Upfront data: Is 2023 the year it lifts off?

A blog from Legal Futures Associate SearchFlow

Conveyancing: Parties can deal with issues earlier

Upfront data simply refers to the idea that having as much relevant information upfront helps a buyer make a better-informed decision on a property.

Whilst some of this information is already included in a property listing, such as an EPC, a lot of valuable information is not readily available. Details of alterations, disputes, ownership, boundaries, and much more would all be valuable to know about a property in advance of a purchase.

Let’s think for a moment about why this would be useful to the process. The idea of upfront data is nothing new. How many of you remember home information packs (HIPs)? The original idea, conceived in Labour’s manifesto back in 1997, proposed to address the problem of gazumping.

HIPs were officially launched in August 2007 and although the concept was a good one, the scheme was scrapped in May 2010 with the change of government.

Research at the time suggested that homebuyers were ‘very concerned’ about the reliability of the information they received from the sellers and baulked at the upfront costs.

Since house buying is based on the caveat emptor model, data from the seller risks being seen as compromised. So, why is upfront data back on the agenda now, and what will we need to change to make it more successful than HIPs?

Why is upfront data returning to the foreground?

The reason is rooted in the underlying facts. When we looked inside our own Landmark Information Group data spanning 20 years of England and Wales property sale and purchase information, we found something striking.

In 2007, the year that HIPs were introduced, the average time to complete on a home purchase was 83 days. Today, it takes 135 days on average from instruction to completion.

With longer transactions, it’s inevitable that the risk of them falling through is higher. Just look at the Home Buyer Bureau Q3 2022 data that showed the number of sales collapsing at a five-year high, up 19% on the previous quarter and 16% on the previous year.

To speed up transactions and reduce the number falling through, upfront data gives buyers and sellers the chance to deal with concerns and issues earlier and faster, without needing to wait and stumble upon them within the process.

How is the industry moving towards providing upfront data?

In December 2022, the Home Buying & Selling Group released the first public version of its new property data trust framework to allow the provision of upfront information in an “available and sharable” digital format.

The framework includes a recommended “free-to-use, open-source repository of technically standardised document templates to work towards a rich and complete collection of upfront data for customers, estate agents, and conveyancers”.

We believe this makes complete sense; the industry is founded on a large number of data suppliers and many documents that relate to a property which define the concerns one should have when buying it.

Landmark as a company has many different businesses that provide underlying platforms that span estate agency, conveyancing, geospatial, valuation and mortgage services.

As we standardise the documents and data we move around our business, and that of our customers, we agree that moving more useful data upfront will completely transform the time it takes and the experience of buying property while dealing with all the very real concerns that are bound to arise.

Could 2023 be the year upfront data lifts off?

The principle of upfront data is good if the data can be trusted. There will always be questions over who trusts what and why, over how much anything should cost, but markets are very good at working out what they like and what they should pay when presented with good new options.

Certainly, as a company, we are leading a number of changes to making trusted and more fulsome data available, and connecting everyone who needs it together. We are only here to really do one thing; we would like our clients’ customers to love buying and selling houses far more than they might have in the past.

Our managing director, Liz Jarvis, suspects that good suppliers of upfront data will do well, and buyers and sellers alike will increasingly vote with their feet, as they see better services based on upfront data.


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