Can property conveyancing be completely digital?

18 July 2019

Property buyers and sellers want the conveyancing process to be as easy as possible, and expect conveyancing to be delivered digitally just like they consume other services. Conveyancing has traditionally been a paper based process but is going through a period of digital disruption.

The conveyancing process consists of 3 main stages:

  1. Contract signing;
  2. Contract conditions and documents; and
  3. Settlement.

There are now digital solutions for each of the main stages in the conveyancing process, and some transactions can be a completely digital conveyancing experience. However some jurisdictions still require paper documents for some conveyancing transactions.

Contract signing

Electronic signature laws have been around for some time but the real estate, finance and conveyancing industries have only recently started to embrace electronic signatures on contracts. Electronic signature platforms like Docusign enable buyers and sellers to sign real estate contracts quickly, easily and securely using their computer, tablet or smartphone. Lawlab has been an industry leader in its use of electronic signatures and has integrated electronic signing technology into its conveyancing process. For most transactions there is now no need to have paper real estate contracts signed.

Contract conditions and documents

The middle stage of the conveyancing process has traditionally been the most stressful, with buyers and sellers often left to manage communication and documents between their professional advisors (lawyer, real estate agent, mortgage broker, lender etc).

Lawlab removes this stress by delivering all communication to the property buyer or seller and their other advisors in one secure online space, called Rundl. This makes the conveyancing process transparent and allows 24/7 access to documents, updates and messages. It also reduces the risk of contract conditions not being met on time.

What documents are required as part of the conveyancing process?

Paper transfer documents are no longer needed for electronic settlements (more on that later). A client authorisation permitting electronic settlement can be signed electronically.

All property buyers and sellers need to verify their identity. This can now be done using Rundl ID, an app that enables persons verifying their identity to take photographs of themselves and their original identity documents using their smartphone. No need to visit the post office or a lawyer’s office to have your identity documents photocopied on paper!

Sellers will usually need to complete and sign a mortgage discharge authority (if they have a mortgage) and this can be done online with some banks.

Buyers will need to sign stamp duty forms, and in some jurisdictions these have very prescriptive requirements.

In Victoria, buyers can sign the Duties Online form electronically.

In New South Wales, all buyers still need to sign a paper Form 76 Purchaser’s Declaration in front of an authorised witness.

In Queensland, recent good news is that property investors can now sign the OSR Form 2.2 electronically. Other Queensland stamp duty and first home owner grant forms still need to have signatures on them witnessed which can be difficult to do electronically, but we expect this to change soon.

In jurisdictions with paper settlements, additional paper documents may need to be signed by property buyers and sellers. Other paper documents may also be required for specific transaction types.

Settlement

Property buyers and sellers can now complete their digital conveyancing journey by settling their purchase or sale on an electronic settlements platform such as Property Exchange Australia (PEXA). Electronic settlements are now mandatory in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia and are also available in Queensland and South Australia. Lawlab have the most experience in the industry with national electronic settlements.

By settling electronically:

  • no paper transfers need to be signed;
  • there is greater certainty that settlement will happen on time as it reduces the risks associated with paper settlements;
  • sellers receive their funds within hours instead of days; and
  • buyers have title transferred to them much quicker.

So can property conveyancing be completely digital?

Yes, it can be for standard transactions in some jurisdictions with lawlab! For others, conveyancing will continue to be a hybrid process of paper and digital until the authorities permit a completely digital end-to-end process.

Disclaimer This information is general in nature only and does not constitute legal advice. Lawlab accepts no liability for the content of this information. You should obtain legal advice specific to your individual circumstances. Lawlab’s liability is limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation. Legal practitioners employed by lawlab are members of this scheme.
Richie Muir
Richie Muir
Legal Director

Richie is an experienced and commercially astute lawyer specialising in property law. He leads lawlab’s team of legal advisors and is the go-to problem solver for complex or unusual matters.  Having spent many years living and studying in Europe he now calls Brisbane home. Outside of work he juggles his time helping bring up his 2 young daughters, playing football and developing property.

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