Cheque-ing in on the state of paper property transactions

Cheque-ing in on the state of paper property transactions
Cheque-ing in on the state of paper property transactions

Cheques are so yesterday, and even the hallowed institution, the Reserve Bank of Australia has acknowledged their coming demise.

Paper cheques could perhaps even soon warrant a historical feature alongside the shillings, pence and pounds currency display at the RBA's Martin Place headquarters.

In 1980 cheques made up 85% of all non-cash payments.

Fast-forward to 2016, cheques made up about 1% of the number of non-cash payments, and about 7% of the value of such payments, said the RBA bulletin.

Cheques have long been integral in buying property - both the deposit at the weekend auction, plus the full amount on settlement.

Last year financial institution cheques made up only 9% of the number of cheques written, but accounted for over half of the value of cheques given pricey property acquisitions and related transactions such as the payment of stamp duty. 

The bank produced a chart which shows the issuance of cheques closely correlated with property market transactions. 

These financial institution cheques are also often used for the private sales of cars and are also still used widely for rental bonds. 

Recently, Macquarie Bank announced it was testing a DEFT Auction Pay system that allows buyers to pay their deposit electronically.

The new system allows buyers to do away with the chequebook at auctions when paying a deposit.

Electronic conveyancing is coming too.

The number of settlements transacted is still moderate in the paperless conveyancing scheme, and much relates to refinancing rather than property sales.

The paperless push is lead by GlobalX CEO Peter Maloney who recently noted almost $40 billion worth of property transactions have gone through the platform.

There were around 20,000 PEXA-related property settlements, including refinancing, in the March quarter 2017, some three years into the scheme, Reserve Bank data shows.

This compares with about 120,000 sales transactions in the national housing market in the same period.

The New South Wales government has a commitment to a complete digital property exchange by July 2019, though lawyers and conveyancers are proving to be the biggest roadblock, a recent survey by legal search provider InfoTrack found.

“The results are disappointing and clearly demonstrate that lawyers in the real estate sector must overcome their long-held resistance to new technologies,” says InfoTrack chief executive John Ahern.

The traditional paper-based systems are set to be replaced by the PEXA electronic conveyancing system – currently the only e-conveyancing system available for use in Australia - which appears to has to date failed to attract significant industry support due to concerns over its security, cost and efficiency.

There ought be enormous time and cost efficiencies in moving to digital platforms, however currently entrenched 19th century thinking is costing consumers. 

The NSW Legislative Impact Study indicated that a 13-year uptake period was expected.

This article first appeared in The Daily Telegraph.

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Conveyancing Cheque

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