Blockchain: What is it and why should I care?

Let me start out by saying that I am not an expert at this stuff. I am not sure I even understand it. But it’s important because some people think that Blockchain technology can be used to take humans out of some of the aspects of the closing process, in particular, the title abstracting and examination services. That’s an enormously big deal. So. . .we need to try to comprehend it and understand the threat it represents.

Most of the content that I have used for this article comes from a presentation created by one of our Underwriters. We have attached it for your own review and consideration. (Click HERE for the link to that presentation.) A Blockchain is “a data structure that creates a digital ledger of data and distributes it among a network of independent parties.” Here’s an even more technical definition:

Blockchain: A shared ledger where transactions are permanently recorded by appending blocks. The blockchain serves as a historical record of all transactions that ever occurred, from the genesis block to the latest block, hence the name blockchain. 

If I were to put this in normal English, I would define a blockchain as a record or block of data pertaining to a particular topic or subject that is shared among a particular group of people.

The utility of Blockchain is that it creates packets (or blocks) of data that cannot be changed. The reason is that whenever the data is created and included in the Blockchain it has to be approved by all of the participants in the Chain. Once all of the participants in the Chain approve the Block it cannot be changed. So, it is a great way to share information or data with others without fear of it being changed. There are some industries where this application makes a lot of sense and can provide great utility, for example: maintaining voting tabulations, storing and sharing medical records, maintaining a registry of patents or artistic copyrights and a whole host of banking applications.

Some believe that this technology can be applied to a title abstract. Imagine the block as all of the instruments of record that impact a particular piece of property. That packet of data would include the deeds in the chain-of-title, tax records, easements and other exceptions that impact the property. Instead of performing a title search, the “block” is transferred from the owner to the next buyer in the chain. In theory, the block is incapable of being altered or subjected to fraud and the process would be simpler, more efficient and, consequently, cheaper. In theory, by consolidating all of the data related to a property in a single block, the necessity for a title search would be virtually eliminated.  

Looking into the future (your guess is as good as mine about how far in to the future we are talking about) Blockchain technology can be used to create a block that is a virtual representation of a piece of real property. The act of conveyance and the act of providing notice can be accomplished by hitting <send> on a computer. The Blockchain would be a completely trustworthy system incapable of being subjected to fraud. Bitcoin or some other crypto-currency could be used to pay for the property and attendent services related to the transfer. Funding of the new mortgage, recordation of the new lien, payment of the old lien, discharge of the old lien, the transfer of the title, the payment for the property, the transfer of the title, the recordation of the new Deed and the payment of the taxes would all happen instantly. (WOW!)

In theory this sounds interesting. . .let me say that again IN THEORY. There are a couple major obstacles that prevent this from happening. First, we would need to overhaul the entire Government apparatus. A Registry consisting of Blockchain would look nothing like our current Registry. There are a few countries currently developing this technology, but in the majority of instances, they are using this new technology to create a new system where one is lacking. NOT REPLACING THEIR CURRENT SYSTEM. Second, unlike voting tabulations or a Registry that holds patents, records related to real estate often times need to be interpreted by a professional. One has to examine a Will to see what it says in order to determine its legal implications. One has to look at an easement to see how it impacts the underlying real estate. The necessity of a person with legal knowledge and experience to examine the documents in the “block” cannot be undermined by this potential new system. In my humble opinion, the necessity for a legal profession is not going away.

This stuff sounds, well, let’s be honest. . .scary. It sure seems like if the closing process is automated, we are all going to be looking for new jobs. I do think that there are elements of the Blockchain technology that can be applied to real estate transactions, but a complete overhaul of the system seems extraordinarily unlikely. Government recordation systems would have to be completely overhauled and that is unlikely to happen quickly, if at all. There has to be a system that allows members of the public to be afforded notice and Blockchain does not work as well within a public system. Lastly, unlike simple data storage systems, records related to real estate need a professional and experienced set of eyes to review and interpret the documents within the block to determine their legal significance. They are not getting rid of us yet.



Kristen Moorefield
Underwriting Team

  1. What is your favorite family tradition.

I have such a large family that it’s hard to get us all together. One thing that was fun growing up, that we still do, is celebrating St. Nicolas day (December 6th). We would also have big family lunches that always had to include soup.  

  1. What was the last movie you saw in the theater?

Avengers: Infinity War 

  1. Who is your favorite band/type of music?

I love all kinds of music. The only type of music I don’t like are the heavier metal bands. 

  1. What is the one food you could never give up and why?

That’s hard to pick, I love food and trying new types of food! Probably avocado, sweet potatoes or cherries. I love avocado on almost anything! Sweet potatoes and cherries are foods that reminds me of fun summers with my sisters. 

  1. What show have you seen on NetFlix or Amazon Prime recently that you would recommend?

I love Doctor Who, which is on Amazon Prime! My husband and I just started to watch Travelers on Netflix and we are enjoying it so far. I really will watch at least the first episode of any Sci-Fi show.

Newborn Announcement!

Tara Cuffney of Costner Law office gave birth to Robert Brady Cuffney on 11/14/17. We love seeing this little guy sporting the Barristers Title ‘I drink until I pass out!’ baby onesie! Congrats to the entire Cuffney family on their beautiful baby boy.






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