Consumer research regularly ranks the stress factor of buying a house alongside events like divorce, bankruptcy and even bereavement. At the BSA’s recent annual conference Maria Harris, director of retail mortgages at Atom Bank described some of the ways lenders can use technology to improve the customer experience.
However, Ms Harris also lamented the limit to what lenders can achieve on their own. For a real revolution in the home-buying process there needs to be a shakeup in other parts of the property world, particularly conveyancing.
Riding on the back of the Land Registry’s work to digitise its processes – with a digital mortgage service on the horizon - forward-looking firms are applying technology to reduce friction in other aspects of the conveyancing process.
I’ve yet to experience the joys of buying a home, but I hear exchange of contracts can be a time particularly fraught with worry. Two lawyers hammering out the details of the purchase over the phone – with the danger that a misunderstanding of the terms by one party or the other could lead to the deal falling through. It’s enough to fill anyone with dread.
Bonafidee, an e-conveyancing technology firm, hope they have found a way to reduce some of that stress. Their technology was applied in the first use of digital signatures in the exchange of contracts for a residential property in England.
The Bonafidee system allows conveyancers to upload the contract to a secure environment meaning there can be no doubt what the terms of the transaction are.
Having received a demo of the technology from Bonafidee I can also say that the ID verification system for creating the digital signature seems very user friendly. The customer is able to input their information online at their convenience. They can also upload copies of their passport or driving licence onto the secure portal.
Depending on the level of ID verification chosen, the customer may also be asked to answer a series of questions about their financial history. These answers can then be instantly cross-checked against credit reference data, providing assurance the signatory is who they say they are. The system also allows multiple parties to sign the contract remotely. All in all, it would seem to be more convenient than relying on the postal service.
Currently the system cannot be used for signing deeds. However, with the Land Registry’s recent consultation on amending the Land Registration Rules 2003 it is hoped that changes are just around the corner to make electronic documents with digital signatures acceptable as deeds. Already lenders may be thinking about how to integrate this technology into a digitised mortgage application service and if the legal industry plays ball, we may also shortly see further steps towards fully digitised conveyancing.