The Future of Conveyancing – How Can Technology Help?

While it has its drawbacks, there’s no denying that technology has made many processes in modern life easier.

In the olden days, when you were looking to buy a new house, you had to make regular trips to the estate agents to see what was on offer or wait for details to be posted out.

Nowadays, you have all the available houses on your phone or laptop, ready to be viewed at the touch of a button, wherever, whenever.

So how else can or has technology helped the house-buying process?

Virtual viewings

As well as being able to look at property details online, it is also now possible to view properties virtually too. The technology really came to the fore during the pandemic, when the housing market was booming but people were limiting their social interactions.

A virtual viewing allows prospective buyers to get a better, fuller view of a property than standard pictures, meaning they don’t necessarily have to sign up for a real-life viewing if a particular house piques their interest.

Of course, few buyers will make an offer purely on the back of a virtual viewing (although it can happen!), but it helps them to get a more in-depth look, allowing them to make the decision whether to view in person or not.

And while it was particularly useful during the pandemic, it’s also a real benefit to people who may be moving from outside the area.

Electronic signatures

Aside from the fun part (house-hunting!), one of the simplest yet most revolutionary advances to improve the conveyancing part of house-buying has been the electronic signature. This negates the need for clients to trek to their solicitor’s office to sign every last document, saving everyone involved valuable time and effort.

Using e-signatures, clients can sign each piece of documentation as and when it comes in, as opposed to the next time they are able to get to their solicitors, which has an obvious impact on expediency. 

In fact, in 2020, even the Land Registry began to accept digital signatures as well as wet-ink ones, with guidelines around their use to guard against potential misuse and fraud.

Digital register

And that’s not the only digital update The Land Registry is involved in; later this year, it will launch its first mandatory digital service.

From November, it will only accept digital applications for changes to existing Register Update applications (AP1s) – not scanned or PDF copies – in a move to streamline the end-to-end conveyancing process.

In a blog announcing the change, chief executive Simon Hayes wrote: “The pandemic has changed the way we work over the past 20 months, especially in the use of technology. 

“With more of us working from home, the ability to access and work on documents online at all times has become even more critical for all of us, and the move towards paperless systems and processes has accelerated.”

The portal, which has been live testing since April 2021, has already handled more than 100,000 applications that have been submitted digitally, with certain applications undergoing a 25 per cent reduction in errors, which are checked automatically.

Virtual onboarding

Another part of the conveyancing process that can take up a lot of time – with seemingly little return – is form-filling.

Furthermore, most of the time these forms need filling with fairly standard information, which many clients, used to doing everything online, find alienating.

Digital client onboarding for conveyancing matters could be the solution, and at least one legal tech firm has started to offer this.

InfoTrack’s eCOS platform uses a portal to connect law firms with their clients and digitally onboard them, condensing a process that used to take weeks into just a few hours. It also allows them to verify their clients’ identity and funds securely, without the need to meet face-to-face.

The Land Registry, in its continued quest to work more digitally, has also launched its first Digital Identity Standard, which provides a secure way for firms to identify their clients digitally. The digital process reduces the risk of fraud, making transactions easier and faster, while also providing an example of best practice when it comes to adopting a digital-first outlook.

Technology and digitalisation continues to make light work of time or labour-consuming tasks, and it’s great to see how it is being used in the house-buying business to make the process smoother for all concerned.

If you’re thinking of buying or selling, get in touch with our team on 01287 653990 or email info@grey-smithlegal.com