Digital mortgage service just clicks away

Land Registry have stated that their Digital Mortgage service is nearing completion, as final improvements are made and integrations completed.

As part of their aim to make the task of moving home as simple as possible, they have been working on a means of digitising the mortgage process in order to simplify and ease the stresses that it can cause.

Initial research from consumer opinion indicated that obtaining a mortgage online appealed highly, with the public keen to receive their money as quickly as possible.

This led the Registry to first seek to digitise the remortgage process. As remortgaging does not occur alongside other transactions, the possibility of creating the complete end-to-end process was greater. This would include interactions with conveyancers, lenders as well as Land Registry themselves. Fundamentals such as the ability for borrowers to view and sign a mortgage deed online could be prioritised, thus meaning that the need for a paper document being sent would disappear, alongside the need to get signatures witnessed or be delayed by the post.

The early version of the service will therefore be aimed at the remortgage market and the focus will be on creating a system which will work effectively for the majority of those using it.  The Registry recognise that it is important to develop the right elements of the service at the right time.

As development of the new service gains momentum, the Registry are pulling together the most important components for a minimum viable service and thus the ability to make, sign and date a deed.

A small pilot version was in operation during the summer, which enabled the online method to be tested in the real world, despite still requiring a paper deed to be signed. It allowed improvements to be made and elements of the process to be altered in direct response to certain issues.

Borrower feedback from the test model was largely positive, with the service being branded as “simple and clear” as well as “user-friendly”. As well as compliments, criticisms were also welcomed and gratefully taken on board, allowing developers to make changes as they went along.

Conveyancers are provided with a name validation tool to establish any issues prior to the deed being signed. The Registry are also looking to implement an additional mechanism to amend the deed, should a conveyancer need to correct a name. They also conducted work which will allow them to utilise the GOV.UK Verify tool. This enables users to prove who they are online and safeguard against identity fraud. During prior consumer testing, the Registry discovered that when this verification process was included, levels of consumer confidence rose in relation to signing the mortgage online. The majority of individuals stated that the time taken to register and verify their identity was beneficial where completing their mortgage online was concerned. Feedback stated that the additional step seemed logical and that it seemed right for such an important transaction to have extra stages to ensure security. In order to meet the requirements to use Verify, the Registry are also working with the Government Digital Service (GDS).

The systems basic features are close to being complete which means that the Registry are almost able to receive their first digital mortgage deed for registration. At this stage, the need to sign a paper mortgage will disappear, as instead the process will be completed online.

The service is not currently accessible to all potential users and remains in its private beta stage for the time being. This enables testing of the system to continue and gather more feedback before it is officially accessible to more users. The Registry intend to use this time to further improve the service, adding more features and streamlining the overall system in preparation for when the digital mortgages begin to be received for registration.

Commenting on the current stage of the service was Eddie Davies from Land Registry. The Digital Services Manager highlighted the importance of consumer feedback and utilising it to improve the borrower’s experience.

“There is now a basic fully working end-to-end service in place. We are continuing to test this with our pilot Customers and Borrowers who have agreed to be part of the trial.

“This is enabling us to get valuable feedback about the whole process from a borrower’s point of view.

“Before we can start using the service to produce legal deeds, there is still some work to be done to integrate with GOV.UK Verify.

“In the meantime, we are enhancing the borrower’s experience of using the service based upon the feedback we have been getting.”

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