Every property buyer or seller has been there before: it’s settlement day and you’re ready to take possession of the keys for your new investment or home, or hand them over to the property’s new owner. But a last-minute document error has delayed settlement – leaving all parties involved hanging in the balance.

“The removalist truck is parked outside, but you can’t move into your home or take possession of the property, because your name is spelt incorrectly on the settlement documents and it’s holding things up,” said Martin Hoffman, secretary, Department of Finance, Services and Innovation, NSW, speaking at the PropertyX Conference in Melbourne this week.

Historically, this type of scenario would require lawyers to scramble back to their office to reorder or reprint documents, potentially missing the settlement deadline along the way.

“With e-conveyancing, you can update that error online and continue with your move,” said Hoffman.

“Paperless conveyancing genuinely solves problems for consumers… this type of digital change is happening in every industry, because it’s good for business.”

Hoffman shared that in 2016, just 4% of conveyancing transactions in New South Wales were performed electronically.

By December 2017, this had increased to 30% – and in recent months, this figure has grown even higher.

“In the last two months, around 42% of all potentially conveyancing in New South Wales has been done electronically,” he said.

NSW mandated timeframes have helped move this forward, he added; by July 2019, all standard property transactions in NSW will be conducted electronically, and all Certificates of Title will be phased out in favour of e-Titles.

It’s not just the reduced errors and fewer settlement delays that property buyers, vendors and industry stakeholders are benefiting from – there are also significant time savings involved, said Hoffman.

“We asked KMPG to facilitate sessions with lawyers across New South Wales, to ask for their experience with e-conveyancing. We identified some great improvements, mainly around the time savings, with some reporting more than 4 hours of savings per client,” Hoffman said.

“There’s also the huge benefit of not having to physically attend settlement. In regional areas, this is particularly important – for instance, in a region like Broken Hill, a settlement might have involved a 4-hour drive each way. Now, settlement can be achieved from the desk. Even in Sydney, you want to avoid driving across the city in peak hour if you can, and with paperless conveyancing you can attend settlement at your desk.”

New South Wales is not the only state to embrace paperless conveyancing; all states and territories in the country except Tasmania, ACT and NT have introduced e-conveyancing in December 2015, using the federal government’s national PEXA property exchange system.


Related stories:

ACT Chief Minister suggest paying states and territories to consider scrapping stamp duty

Subdivide and conquer – at a glance