House Buying: Injecting Innovation

6 December 2017

Government wants to inject innovation into the home buying process and to develop a programme of action to do so. It has a launched a Call for Evidence 'Improving the home buying and selling process' and invites responses not only from professionals in the sector but from home buyers too.

Home buyers will undoubtedly welcome this commitment – few would argue that the process could be more efficient and so less costly. And homebuyers are familiar with the real digital revolution that has taken place in the property search market; the benefits of transparency and immediate accessibility in searching for a new home using a smart phone are palpable.

But homebuyers and their professional advisers know, also, that existing levels of transparency in and accessibility to public datasets such as planning and highways can be frustrating. Government appears to recognise this – asking for views on how it can facilitate the release of government data to drive innovation in the process forward.

Land Registry title data, underpinned with a State guarantee, is arguably the most valuable and it is pleasing to see government support for Land Registry's newly launched Business Strategy and its vision 'to become the world's leading land registry for speed, simplicity and an open approach to data'. Significantly, Land Registry's Digital Street Project involves technology project strands which embrace every aspect of the property sector and the professionals and home buyers within it.

However, Government's Call for Evidence rightly acknowledges that an action programme  to improve the process must be multifaceted – examining not only the systems used but the current legal protocols and presumptions adopted in England and Wales  which contrast with those in play in Scotland, the USA and Denmark, for example. So, should reliance on  title insurance cover be expanded? Should Sellers warrant more information? Should a home buyer's offer be legally binding? Sajid Javid in his Ministerial Forward says: "We are not looking to rip up the existing system and start again. The current process has evolved over centuries and is shaped to the way in which we buy and sell. But that does not mean we shouldn't make common sense improvements or indeed look at more ambitious change where it is warranted."

Responses are requested by 17 December 2017.

Ref Improving the home buying and selling process: call for evidence

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