Digital technology has been revolutionising the work of notaries for more than 20 years. The digital transformation of notaries has become a major challenge for the sector, assuming an increasingly important place in the daily work of professionals. This transformation comes with many advantages, providing solutions to a number of the obstacles that notaries encounter in their work. Let’s find out about the key challenges of digitalisation for notaries and the benefits of the resulting innovations.
Digitalisation at notary offices: Where are we now?
Digital notary offices are already a reality in France with the passing of Law of 13 March 2000, which permitted authenticated deeds to be signed electronically. According to Affiches Parisiennes, the Chamber of Notaries of Paris has even set up a four million–euro investment fund dedicated to large-scale investment in the digital transformation of notaries. For example, it has invested in the AVM (Automated Valuation Model) project, in collaboration with PriceHubble. This AVM makes it possible for BIEN real estate database clients to access highly accurate real estate valuations, all thanks to its powerful, innovative and secure algorithm.
Both the health situation and the COVID-19 crisis have piled further pressure on notaries to go digital. More than gaining a simple competitive advantage, this has become a question of survival. This is especially the case bearing in mind the freeze on notarial deeds following the first lockdown in France, which caused a notarial fees backlog of 400 million euros.
However, the digitalisation of notaries does not have support across the board. Although 84% of notaries believe that technology can improve office management, 72% feel threatened by these innovations, according to figures from Notariat2000.
Using digital technology in real estate matters: Why is it essential for notaries?
Digital technology can help you as notaries or notary clerks in your day-to-day matters. You can save time in your research, monitor individual real estate dossiers more easily, improve the management of your office and more.
Here are the latest digital advances in the sector:
- E-signatures: In 2007, the French notarial sector became the first in Europe to adopt a secure electronic signature, which can be attached to a document remotely.
- Electronically Authenticated Deeds (“AEE”): Since 2008, it has been possible in France to draw up notarial deeds and sign them electronically. These digital documents hold the same legal value as written documents, as per article 1366 of the French Civil Code.
- Remotely Electronically Authenticated Deeds (“AAED”): It is also possible to sign an authenticated deed electronically via a video conference, thereby cutting down on paper use and avoiding travel.
- Paperless documents: All of the required documents for a notarial deed can now be grouped together on the same online platform, and then easily viewed and exchanged among the parties involved. It is now much simpler to manage dossiers and exchange information. And we shouldn’t forget all of that extra space at your notary office! Electronically Authenticated Deeds means that all electronic documents are uploaded to MICEN, a common and secure server for paperless notarial documents.
- Remote procedure applications: There are online appointment–booking applications on platforms such as NeoNotario and NotaStart, while videoconferencing is another option for more seamless, remote interactions with your clients.
The challenges of digitalisation for real estate–related matters
In addition to the examples given above, real estate is one of the sectors where digitalisation makes a lot of sense for notaries. New technologies mean that notaries can respond to the countless needs and challenges in the field.
How can it be done? This is what we will see in the rest of this article.
As a notary, you naturally want to provide your expertise on real estate matters, whether it is through
- your expertise in valuing assets;
- your advice on assets (inheritance, transmission of assets);
- your legal advice;
- your advice on real estate law; or
- your real estate negotiation skills.
Yet if you want to provide a clear, convincing and well-presented valuation report, you need to put in the work. Not only do you need to collect all of the data and monitor the market effectively, you must also produce your own valuation assessment that aligns with your brand image. These are time-consuming tasks that call for attention to detail and thoroughness, with it also necessary to analyse comparable properties. Notary clerks will often perform these tasks and are required to provide a faultless valuation assessment. Collecting the data and producing this valuation assessment is repetitive and takes time.
French notaries rely on the BIEN and PERVAL databases, which notary offices update whenever a land transaction takes place. Notaries used to get privileged access to this transaction data, but this has changed with the DVF database’s release in open data via Decree No. 2018-1350 of 28 December 2018. With access to this data no longer restricted to notaries, anyone can now view transaction data.