South Australia hopes to facilitate property sales and achieve a major reduction in paperwork by allowing transactions to be performed electronically.

The state government has announced that it will remove the requirement that all stages of a land deal obtain approval on paper, as currently outlined in the Electronic Transactions Act.

The move will make South Australia the first state in Australia to allow parties to property deals to conduct them solely via electronic means, thus serving as a testing ground for the new system which will be closely watched by members of industry throughout the rest of the country.

According to Greg Troughton of South Australia’s Real Estate Institute, purely electronic transactions can commence just about immediately, as a new computer system for obtaining approvals has already been assembled by a local IT firm.

The move is expected to make property transactions far more convenient for both buyers and sellers in the state by dramatically reducing the amount of paperwork needed to bring deals to completion. Members of industry estimate that each home sale in South Australia eats up as much paper as a medium-sized novel, requiring around 200 sheets in total.

Given that over 20,000 homes are sold in South Australia per annum, the amount of paper work that could potentially be saved each year by the state government’s decision is at the very least equivalent to the stock in a modest-sized bookstore.

According to real estate agents, the new system will also reduce the amount of time to complete transactions from several days to just half an hour, with all interactions conducted via email prior to the parties signing off on deals.

Attorney General John Rau hailed the decision as finally bringing real estate transactions up to speed with advances in technology. He promised further regulatory changes in future to enable people in industry to use iPads and other electronic devices to conduct deals.

Rau said security and privacy concern could also easily be resolved, pointing to the example of internet banking and its ubiquity in modern economic life.