In a Regional Town All Practictioners Jump Onto E-Conveyancing

Posted at Legal Practice Intelligence - 7 February 2017

Every Mudgee lawyer and conveyancer is now an electronic conveyancing member

If you want to go far go with others build a network. That’s exactly what’s happening in Mudgee, NSW. Every one of the town’s legal and conveyancing practices have joined Property Exchange Australia (PEXA). Paula Sutherland from Richard Wise Solicitor (PS) and Toni Althofer, Lime Conveyancing (TA) explain how e-Conveyancing can cut costs, free up time once spent travelling to settlements and delight customers. 

Well done for taking your transactions into the digital age.  How did you find the experience?

TA: Very smooth and easy.  Theresa Ting, my PEXA Virtual Specialist was very helpful every step of the way and kept an eye on my transactions and if she saw something needed doing she would ring me and walk me through the process.

PS: Once everything was set up we had a training session over the telephone where we ran through how to use PEXA.  When I had a matter that I was able to settle via PEXA Theresa talked me through the whole process from start to finish over a couple of brief telephone sessions. 

How does the system work – is it user-friendly?

TA: You just put in all the information of both parties and then ‘invite’ the other side and any banks.  Once they accept your ‘invitation’ each party has their own PEXA documents to generate and the other parties accept them.  At settlement funds available are shown, monies to be paid out are entered and, as long as they all match, it will settle.

PS: For a purchase I set up the “workspace” in PEXA, conducted a check to ensure the Title was valid for electronic lodgement and “invited” the other participants – that is – the vendor’s solicitor and our incoming Mortgagee.  Once I had submitted the settlement adjustment sheet to the vendor’s solicitor the direction to pay is completed via the financial settlement schedule in PEXA.  I only had to add any additional disbursements we required - stamp duty and the balance of our costs and disbursements.  Then on the day of settlement it all happens electronically and leaves you free to work on other matters. 

Can you see how PEXA might benefit your clients?

TA: PEXA makes the whole process less stressful for clients as they don’t have to worry about signing so many documents or having to move money into a trust account for any shortfall of funds.   Also the fact that when purchasing property the title is in the new owner's name within 20 minutes, while when a client is selling – and there is no discharging bank – the funds are often in the bank account as cleared funds within 20 minutes (depending on the seller's financial institution that they bank with). 

What needs to change to take paper out of the equation for property transactions?

TA: I think some older generation of solicitors are keeping the paper side of things going.  A lot of them don’t like change and because they won’t change the firms they are dealing with have to do it the old way also to be able to get through the matter.  As the older generation retires we need to make sure that those following in their footsteps embrace the paperless transaction.

PS: More firms and financial institutions need to get on board and once they start to use it they will see how much easier and more efficient it is, not to mention cost effective.

Can e-Conveyancing help grow your business to be more competitive?

TA: It makes it easier to handle matters for clients who aren’t in the same geographical area as me.  A lot of things are now easy to do via email but being able to actually run whole property transactions paperless will be a lot more convenient.

PS: We’re in an age where everybody wants everything quicker, easier and cheaper and PEXA delivers this.  It also allows clients to track their matter in real time via the SettleMe app – plus people seem to enjoy the novelty of these apps.  It also provides a task list for clients to follow and negates the need for clients to telephone you to get an update or find out what they need to do next. 

If you could reach out to firms who haven’t yet looked to e-Conveyancing – what advice would you offer?

TA: Just do it – it will be the best thing you’ve done.

PS: Just give it a go, you won’t look back. 

Crystal ball gazing time. What’s your ideal future vision for your industry and clients in the digital era?

TA: My ideal future is for the whole transaction to be paperless and for me to be able to run matters from my laptop wherever I am, either in the office or out, in Mudgee, or Sydney or on the beach!

PS: A good balance between technological innovation and advancement and personal care and personal contact. 

60 second summary: How does going digital compare with paper-based settlements?

TA: I prefer going digital for the following reasons:

It saves a lot of waiting around for documents to be posted, signed and sent back. When acting for a purchaser you don’t have to get cheque directions to an incoming bank by a specified time. Representing the vendor, there’s no waiting for the Transfer to come from the purchasers’ solicitor, post it to your clients and then wait for it to come back.  There’s no need to chase the discharging bank for a payout figure. Property is registered into the new owners’ names usually within 20 minutes from settlement.  All monies are in the relevant bank accounts as cleared funds within 20 minutes of settlement (depending on the seller's financial institution that they bank with). If I’m not in the office on the day of settlement I can still work on the matter remotely. I don’t have to physically attend settlement. As I’m regionally-based I often have to engage settlement agents to attend settlement and then pay their fee. With PEXA it doesn’t matter where the vendors are. Settlement is all electronic. I don’t have to engage an agent.

PS: Going digital is so much more efficient and saves a lot of time. Documents can be signed digitally on behalf of clients providing they’ve signed the relevant authority. Title activity checks are conducted at regular intervals; weekly at first leading up to the week of settlement then daily until the day of settlement and then hourly.  You receive an immediate notification if there is any activity on the Title which avoids any problems that arise if, for example, you discover on the morning of settlement that a Caveat has been registered on the Title.  You don’t have the problem with banks only providing final payout figures the day before or, in some cases, the day of settlement. Once settlement has been effected funds are disbursed immediately which means not only are funds paid promptly into your client’s bank, but your fees are also paid straight away directly into your firm’s bank account.

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