Everything is going digital today. But one thing that is still behind the times to some degree is conveyancing, and particularly the business of registering sales and purchases with HM Land Registry.

Solicitors and conveyancers often get the blame for slow transactions, but that’s often unfair. HM Land Registry is a 160 year-old organisation. It simply wasn’t designed to handle large volumes of transactions quickly.

Yes, it is possible to conduct some aspects of a property transaction online and digitally. But there is currently no end-to-end digital system for making a sale or purchase.

However HM Land Registry, which covers land registration in England and Wales, has recently unveiled its Strategy 2022+ which aims to bring land registration into the 21st century. It’s a pretty complex document but we’ll try to explain some of the key points of it quickly and simply here.

The strategy is described as a ‘new vision for a world leading digital property market’. It has what are called five basic pillars:

Providing secure and efficient land registration

Key takeaways: HM Land Registry says it will improve its speed of service. It will introduce automation and digital services that integrate with conveyancing. Other plans cover resilience to fraud and cyber threats.

Enabling property to be bought and sold digitally

Key takeaways: HM Land Registry says it will co-operate with the property sector to work towards an entirely digital process for buying and selling. They will develop their services to be fully digital. Their services will be able to work in tandem with other digital services in the property market using common standards.

These plans include the use of digital ID and e-signatures.

Providing near real time property information

Key takeaways: More of the information held by HM Land Registry will be available, and available via digital systems. Customers will be able to see up to date information about a property in real time (or nearly real time).

Providing accessible digital register data

Key takeaways: HM Land Registry will make their data more ‘findable’, accessible, compatible with other data and reusable. They will support businesses who want to use their data to develop new property sector products and services.

Leading research and accelerating change with property market partners

Key takeaways: HM Land Registry will work in partnership with others in the property sector to build and design changes to the system. They will be open to exploring new technologies. In short, conveyancers and others in the property industry will be able to give their input on improving the system.

The first elements of the new strategy are forecast to be in place within three years.

The strategy is being supported by the Association of Independent Personal Search Agents, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, the Conveyancing Association, the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, the Council of Property Search Organisations, the Law Society, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Society of Licensed Conveyancers and UK Finance.

So what could this new digital strategy mean for buying and selling property?

It means that by the end of the decade the process of buying and selling property should in theory at least be smoother and should be quicker.

The new strategy should help make this possible insofar as the HM Land Registry part of the transaction is involved. It should help by making more information available upfront. It should make it possible to do more things online via digital systems everyone involved in a property transaction can use. And by automating some of the more straightforward property transactions at HM Land Registry.

Does it mean that within the next few years you’ll be able to buy and sell a house as quickly and easily as buying a washing machine or booking a holiday?

Almost certainly not. There will still be many more things that need to be done and checks that need to be made before a property sale can go through. But the process of buying and selling property should be improved. Potentially it could save time and reduce problems for conveyancers so could make the process cheaper. Buying and selling property should certainly look a lot different compared to what it does now.

If you are interested in reading the HM Land Registry Strategy 2022+ in full you can find it here.


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