Electronic Recording of Real Estate Documents

The below is a cross-post of something I wrote about electronic recording of real estate documents on the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds blog, LowellDeeds. While electronic recording is used only by those in the real estate business, it represents an example of technology changing the way something has been done for a very long time so it might be of general interest to readers:

During the second quarter of 2012, the number of documents being recorded electronically at the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds has increased considerably. By way of background, Back in 2005 Middlesex North became the first registry of deeds in Massachusetts to offer full electronic recording services. Gradually, other registries have activated the service and so now, about half of the state’s 21 registries of deeds offer electronic recording.

With electronic recording, authorized customers scan the documents that are to be recorded and then upload the scanned images and data they enter about those images to a secure website. At the appropriate time, the authorized customer clicks the “send to the registry” button and at the registry, a notice appears on our computers that an inbound recording has arrived. We open the electronic package and review the submitted documents in the same way we do documents presented in person for recording (signed, notarized, land in this district, etc). If all is in order, we click the “record” button and in a second or two, the document is recorded in our records, an electronic copy of the recorded document plus a receipt bounces back tot he sender, and the fees are paid through an electronic transfer into our bank account. By my measurement, the amount of time spent processing an document submitted in the traditional way (by bringing it to the registry) requires 10 minutes of our time while processing an electronically submitted document takes only 1 minute. In that way, it is a substantial efficiency.

Most of our earliest electronic recording customers were large national institutions that were already using the service in other states. Over time, however, more and more local attorneys are using it. Electronic recording is a huge time saver for them, too. While the attorney or law office staff does have to scan the document and enter some data, neither the document or any person associated with it has to leave the office to go to the registry. Everything from execution to recording to disbursement of funds to filing away the paperwork can be done all at once.

Our volume of electronic recording relative to all documents recorded has steadily risen over time. By the end of 2011 and into the first quarter of 2012, at least 30% of our daily recordings were submitted electronically. For the three months covered by April, May and June of 2012, however, that number has risen to 35%. Our biggest day ever for electronic recording was on June 29, 2012 when out of a total of 793 documents recorded for the day, 373 were electronic, accounting for 47% of the total. Of the electronic recordings that day, 18 were deeds, 58 were mortgages, 31 were mortgage discharges, and 266 were other types of documents (and having helped record many of them that day, I can say most were assignments of mortgages).

As electronic recording rolls-out to the remaining registries of deeds in the state and as local real estate people, especially those working for municipalities like tax collectors, get more comfortable with the technology, I believe the volume will rise to close to 50% of all transactions.