By using this website, you agree to our use of cookies to enhance your experience.


Time to stop wading through treacle: General Election must prioritise property digitisation drive

The 2023 Autumn Budget, amongst its considerable 110 growth measures, contained an important announcement for the property sphere, with £3 million pledged to “improve the home buying and selling process, including pilots to develop property tech products and to digitise local council property data.” However, with hundreds of thousands of hopeful prospective property buyers still facing six-month-plus waits to complete transactions, I’m not convinced this is anywhere near the scale of investment or action needed if we’re serious about meaningful reform.

It’s tempting to see any funding news as a positive in the current climate, but proptech professionals could be forgiven for feeling short-changed by the award of £3 million to support the sector’s development. We’re way past the time when ideas were enough, and we must hope the Autumn Statement was the warm-up act for more substantial proposals in the 2024 Election Manifestos. Historically, the sector has lagged behind others, and it is high time we saw this change.

The statement comes more than six years after the Government’s Housing White Paper, ‘Fixing Our Broken Housing Market’, set out a host of ambitions relating to digitising the UK property market, including making HM Land Registry “the world’s leading Land Registry for speed, simplicity and an open approach to data”. It is fair to say that since this time, we have not seen the industry improve in the leaps and bounds we’d all like it to.

Given this, few would argue against the government’s emphasis on digital development and data-driven decision-making to improve the dysfunctional home buying and selling process. Yet what’s missing, I would say, is the mass momentum required to accelerate progress beyond the current status quo of snail’s pace. The heavy lifting of digital transformation in the sector has so far been done by many innovative private companies such as Search Acumen, continuing to work hard to bring it into the 21st Century. But without significant public sector investment, change will be stifled. While £3 million might make a difference to a handful of initiatives, it’s wildly out of proportion with market needs and amounts to just 0.0002% of the £15bn of tax receipts generated by stamp duty in the last financial year.

I believe more radical, transformative action is required – and investment opportunities exist. A £5 innovation levy on every property transaction could deliver more than £5 million every year to accelerate progress, while putting 1p in every £1 of stamp duty receipts behind the digitisation drive would deliver fifty times as much funding as the Chancellor announced last month.

It is staggering that a six-month-plus wait time to complete a transaction is an acceptable state of affairs in this day and age, when the technology is already available to change the current system. There’s no reason why hundreds of thousands of buyers every year should have to feel like they’re wading through treacle just to buy a property, especially at a time when the market is experiencing headwinds as is.

Another factor dragging the industry back is the revolving door of housing ministers that have come and gone in recent times. Changing almost as rapidly as some properties exchange hands, the unprecedented leadership churn is hampering progress.

The message is clear: policymakers must grasp the next General Election with party manifestos that move beyond token gestures and accelerate the development of a property market that is digital by default. Proptech innovation can transform dysfunctional processes and unlock new levels of speed, certainty, and efficiency, delivering revenue drivers faster. But only with the resources and relentless drive to match the scale of the prize will this be possible.


Please login to comment

MovePal MovePal MovePal