The Shift Towards Digital Mortgages is Well Underway, says Land Registry

As we continue charging headfirst into the digital age, the shift towards quick, convenient and paperless online service seems inevitable for industries across the board – and conveyancing is no exception.

The latest soundings from HM Land Registry suggest that the traditional mortgage market is set to undergo massive transformation over the coming 12 months, largely thanks to their new ‘Sign your mortgage deed’ service.

The online tool allows lenders and conveyancers to create a digital mortgage deed that can be signed directly by their clients online. It aims to save a lot of the time and risk involved in signing paper documents in front of a witness before returning them by post.

Last year, the first digital mortgage was signed for a property in Rotherhithe, South-East London, in accordance with the new service. Since then, the Land Registry has continued to develop the tool through multiple testing phases whilst also approving several new deeds from high profile lenders.

How does the new service work?

In an update posted on GOV.UK last week, Eddie Davies, the Land Registry’s Digital Services Manager, said:

“Since opening the service to more lenders and conveyancers we have seen an increase in the number of digital mortgages registered. This shows the appetite in the mortgage market to use new technology. Some lenders have started offering online mortgage applications and our service helps to bring the industry one step closer to an end-to-end digital process.

“For borrowers to use the service, they will be sent a link by their conveyancer. The borrower will first need to prove their identity using GOV.UK Verify. It’s always been vital we ensure the right person is signing a deed. Using GOV.UK Verify gives us a level of assurance we don’t have with a wet signature.

“Once the borrower has verified their identity, a code will be sent to their mobile phone. Entering this code will activate the electronic signing process. If there is more than one borrower, they’ll need to sign the deed in the same way.

“Our new service makes completing a deed simple, for both borrowers and conveyancers. This new process reduces the opportunity for mistakes to be made, almost eliminating the need for deeds to be re-signed and resubmitted. It can also be very quick. Whereas paper deeds can often take days to complete, one of the first digital mortgages was effective the day after the mortgage offer was issued.”

Preparing to adapt

Of course, the digital service is set to shake up standard procedures for conveyancers and law firms. Heather Adams, Head of Residential Property at conveyancing law specialists Myerson, commented:

“Technology has been reshaping the way we do things in the conveyancing industry for decades and, in many ways, this online service is the next logical development. It’s down to conveyancers to keep pace with any developments in technology as this ultimately allows us to provide a better service to our clients. In fact, it’s actually something that many of our clients have been demanding for years.

“From what we’ve been told so far, the Land Registry’s new digital mortgage service could be released as a public beta version by the end of this year. Whenever it does come into full effect, it’s our job to guide our clients through the online process just as we would with the traditional offline approach.

“There’s every indication this digital-first service will very quickly become the norm across the industry. Every conveyancing firm worth its salt is already preparing to adapt.”

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