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Category: government and politics

Positive news for property investors, as industry leader’s call for the UK to adopt Norway’s digitised property transaction process, to revolutionise the speed of buying and selling property and eliminate chains.

MP Baroness Penn, under-secretary of State in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) spoke at the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) annual conference. She called for the UK to copy countries like Norway, who have gone the furthest in ‘digitising’ the transfer of property, to achieve radical improvement in our own processes.

Baroness Penn believes that the UK’s market could be vastly improved by following suit, telling attendees:

[Norway] have already demonstrated how digitalisation can foster a simpler, more transparent processes for consumers without imposing significant additional costs.

[…] We recognise that parts of the transformation need to be driven by government but there is a huge amount that can and is being driven forward by industry… With conveyancing at the heart of home buying and selling and conveyancers being one of the most qualified and regulated actors in the system, your profession will have a central role in realising this shared aim.

We’ve seen an openness to change in recent years but, as with other aspects of the home buying and selling process, there’s still so much more scope for innovation to come… We need more people to become involved and we need innovations and improvements to be made at a greater pace.

However, Penn is not the only one calling for digitalisation of the property transaction process.

HM Land Registry supports fast-tracked property sales

Mike Harlow, deputy chief executive of customer and strategy at HM Land Registry, also told those attending that from start to finish, the process of transferring property in Norway takes an average of 47 days. He also said that there are no property chains in Norway either, due to the speed of purchasing property in Norway.

Mr Harlow also pointed out that when Norway designed the digital system they use, it was a collaboration between all professionals within the market (i.e. lenders, insurers, lawyers, conveyancers, etc.), saying:

Imagine if everybody who was a party to the transaction, or representing them, had a single shared view of what the property is, who the parties are, the terms of the deal and the progress of the deal.

So what’s being done to speed up the process?

HM Land Registry is partnering with industry by creating a group called the Digital Property Market Steering Group (DPMSG), which aims to achieve a UK digitalised property transfer process through collaborations across businesses.

The DPMSG is set to publish a report in May that includes “actionable recommendations”, “a business model”, and “methods to drive adoption”, and in July deliver a “self-sustaining open protocol”. Included will be a recommendation on how to “remove paper-based processes and see general and rapid adoption of digital ID and secure e-signatures”.

Kate Faulkner is the chair of the cross-industry Home Buying and Selling Group, a campaign group of property professionals, aimed at improving the property transfer process.

She supports the DPMSG’s efforts to design a digital system through collaboration across sectors.

Over the last few years, all those involved in the home buying and selling process from trade bodies to professional organisations, regulators, redress schemes and practitioners… have worked tirelessly to agree on how to change the process now and in the future.

However, without the support of government, working together with industry to lay key foundations to digitise the buying and selling process, we just couldn’t make the enormous changes required.

It is clear that those within the UK property industry believe it is vital to improve the property buying and selling process, and so perhaps inspiration can be drawn from the Norwegian model, that demonstrates the efficiency of digitalisation.

By embracing tech and fostering industry-wide collaboration, the UK could revolutionise its property market. However, the industry has to hope that significant learnings are taken from similar but troubled digitalisation efforts, such as the roll out of the Making Tax Digital scheme, to ensure the outcome is indeed triumphant.