Continuing from our round up of electronic signatures and the disruption of all things paper in real estate – we move to look at the “tomorrow” that is already here in other sectors of the property service industry. Sarah Bell provides a spotlight on how Digital Signatures and the PEXA Platform remove print-sign-scan-send from the conveyance of property.
Lisa Dowie, Chief Customer Officer of Property Exchange Australia (PEXA) says, “Thanks to a successfully implemented Australian intergovernmental reform in 2010, property consumers can now ask their solicitor or conveyancer to electronically settle their next transaction bringing fast, safe and efficient property exchange.”
The amount of property transacted via the PEXA network now exceeds $38 billion, so it’s time to pay attention – the future of the paperless property transaction is here, thanks to digital signature technology.
What is PEXA?
PEXA provides the platform for paperless land transfer while digital signature technology is the solution for paperless, secure signing.
PEXA evolved from the 2010 mandate by the Coalition of Australian Governments to deliver a national e-conveyancing platform. It is a company with key stakeholders including the Victorian, Queensland, NSW and WA Governments; the four major banks, Macquarie Capital, Little Group, and Link Group.
This collaboration is the genius of PEXA: conveyancers, lawyers, banks and Government land registries integrate and share information. This means that for the states where PEXA is live, QLD, NSW, VIC, SA and WA, the state-based land registries are able to accept and process paperless land transfers. Property transfer occurs via this secure platform with funds settling through the Reserve Bank of Australia.
A move towards an end-to-end paperless process for the purchase or sale and settlement of residential property is an important move to bring professional property services into the 21st century where those using our services expect speed. Digital signatures are a big part of providing that speed, securely.
What is a digital signature and how is it different to an electronic signature?
Digital signatures are different than electronic signatures and are considered more secure than other electronic, and even wet signing methods.
An electronic signature involves signing your own name onto a device, in the same way that you might sign it on paper – just using a stylus or finger instead of a pen. Some have been hesitant in adopting electronic signatures due to security concerns or concerns with being able to prove the validity of the signature. The reality is that with both wet signing and electronic signing, there is still ample scope for fraud as both the electronic and wet signing method provide evidence of an ‘agreement’ but not evidence of identity.
Enter the digital signature as the cure for both the electronic and wet-signing issues of signature verification. A digital signature works more like an electronic fingerprint than a signature. Instead of marking a document in the way that a pen (or stylus) would, the digital signature is embedded into the document as a way of permanently linking your identity to it. A digital signature is like a signature and a 100-point identity check and verification all at the one time.
How does it work?
Lisa explains, “A digital certificate is used to electronically sign documents. In technical terms, these certificates use public key cryptographic technology to secure information that passes from one computer to another over a network. If it sounds complicated, that’s because it is – which ensures a reliable and secure system.”
While the technology is incredibly complex, the user interface is not.
“Using the digital signature software is simple. Digital certificates used in PEXA are stored on an encrypted USB token. You insert the USB into your computer when you need to sign a document. Then you simply click ‘sign’, enter your unique pin, and the digital signature is added to the document,” Says Lisa.
What makes this even faster is that parties to a property transaction can authorise their solicitors to do this on their behalf, meaning that signing can take moments, not hours, days or weeks.
The time efficiency of the digital signature with parties transacting over space and time zones is a given however, there are qualitative benefits to going paperless too. PEXA’s Digital Property Report, prepared by PWC identified that of the several hundred thousand Australians who sell and buy property, one in three parties reported feeling stressed during the settlement process with 20 per cent facing settlement delays.
As agents, we are really at the coal face of property services not only working with parties in the marketplace, but also acting as bookends on most occasions accepting handover from sellers and presenting keys to buyers. As the agents providing the first and the lasting impression of property services, what happens during the conveyance can affect how we are perceived and the trust levels that will impact our relevance while the waves of disruption continue to come.
With so many dissatisfied with the overall settlement process and its delays, our understanding of how clients can have speed and peace of mind during the countdown to settlement can only serve to enhance our value.
We know in other jurisdictions, such as the United States, property transfer can take place over hours not months thanks to collaboration and technology such as this. Looking at how PEXA have already successfully implemented e- conveyancing, the future could be here sooner than we think.