Buyers and sellers have exchanged contracts on a house using electronic signatures.
It is said to be the first time that e-signatures have been used for exchange of contracts on a residential property in the UK.
Conveyancing firm Convey Law facilitated the exchange using Bonafidee e-signatures for both sale and purchase.
Under the system, the agreed contract is uploaded to the Bonafidee system which is then sent to the seller and the purchaser clients for them to sign electronically.
The system provides confirmation that the document has been read and signed with a code taking the place of a signature.
The Conveyancing Association, of which Convey Law is a member, is at the forefront of trying to modernise the conveyancing process.
Operations director for the Conveyancing Association, Lloyd Davies, who is also managing director of Convey Law, said: “Effective proof of identity and electronic signatures are a key component part of bringing conveyancing into the 21st century.
“Using electronic signatures to exchange contracts was not difficult, as witnesses are not required for this part of the conveyancing process.
“It is not difficult to see how electronic e-signatures can replace the need for deeds, which currently need to be witnessed by another individual once the appropriate proof of identity and verification checks and balances are in place.
“At the Conveyancing Association AGM at the House of Commons on Monday April 3, we asked 100 conveyancers in the room how many of them checked the identity and authenticity of witnesses to deeds.
“It would not come as a surprise to any conveyancer that none of the conveyancers put their hands up to acknowledge they authenticated witnesses.
“We have all overcome issues in the past with over-reliance on autographs to sign documents. The recent chip and pin facility for credit cards took some getting used to and it is now widely acknowledged that this is a far safer method of confirming authentication than the autograph signature process.
“An autograph written signature – and a witness – can be easily forged.
“It is not so easy to forge the identity on an electronic signature which has gone through a series of rigorous identity and password code procedures.”
Bonafidee co-founder Steve Toms said that e-signatures could help speed up the house buying process and reduce the threat of ID theft and fraud.
A number of e-signature systems are available in the UK, but so far seem to have been used – with growing confidence – in the lettings sector.
Attempts have been made in the past to establish e-conveyancing. The Land Registry abandoned its costly project in 2009; the Law Society binned its VEYO project in 2015.
A Land Registry consultation on e-conveyancing closed earlier this month on April 5. Under its proposals, electronic documents signed digitally will replace property deeds.