The economic potential of property data

Search AcumenAndrew Lloyd, Managing Director, Search Acumen

We spend a lot of time espousing the benefits of open property data in terms of how it can help conveyancers and their clients in the property transaction chain. But the opening up of the government’s big land and property data sets, we will be able to do much more. We foresee a digitised property industry being able to boost the wider economy significantly in the 21st century.

A great example is the recent announcement by the government which estimated the opening of the Ordnance Survey (OS) Mastermap data will boost the economy by £130m. This data provides highly detailed geospatial and topographic insight of the British Isles, from building heights to water networks.

The government says it will be using the new open OS Mastermap data sets to help develop emerging technologies to be able to live and breathe in the real world. This is hugely exciting. You can already foresee a future of drones making smart assessments of the land beneath them, or of automated electric delivery vehicles silently and safely moving across the country, 24 hours a day.

But how much will the opening of other property data sets, such as HM Land Registry’s (HMLR) Corporate and Commercial Ownership data (CCOD) boost the economy? What innovations can we envisage with the digitisation of property data?

The key to foreseeing the future is to think beyond the limits how we do business today. For example, there’s no reason that the growing expanse of HMLR property data sets cannot be cross-referenced alongside house price data sets, employment data sets, school information and data on retail and infrastructure. Taken together, a smart system could allow for a better assessment of the optimal places to build new homes, offices, schools, hospitals and infrastructure projects. By leaning on data to make planning decisions, it could save billions of pounds in efficiencies.

Imagine a world where you can buy one of these efficiently-placed homes – and move in – within a matter of days, if not hours? With the right data managed using cloud-based distributed ledger technology, homebuyers could find a property and begin the buying process with a single click. Online estate agents, automated conveyancing and digital mortgages could allow for a near instant purchase – saving each of the nearly 400,000[1] annual UK home movers thousands of pounds and hours, not to mention untold stress as chains no longer creep forward at a glacial pace.

We can take this further. Once we have a full picture of England and Wales’ land ownership alongside the OS datasets, coupled with data detailing environmental risk such as flooding and subsidence, it’s easy to see a future where property should be built almost automatically. Sounds fanciful? It’s not sci-fi. Property developers could soon identify available and viable land immediately, and by using blockchain technology, they could gain permissions and purchase plots at the click of a button. Furthermore, developers could dispatch industrial-scale 3D printers to the sites and fast-track homes could begin to be constructed in days.

No waiting, no red tape, no wasted opportunities, and much lower costs. Why should building homes take months or even years? We have the technology to expedite – and greatly reduce the cost – of the house planning and building process.

Our industry has perhaps only recently got out of the blocks in the wider race towards a truly digital economy. But we have to let go of perceived notions if we are to revolutionise how we plan, build and buy and sell property. Just because it takes months and costs huge amounts today doesn’t mean it has to tomorrow.

Those who are ready to jump aboard and help facilitate the future now will be in the driving seat when we get there.


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