From Legal Futures Associate Search Acumen.
“Earlier this month, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) outlined a set of bold new measures to professionalise the sector, drive up standards and bring an end to rogue actors in the property industry. This, alongside a number of recent initiatives including Land Registry’s Digital Street programme, all adds up to far more than just a spring clean-up of the homebuying experience. New and exciting potential is emerging from proptech initiatives that can move the idea of a new-look property buying experience from political theory to practical reality.
The case for change is driven by familiar frustrations both by professionals and customers. With over one million homes bought and sold in England and Wales each year, delays and unnecessary complications during the process can cause financial and emotional stress to customers. By leading to delayed decisions, this undoubtedly contributes to over one quarter of house sales falling through annually. At times, it can feel like a 21st century business working within 19th century constraints.
However, the future is bright as proptech innovation begins to sweep through the industry at an increasing rate of knots, and the government begins to place it as a firm priority when evaluating solutions to tackle the inefficiencies in our sector, setting up a working group to develop digital solutions to speed up the buying and selling process. Many of the changes outlined by MHCLG need smart, digital solutions that are already being developed. For example, big data will be essential in order for managing agents and freeholders to provide up-to-date lease information for a set fee and to an agreed timetable.
It has always been the ambition of early proptech innovators and evangelists like Search Acumen for digitisation to become the cornerstone of the UK property market, so it is hugely positive to see it cut through in national policy conversations.
To deliver on its vision, it is vital that government rides this growing wave of proptech ambition, action and innovation to make things easier, faster and more transparent for homebuyers and sellers. Land Registry has already fired the starting gun on the visionary project to centralise and digitise the Local Land Charges (LLC) register, and only this month the UK’s first digital mortgage deed was signed.
This vision for the industry of tomorrow is ambitious, and accessing local authority searches within 10 days won’t be possible overnight when this process can currently take more than 40 days. However, this is just one significant area where innovation can take us to an even better place. If 10 days is possible in the foreseeable future, why not 10 minutes or 10 seconds ultimately?
Helped along by the government and proptech firms at the cutting edge of the sector, advancing technology and the proliferation of data are constantly pushing back the boundaries of the possible. It’s now up to the public and private sectors to combine forces and deliver credible change with tangible benefits. Transparent referral fees are another welcome promise, and this means ensuring comprehensive disclosures that bring real clarity across the board – not just to conveyancer referrals.
Despite recent developments, from an end-user’s point of view, the property industry is still playing catch-up compared with many other aspects of daily life, which have been more quickly augmented and enhanced by technology. There is work to be done, but the good news is that with grassroots action aligning with government ambition, there is no going back on the commitment to offer homebuyers more.”