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New South Wales

Northern Rivers goes digital

Northern Rivers goes digital

“My advice to other firms is to get on board now."

The multi trillion dollar NSW property market – including the flourishing Northern Rivers hot spot region – is undergoing a rapid transformation. The state government has called for all property transactions to be lodged electronically by 2019. One local business with offices in Ballina and Lismore has innovated fast, anxious to beat the deadline.

Home sales are now finalised through the government’s national electronic conveyancing initiative, Property Exchange Australia (PEXA). The PEXA platform completes property sales between buyers and sellers, land registries and mortgage lenders.

According to the Principal and Licenced Conveyancer of Edmonds Conveyancing, Amanda Edmonds, internet-based conveyancing is the silver bullet to reduce many of the pain points that consumers can experience with the historic, paper-based way of finalising real estate sales. Her firm has quickly notched up almost 200 online settlements – breaking with the past tradition of posting bulky paper documents and waiting days for cheques to clear.

“The new electronic way is much faster and more efficient. In the past we wasted so much time by physically attending settlement. The reform improves the conveyancing experience for consumers. Property sellers' funds can be promptly banked. In the past they waited days for cheques to clear. For industry one of the biggest drags on our productivity has been sitting ‘on hold’ in call centre queues waiting for the banks to book settlement,” she said.

“Six months ago there were only one or two others in our region settling property online. We took the bull by the horns and others are also getting on board following our lead.

“Choosing to buy or sell property is a major decision which can come with associated financial and emotional pressure. People are parting with large sums of money with the average house price currently around the $800,000 mark. The electronic way offers an alternative to traditional error-prone paper-based processes.

“It’s quick and convenient to finish home sales online through PEXA. We tell everyone about the digital method. And if any of the 30 legal and conveyancing firms in our district haven’t used the new system we happily assist and provide advice on the processes where we can.  We talk them through the different tricks that we’ve learned.

“The price of real estate in the Norther Rivers area continues to climb. When I started out several years ago the median price was about $550,000 – up to about $800,000 today. While many Lennox Heads homes are fetching about $1mn. We might be regionally-based, but we have the same dynamics as Sydney. That includes the presence of about 30 real estate agents, the big four banks, several credit unions and many brokers.

“Our firm now does the majority of its settlements electronically.  Each time we have a sale or purchase we ask the lawyer or conveyancer acting for the other party to follow our lead so that the entire industry benefits from this digital reform.

“My advice to other firms is to get on board now. It will be too late if they try and transact online for the first time in 18 months’ time. This push to transact property fully online is going to happen. Get used to the change now while there’s still time to get help. Many firms are already using cloud-based practice management services. When my files first moved to the cloud I was a bit scared. Now I’m used to it and it’s the mainstay for how I run my business. It’s the same for Internet-based conveyancing. It’s the next logical progression for our industry.”

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