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New technology put to the test in county offices

Digital recording could drastically cut paper needs

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Two county recorder offices in Utah are slated to be among five counties across the country participating in a test run of new technology that could someday save thousands of trees.

The technology is called digital recording, which involves the ability of computers to fully compile records of land transactions when people refinance home loans.

Instead of reams of paper landing at the recorder's office and the title company, everything is computerized.

"It is very fast and it is very accurate," Salt Lake County Recorder Gary Ott said. "And the only tree killed would be the individual homeowner's who would get a paper copy."

Set to happen in the next two weeks, Salt Lake County, Utah County, Orange County, Calif., Maricopa County, Ariz., and Broward County, Fla., are scheduled to participate on the same day in a refinancing transaction coordinated by the country's largest mortgage lender on secondary loans.

"This is the latest rage right now in recording across the country," Ott said. "These are home transactions done completely over the Internet. This not like buying books at Amazon."

The hope is that someday, all land transactions and the associated documents will be fully computerized, allowing nearly instantaneous recording at county agencies across the country.

Although Salt Lake County has had the technology in place for a little more than a year, Ott said the major hurdle has been getting all the systems talking to one another.

It's also significant having a company like Countrywide Homes coming on board.

"This is not about the first digital document," Ott said. "This is about the big players coming in and making this national. This is the key that will make it OK for everyone else."

Utah County Recorder Randy Covington said his office first tried a digital recording two years ago.

"Back then, it was all in theory. Now we have the experience."

Ott and Covington said the benefits of this technology are potentially huge.

"We use over a million sheets of paper a year in this office," Ott said. "These transactions will cut way back on that. We have runners from the title company here all the time, and it will mean with every one of those trips we don't have, that is saving space on the roads. We'll be able to do more work with less employees."

Covington said the technology will allow automated indexing of records, which will save hundreds of hours in labor.

"One of the things it will do is cut out a lot of errors in the recording and indexing process because it is automated. It will allow records to be available to people much quicker."

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com