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Paperless Property Transactions In The Future

Singapore's Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) has launched a public consultation on its review of the nation's Electronic Transactions Act (ETA). The planned changes would affirm that new technologies such as blockchain and biometrics are covered by the act and let the IMDA update compliance standards for third-party certification authorities that issue digital credentials for electronic signatures.

The proposed changes would affect the real estate industry by putting an end to “paperwork” for property transactions as the entire process could go fully digital.  Currently, seven in 10 property transactions in Singapore are handled using hard-copy documents. 

Mr S. Iswaran, Minister for Communications and Information, noted that business have been tapping on technology to digitalise, and changing how they interact with consumers.

Under the current ETA, documents such as wills, trusts, powers of attorney and contracts for immovable property must be prepared in hard-copy format. The IMDA has suggested that property transactions be removed from the ETA’s exclusion list, together with bills of lading in the trade sector as well as lasting power of attorney applications for mental incapacity. Secure electronic signatures will still be required.

Speaking at the launch of the Innovest Unbound event at Marina Bay Sands, Mr Iswaran shared that the plan is also to have a legal framework to support electronic transferable records that are operating within a global trade framework. Doing so will help to revolutionise sectors that are traditionally paperwork-reliant such as shipping by cutting the cost of printing and moving hundreds of pages in paper. Besides facilitating electronic transactions, the proposed changes would also foster a more trusted environment where businesses and consumers can transact electronically with peace of mind.

On a related note, technology providers can soon propose ideas for the Smart Estate initiative, which aims to upgrade the build environment while helping businesses such as digital solution firms grow in Singapore and the region.

The IMDA had put aside $14 million to support smart estate efforts for three years starting from end 2018. The agency has awarded some $1.5 million for eight project proposals, under an industry tech call for innovative solutions at some business parks run by Ascendas-Singbridge and JTC Corp.

This scheme will eventually include mixed-use properties and residential properties. Trial sites include Frasers Property’s Alexandra Technopark, Oasis Terraces in Punggol and the Housing Development Board's Centre of Building Research located in Woodlands.