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Econveyancing: Coming to a Property Transaction Near You!
Even the property title registration system which has been in use since the late 1800s is being impacted by the digital revolution, with paper transactions and certificates of title moving online.
What is eConveyancing?
eConveyancing is an online platform for the settlement of property transactions. It involves preparation and execution of transaction documentation, stamping of transfer documents, financial settlement and lodgement of title transfer – all through a digital platform!
Does it apply to residential properties only?
The titles register does not make any distinction as to the nature of a property, so the eConveyancing process can apply to any freehold property in NSW – residential, commercial, industrial, retail or rural.
How is it facilitated?
Once contracts are exchanged, both the vendor’s solicitor and the purchaser’s solicitor interact online via a platform managed by PEXA (Property Exchange Australia).
On the PEXA platform, documents are prepared, verified and digitally signed by the parties. If a property is mortgaged, the vendor’s mortgagee must also be involved on the online platform. They will need to confirm the loan payout figure and then transmit an electronic discharge of the mortgage (on receipt of that payout amount, as part of the online settlement).
Where the purchaser is obtaining finance, their mortgagee is also joined to the online transaction, providing a flow of funds electronically in return for control of the electronic title documents and online execution/registration of the new mortgage.
What about stamp duty and registration?
There is also an ability to pay stamp duty directly to Revenue NSW, either before the settlement or as part of the flow of funds at the time of the electronic settlement. Once all documents are prepared and digitally signed, and the flow of funds has been verified, the transfer documentation (including the electronic title) is lodged electronically and processed by NSW Land Registry Services to update the title register.
What is the difference between eConveyancing and the current paper process?
The online platform follows quite closely the current ‘physical’ conveyancing and settlement process. However, there is greater visibility on the online platform.
Although all confidential information is only visible to the relevant party, the other parties involved do have a real-time view as to what steps of the process have been completed and what is outstanding. In the “paper system” this could only be determined through a series of emails or calls between the representatives involved.
For example, the vendor’s solicitor can instantaneously see when the transfer documentation has been prepared, stamped and electronically signed by the purchaser’s solicitor. He or she can then take action by checking the documentation and electronically signing it on behalf of the vendor. At this time, the solicitor would also be able to see whether their client’s outgoing mortgagee has prepared a discharge of mortgage and confirmed a payout figure.
Other major differences
The other major differences are that:
- documents are signed electronically (rather than the parties printing and physically signing hard copy documents)
- the settlement is effected at the nominated time through the online platform (rather than the parties meeting in person and handing over documents in exchange for bank cheques)
What is different from a vendor or purchaser’s perspective?
Given that documents are signed through the solicitor’s encrypted digital certificate, a party to a transaction will need to sign a “Client Authorisation” in favour of their solicitor. This gives the solicitor permission to digitally sign transaction documents (such as a transfer or mortgage) on a client’s behalf.
In most cases the Client Authorisation will be a specific authority, being a one-off permission for the solicitor to sign the necessary documents for the specific transaction only.
Revenue NSW and NSW Land Registry Services have become more stringent over the past few years in relation to Verification of Identity, and this will not change under the eConveyancing system. Expect to be asked to provide identification documentation to your solicitor as part of the stamping and title registration process.
You should also be aware that all funds for the settlement are transmitted electronically. So, if you are a cash purchaser, or are providing part of the purchase price from your own funds, you will need to make arrangements with your solicitor to have those funds available through the PEXA account system. The days of turning up to your solicitor’s office on the day of settlement with a bank cheque do not fit within the eConveyancing system.
When will eConveyancing go live?
The system is already up and running. In fact, if you have refinanced a property within the last couple of years from one bank to another, chances are that the two banks actually settled the discharge and new mortgage via PEXA.
As from 1 July this year, all stand-alone transfers (i.e. no mortgagees involved) and all refinance transactions (between any 3rd party financier, not only banks) will need to occur on the PEXA platform.
Come 1 July next year, every standard conveyancing transactions in NSW must occur on the PEXA platform.
How much does it cost?
If you are a vendor or purchaser, the cost of using the PEXA platform is around $110. This fee is incurred by the acting solicitor on settlement and would be on-charged as a disbursement (along with other standard conveyancing fees such as title searches and registration fees).
What future developments should you expect?
As the various stakeholders become more familiar with the online process, expect other parts of the conveyancing transaction to move online, such as:
- exchange of contracts (which, under the eConveyancing system still occurs with hard-copy contracts that are physically signed by the parties and exchanged in person)
- digital Verification of Identity procedures.
Whilst the new system is aimed at streamlining processes – increasing efficiencies and reducing the reliance on paper – do not be afraid to ask your solicitor for a detailed explanation of the process or for an update at any stage throughout the eConveyancing timeline.
We’re here to help you achieve your goals through a smooth transaction process, not to commoditise your business to a point where you feel like an electronic component yourself.
Rob Jarvin is a property expert practising at KardosScanlan Corporate Lawyers, acting on acquisitions, disposals and real estate projects in all sectors (including commercial and residential). Rob also has extensive experience with leasing matters, acting for both landlords and tenants. This includes complex development leasing and asset/portfolio leasing for commercial office buildings, industrial development sites and retail shopping centres.