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WA downturn no barrier for home-based settlement agents

WA downturn no barrier for home-based settlement agents
Kewdale-based Settlementswa.com Pty Ltd owner Raelene Bennett

"The regulatory timeline for digitising WA property transactions is long overdue" - Raelene Bennett

The softer WA economy that emerged in the wake of the State’s mining boom is just one of the reasons why more settlement agents are electronically transacting property. That’s the view of Kewdale-based Settlementswa.com Pty Ltd owner Raelene Bennett. As a licensed real estate and business settlement agent, Raelene explains why property professionals need to get comfortable with digital change.

The economy has suffered in the west with more mortgagee sales

“The economy has suffered in the west with the contraction of the mining boom in the past few years. Times are definitely harder. The economy has slowed. People no longer have as much disposable income. There are also more mortgagee sales as a result of job losses,” said Raelene. “I’ve overseen residential, industrial, business and commercial property matters throughout my career – a very diverse set of different settlements. I’ve worked for lawyers to whom I sold a co-owned settlement agency. When personal circumstances meant that a home-based practice was the only viable option, I left the legal firm and with their consent started my own settlement agency from home.  If I’m going to continue my career working from home I need to expect ongoing change.”

When times are hard the electronic system can help

“When times are hard the electronic system can help. It costs money each time agents have to run back and forth to Landgate and banks on St Georges Terrace. Now that I’m settling electronically I no longer need to engage an external clerk or other out-sourced assistant. Plus my paper work is halved so I’m cutting down on other costs that come with running a home office.

We can’t run around for half a day picking up bank cheques each time a settlement is due

“There are other agents just like me who are working from home as small business owners. We can’t be spending half a day at banks collecting bank cheques and then banking on behalf of clients each time a settlement is due. On the day of settlement I have the PEXA system running in the background on my computer. This means that I can get on with my value-add work including calling customers. Initially I was a bit slow to move to PEXA. But when I caught the flu two years in a row it was a big impetus for me going online. I can tell you it’s much easier to be at home with a hot chocolate watching settlement from the comfort of my computer instead of coughing over people at the place of settlement who don’t want to be surrounded by sick people.

Here’s how the PEXA  system works…

Unlike with paper settlements, when you go electronic you KNOW that the documents are correct. The documents have to be correct or the system won’t proceed. There are two to four parties in PEXA’s electronic workspace – two settlement agents and the banks – checking all the documents and that the financials are in order prior to the final transaction.  Everything must balance to the last cent. Practitioners not using PEXA’s digital platform need to take a deep breath and calm down. Everything adds up. With a manual settlement you might have done everything right but one of the lender’s might have a problem with the discharge of mortgage. Even if there’s an error that presents in the electronic workspace the transaction gets pushed forward to the next hour so that the documents can be fixed – plus there’s no running around to get the client to fix this up. Any problems are easily and quickly rectified.

PEXA Support is there to help

Fiona Rodda is my support person and she’s fantastic having also worked as a professional conveyancer. Together with her personal help (or that of the PEXA WA-based team) I reach out to the PEXA support line when I have questions or queries.

Problems always occur in our profession – let’s get over it

“There’s been some push back to take property transactions online. I don’t understand this. People are already searching for sale properties online before they reach out to settlement agents. And let’s face it, irrespective of whether a settlement is paper-based or electronic, when a problem arises many agents in our profession get upset. Personally I’ve had plenty of panic attacks. But we manage through and then get over it and move to the next settlement. Job done.

Some issues are unique and will only be ironed out once they present

“Not all settlements are the same. Some issues are unique and will only be ironed out once they present. You can never iron out every little error as property transfer is complex. My advice is don’t worry. The PEXA support service is there to help. If there’s a deadline and people cooperate they will sort out the little hiccups. You can’t have a set of criteria on what will crop up. For example, the financing details for customers are unique. With one settlement on PEXA – in Bunbury and Perth – I helped the other side through the transaction. At the time it was stressful but the next time that the matter arises we will know what to expect and troubleshoot. There’s nothing that can’t be overcome. PEXA is evolving as more people use it.  Settlement rules, regulations and legislation change constantly and we have to adapt – it’s a lesson in change.

In any settlement there are fees and costs that have to be paid by the client

“PEXA is time-saving and convenient for our customers – especially the ones that are, for example, interstate - selling in WA and moving to QLD. Settlement agents can help these customers by saying: ‘let’s save you the stress by electronically tracking the progress of your final sale so you can quickly receive your sale money once the transaction is complete.’ For buyers there’s no waiting and little or no risk as they are promptly on title. In any settlement there are fees and costs that have to be paid by the client. The benefits are there if you know how to sell them. I include the PEXA fee in the total that I charge. It’s an approach that works for me and for my customers.

In the early days no one wanted to use the OSR online revenue system

“As an industry we need to get used to change whether we like it or not. When I started out I saw the arrival of the computer era as quite threatening. I remember past days of lodging contracts with revenue online at the Office of State Revenue (OSR). Back then no one wanted to use the OSR system. There were a few problems at first that were later ironed out. But now everyone is on board. I can tell you that there is not one person that wants to go back to the days of spending hours at the office of state revenue waiting for stamping.

The mandate timeline is a good thing

“The regulatory timeline for digitising property transactions is long overdue. For example, in the case of putting clear title cash settlements through the electronic system by 1 October 2017 – how difficult will that be? The more agents use the system the more savvy they will be. Or if this doesn’t seem straightforward for agents then they can contact a PEXA support team member who can help out. The mandate timeline is a good thing. Otherwise we’ll procrastinate as an industry and miss out on the benefits and savings that come from using the system.”

PEXA has dedicated specialists trained to guide your practice to a digital future. Even better, it's a free service. Get started by emailing angella.chick@pexa.com.au

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