi Eric, You can. Upload that document to Takenotes and use it as a background image. you can them type or draw (write) wherever you want. You can then basically flatten the image and export it as a PDF...

#44 By Dean at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

There's another app called Sign-N-Send, both in a free version and a paid version for $1.99 that works very well. The free version says it sends a page with an ad as the first page, the paid version has no ads. I just bought it and used it a minute ago and it works great. Read the instructions page, though.

#45 By Kate Gorman at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Hi Ryan,

very intersting article. Do you need to purchase the full version of Adobe on your iPad to be able to get contracts signed? Thank you!

#46 By Anna King at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Thanks for such a great article, I'm going to have to show it to my husband. He works for a Tri-Cities real estate agency, and has been wanting to get an ipad but like so many here couldn't justify buying something that was so useless in a business setting. Now he has a great reason to get one and not feel guilty! Thanks again!

#47 By Kay at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Thanks for the tip on TakeNotes. I just needed to sign some legal forms that came as a PDF, so I didn't need your instructions, but I appreciate the pointer to the app.

I used TakeNotes in the most basic way, probably. I just opened the PDF in the app, made a copy of it and signed it with my finger. Then I emailed it to the original sender and CC'd myself. Worked great!

I'm away from home without a printer, and this app saved me a lot of hassle. Yet another reason to love my iPad.

#48 By Paul Stevens at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Just wondering about the legal enforcement of electronic signatures collected in the ways described. Are these solutions compliant with the e-signatures act?

#49 By Carole at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

PDF Expert, Adobe FormsWizard and Dropbox combined was I needed.

I"m not in real estate; our reps sell almost exclusively at international trade shows, so the ability to not have to carry stacks of contracts around is a huge help. I'll make them promise to bless your name every time they pack their briefcases!

Thank you very much!

#50 By Philip at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

You might want to check out "PDF Expert"


- Philip

#51 By Ryan Ward at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Hi Phillip - see the updates in read. PDF Expert has been my app of choose for some time now. Works great!

#52 By Philip at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

You are absolutely correct! I don't how I missed it reading your blog!

I suggest deleting the post about the "previous method" and go more indepth on the PDF Expert app.

When I first read your blog I didn't clue in that this app could do it all. For example, you can sign the pdf contract with your finger in the app and sync to dropbox (which you did mention) or just email it to your client right from the app!

I use an Apollo mobile hotspot from Clear with which i can have internet on my ipad2 so, no need to email when i get back to the office. The client sees the contract in his inbox before i leave his place of business.

I'm a fan :)

#53 By DFox at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

I have found I can use my IPad for almost everything RE. Flyers are a breeze to make & send. My MacBook is getting dusty...waiting on True Forms to modify for use with an IPad and then everything will be perfect!

#54 By paul bauer at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

I am a realtor in Las Vegas, and would like to have ability to create and sign MLS docs in the field on an ipad. Does anyone know a way to do that. We use zipforms

#55 By Dave R at 6/22/2017 4:12 AM

Thanks for this article. Within a short time I had created a PDF form for our online news site for selling advertisement. No more paper for me.

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