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Government looks to digital to cure housing woes

24/10/17

Communities secretary asks for ideas on accelerating development of e-conveyancing

A decade after Land Registry abandoned its attempt to put the conveyancing process in England and Wales online, the Government is calling for views on what it should do to accelerate the process.

Building under constructionIts new initiative to to improve the home buying and selling process - itself part of the plans to tackle the housing crisis, includes 'harnessing digital technology' as one of its major themes.

Introducing a Department of Communities and Local Government call for evidence to the consultation on the plans, Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid has stated that the Government is “not looking to rip up the existing system and start again”.

However “we are on the cusp of a digital revolution which will allow us to replace the current largely paper based approach to buying and selling. People assure us that in 25 years time it will all be very different. But we don’t want to wait 25 years for change - now is the time to have a grown-up conversation about the changes we need, and how to make them happen.”

Public sector datasets 

Apart from seeking views on what the government should do to accelerate the development of e-conveyancing, the call for evidence asks:

  • How would a predominantly digital conveyancing process affect home buyers and sellers?
  • Are there any particular public sector datasets which should be released as open data in order to drive innovation in the home buying and selling process?
  • How could other parts of the home buying and selling process be improved through better use of digital technology?

The document states: “To provide a firm foundation for a digital revolution in conveyancing, the Government will continue to work with HM Land Registry to explore how data on property, such as leases, restrictions, covenants and easements, can be made available more easily. The Government believes that this will improve the transparency of the purchase process and allow the private sector to create innovative ways to use this information.” There is no mention of the proposal floated in the last Conservative election manifesto to create a cadastral agency by combining Land Registry, Ordnance Survey and the Valuation Office Agency. 

Earlier plan shelved

Land Registry's last attempt to set up an online conveyancing process, including a “chain matrix” enabling parties to view every stage of a home buying chain, was shelved in 2007.

Since then several commercial ventures have begun to offer streamlined electronic processes. Earlier this month the website Clicktopurchase.com claimed a UK first by revealing that it had enabled a Swansea dentist to buy a £700,000 commercial property in Trowbridge in an online deal secured by blockchain digital encryption.

Image by David Holt, CC BY 2.0 through flickr

 

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