Teranet to expand functionality for real estate lawyers

Ontario’s electronic land registry service is branching out by piloting an application that could allow real estate lawyers to complete the last steps of a sale online.

Teranet on Thursday said beta testing for its Closure service began in March with a group of law firms in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. While Teranet’s TeraView software allows users to look up land registry information, Closure is designed to streamline processes that go through online banking systems. The application will use The Canadian Payments Association’s Large Value Transfer System (LVTS), which guarantees transactions through the Bank of Canada. Scotiabank is among the primary partners working with Teranet on Closure, though TD Canada Trust and Royal Bank are also involved in the pilot.

“We had created an electronic service for the overall real estate market, but there was still a piece at the end where lawyers were running around with certified cheques and paying out mortgage companies and utilities,” Teranet spokeswoman Bonnie Foster said. “There’s a fair bit of that transaction that requires manual (work).”

The creation of Closure demanded that Teranet write new software for the service, Foster said, though it will be hosted at one of its two existing data centres. Early adopters of Closure will also use the Teranet personal security service, a two-factor authentication offering that involves purchasing a licence.

“This will be something where you can register the documents, close the deal, and now you can sit in your office and the transfer the money around,” Foster said.

Rose Bahrami, a real estate lawyer with Toronto-based Heydary Hamilton PC, is not among those taking part in the Closure pilot program, but she said a service like it could prove useful.

“There are a lot of administrative aspects involved – there’s the paperwork, getting different things organized and faxing one thing to this person and one thing to that person as opposed to doing it all online,” she said. “With real estate files, there can be a lot of documentation.”

Teranet’s Closure service could also ensure all the necessary information is in one place, Bahrami added, rather than trying to complete a sale and discovering crucial information is missing.

Foster said the early beta tests of Closure started with eight firms and moved up to 11. There is no specific end date for the pilot so far, she said.

“(We’ll do it) as long as it takes for us to determine that we’ve got things right,” she said. “This is an extension, another learning curve.”

Teranet has been the subject of merger speculation for some time with a number of suitors, but more recently it has been focused on demonstrating the stability of its operation. Last month, for example, it extended an agreement with the Municipal Property and Assessment Corporation to 2017.

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