For a while now, the government has talked a lot about speeding up the house buying process to benefit both buyers and sellers.
And HM Land Registry – the non-ministerial government department first formed in 1862 – has been leading the way with its ambitious digital programme.
Previously we analysed the Registry’s planned five year digital strategy, with proposals to automate and digitise approximately 95% of its daily transactions by 2022, a rise from the 81% recorded in 2016.
The goal, ultimately, is to make conveyancing documents fully digitised with e-signatures, with other tech-led processes embraced to make home buying faster, slicker and cheaper.
In April 2018, there was a landmark moment when the first ever digital mortgage deed was entered into the Land Register, while in July last year the Registry launched its new digital Local Land Charges Register to further improve the speed and efficiency of the home-buying process.
Now it’s set to go even further by using blockchain in a bid to make the journey of buying a home quicker than ever.
John Abbott, the Registry’s director of digital, data and technology, recently told the Estates Gazette ‘TechTalk Radio’ podcast that the organisation is working closely with industry partners to maximise the value of its data and take advantage of future technologies like blockchain.
There has been a big buzz surrounding blockchain in recent years, but what exactly is it? The technology that enables bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to function, blockchain is an open, digital and distributed ledger which records transactions between two parties in an 'efficient, permanent and verifiable way’.
It has already been used to purchase properties in Manchester and Oxford and is expected to play an increasingly important role in the housing market in the years to come.
The possible use of blockchain is part of the Registry’s five year digitisation programme and its Digital Street project – a research and development project (now in its second year) designed to make buying and selling property simpler, quicker and cheaper through technology.
The project is exploring how blockchain and smart contracts could be utilised to bring greater transparency and fluidity to house buying. It has already created a digital register for a small selection of properties, a first step towards establishing a register that is able to be updated instantly as well as being fully machine-readable.
“All of our work, from exploring the potential of blockchain to investigating how to make the most of our datasets, is conducted in collaboration with people from across the property market – we want to make sure that HM Land Registry works for everyone,” Abbott said.
More about the Registry’s exploration of blockchain and its potential benefits can be found here.
While the vast majority of mortgages are still signed in the old-fashioned way – using a pen and paper – there are signs that this, and the conveyancing process as a whole, could be about to undergo a digital revolution.
The impressive, ambitious work being carried out by Land Registry – which is seeking to use new technology and digital platforms to speed up the house-buying process – is perhaps the clearest sign that the winds are changing.
Although agency itself still relies heavily on customer service and face-to-face interaction, the nuts and bolts of a transaction could surely benefit from adopting a more 21st century approach, utilising the technology on offer to prevent frustrating delays and complications.
The Registry’s approach is clearly to automate and digitise as much of its work as possible, and this should encourage others in the industry to follow suit. It’s certainly not inconceivable that at some time in the not too distant future the property market could become paperless, while digital mortgage deeds could become the norm rather than something exceptional.
As an agent, these exciting developments and experimentations with future technologies such as blockchain should be something to be embraced rather than feared. After all, anything that can improve the speed of the house buying process will only make your job easier and leave you with many more satisfied customers.
With this in mind, you need to ensure your business is up to speed with a highly digital, tech-savvy world.
By having all the right processes in place, and a glossy, interactive website which stands out from the crowd, you can focus more of your time on growing your business, working closely with clients and winning new instructions.
All-in-one, cloud-based property software can enable you to achieve exactly that – allowing you to manage all aspects of your agency business from anywhere in the world, at the click of a button. You can keep on top of your diary, valuations, marketing strategies, office and staff, as well as getting a complete overview of your business anytime you need it.
At Gnomen, our software packages provide your business with all of this. What’s more, you’ll always know your bottom line thanks to our full office accounting system.
In this information age, communication is also more vital than ever before. That’s where features such as customer portals are worth their weight in gold. Sellers are able to track the progress of their property in real time, seeing when, for example, a buyer has instructed a solicitor, applied for their mortgage and paid their survey fee. Live offers can also be made through the portal, giving sellers the ability to respond to buyers in double quick time.
It’s important to remember that the goal of all this isn’t to completely automate everything or replace humans – it’s merely using the tech we have at our disposal to improve and enhance the processes that are already in place. It’s all about evolution, not revolution.
But to ensure your agency isn’t left behind by the competition, you need to take a leaf out of Land Registry’s book and embrace tech and digital processes where they prove extremely helpful.
Highly responsive property software and a slick, user-friendly website should be the backbone of your digital activities.
To discover how Gnomen can help with getting these elements right, please call 0208 123 9019 or book a free demo here.