Purchasing a new house could soon be a completely electronic process, end-to-end. At least that’s what the NSW government wants to see.
NSW has released a discussion paper for public feedback on a range of proposals that it says would simplify the property transaction process.
“The paper aims to identify all obstacles that prevent electronic transactions relating to land and that place any uncertainty or confusion around the validity of a land transaction,” it said.
“It looks at whether other forms of consumer protection may be needed in the electronic environment and asks how electronic technologies can be utilised to provide a better experience for all parties.”
The government wants particular feedback on the use of electronic signatures, especially in relation to the witnessing of signatures; vendor disclosure; and the exchange of contracts between stakeholders.
The paper is also considering whether “there is a need for legislation to regulate the use of digital technology in conveyancing, or whether practitioners should continue utilising and adapting available digital technology within the existing, well-established, framework”.
“An efficient ‘end-to-end’ electronic conveyancing process must be balanced against the need for adequate consumer protection. Any legislative change to facilitate electronic contracts or digital disclosure must not create uncertainty in the contract or expose either party to vulnerability,” the paper said.
“Processes must continue to provide the transparency and protection that the current disclosure regime affords to purchasers, while still providing certainty to both parties that the contract will continue to be binding once formed.”
During the 2016-17 financial year approximately two-thirds of all 786,500 property dealings that were lodged at the NSW Land Registry were still paper-based.
This means only one-third was electronically lodged, indicating measurable steps are still needed before more electronic transactions are processed.
The announcement comes after the government introduced first-step reforms in February to electronic conveyancing, which will see all standard property transactions in NSW being lodged electronically by July 2019.
However, the paper said while the eConveyancing reforms will minimise “the risk of error and delay associated with manual conveyancing processes”, it will not cover the complete transaction including negotiations between parties, vendor disclosure and the exchange of contracts.
“Technology has transformed businesses and consumer expectations. We must ensure that property transactions are fit-for-purpose in the digital age,” Finance Minister Victor Dominello said.
“Technology can deliver greater time savings and efficiencies. But the paper also considers some of the complexities involved in electronic transactions such as vendor disclosures, signature requirements and the exchange of contracts.”
Public submissions are being accepted until 16 February, 2018.