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U.K. records its first all-electronic contract exchange for residential real estate

Summary

Transaction seen as more secure than traditional in-person signatures with witnesses

Newswire: April 6, 2017.

Dateline: Newport, South Wales, U.K.

The United Kingdom just recorded its first ever all-electronic exchange of contracts for a residential property transaction, according to the law firm that oversaw the deal.

The transaction took place April 6 and used the Bonafidee e-signature solution. With Bonafidee, attorneys for both buyer and seller upload the agreed-upon contract, which is then sent to seller and buyer to for them to sign electronically.

Bonafidee then provides confirmation that the document was read and signed, using a code in place of the signature. The conveyancers then exchanged the contracts under the U.K.’s normal Law Society rules.

“Agreeing contract terms is often undertaken over the telephone by Conveyancers and, in many circumstances, the document that you receive from the Conveyancer on the other side of a transaction can look very different from the contract that you have sent out,” noted Gareth Richards, the legal director of Convey Law, which administered the transaction.

“The clients are now far happier in dealing with documents and signing them electronically than they ever have been in the past and we see this very much as the future,” Richards added, “as other Conveyancers come to terms with using this technology with their clients.”

Lloyd Davies, the firm’s managing director, noted that traditional methods of ink-on-paper signatures, viewed by witnesses, can be less secure than electronic methods. At the recent annual general meeting of the U.K.’s Conveyancing Association, he asked 100 members how many 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 up their hands to acknowledge that they did authenticate witnesses,” Davies said. “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.”

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