Will Buying and Selling a House Become Entirely Paperless?

14 September 2018

From whatever side of the transaction you’re on, the house selling process is hardly ever plain sailing.

After all the deeds, legal transfer forms, mortgage contracts, searches and leases – coming out of the process with your sanity intact is a minor miracle!

Yet, although the property industry has been slow to innovate and embrace tech, there are signs that things are moving in the right direction…

From Analogue to Digital…

You may have heard of the concept of “e-conveyancing”, which basically refers to digitising the legal process involved with property transactions. Think of it as a form of email for buying and selling homes.

But it’s not as easy as it sounds. Data on property ownership is still in the dark ages and shifting everything over to the digital world is not a simple copy and paste job…

Fortunately, the Land Registry (the official record of all property and land in England and Wales) has been looking at ways to tackle this mammoth task.

The Land Registry’s Digital Street

Launching Digital Street in 2017, the first step was to consult with solicitors, mortgage companies, estate agents and brokers to understand what the main paint points were. These responses fed into a number of pilot projects, two of the first ones being:

“Property Assistant” – a central database that holds relevant property information online. This means that buyers can interact with search and chatbot technology to find out what they need. They’ll also be alerted of any legal issues – all for free.

“Instant Mortgages” – the Land Registry partnered with the Coventry Building society and Enact to execute the first ever digital remortgage. The plan is to move into the mortgage space soon. This has nicely aligned with the growth of online brokers like Trussel and Habito, services aimed at getting rid of the headaches homebuyers often face.

See our interview with Lauren Tombs, Senior Product Manager at Digital Street for more details about the Land Registry’s plans.

Blockchain and Smart Contracts – Cutting Out the “Middleman”

The Land Registry is also embracing the concept of blockchain.

This underlying technology behind bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies may lead you to run to the hills. But a closer look reveals that it has huge potential to make buying and selling a house faster and cheaper.

In its simplest form, imagine a “block” of information that contains all you need to know about a property – so all the previous sales history, survey results, legal problems from the past and practically anything else you can think of.

So instead of sending reams of paperwork a solicitor to check with a fine-tooth comb confirm, a network of super computers would do the job. Before buying a house, you can see everything you need to know in plain English.

Then, as things are more transparent, the house sale process potentially becomes much faster. The theory goes that it can be done in milliseconds!

Where Next?

It’s hard to know what’s going to happen next. Things are constantly changing and what might seem to work well today may not be the case tomorrow.

Throw in issues surrounding protection against cybercrime plus the fact that we have one of the oldest land registers in the world and the task at hand is a mammoth one.

But, even if you’re a bit of a technophobe, it’s hard not to see the benefits that are eventually coming our way. The future of buying and selling houses is looking bright, and hopefully less stressful!

Ruban Selvanayagam and James Durr are co-founders of the hybrid estate agency Property Solvers that offers quick cash house sales and express estate agency services across the UK.

This content has been provided to us by the writer. Whilst believed to be factually correct, we cannot accept responsibility for content contained within it.

Jonathan Rolande

Jonathan Rolande (MNAEA MICBA MARLA) began in the property business in the late 1980’s and is a Director of House Buy Fast and helped to found The National Association of Property Buyers in 2013. He has worked closely with The Property Ombudsman to develop a Code of Practice for Residential Property Buying Companies.