As any first-year law student can tell you, real property law is one of the most antiquated areas in the U.S. legal system. Much of this law has been borrowed—in many instances with little change—from the common laws that our nation’s forebearers carried across the pond with them from Seventeenth Century England.
Our system for recording and transferring ownership interests in real property is similarly mired in paper-based formality and bureaucracy indicative of a bygone era. Each time a person seeks to acquire real property, that person must order a search of local government records to determine if there are competing interests in the property’s title history that could frustrate the acquirer’s full use and enjoyment of the property. This process is costly and time consuming because it requires a person to identify, locate, and review myriad records—a process that is also subject to human error.
Imagine a future, however, where each piece of real property is essentially “tattooed” with its own incorruptible, digital signature that stores the title history associated with that property. Instead of searching through county land records each time a property is conveyed, we could retrieve this information in real (or near real) time from a digital platform to determine if there is clear title. Even better, imagine if we could transfer title to the real property directly on this same digital platform, without needing to wrangle with paper documents and wet stamps and signatures.