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PropTech Today: Technology provides the key to better customer experience

At the recent Home Buying & Selling Group UFI Roadshow in London, it was gratifying to note that panel members and delegates were clearly in agreement: that the delivery of timely and accessible Upfront Material Information has the potential to hugely improve most aspects of the property transaction, and the overwhelming opinion was that it’s a question of ‘when’, not ‘if’ the industry adopts UFI (and the necessary technology) as standard.

The average fall-through rate for residential property transactions in the UK currently stands at 34% – and we all know that’s a waste of time, energy and money for everyone involved. Property transactions are incredibly clunky and onerous, with conveyancers going back and forth due to conflicting information, missing details and incorrect assumptions. It’s easy to see that if the information is clear from the outset, the process speeds up.

The reality is that we’re already moving in that direction; Part A of the three-part Trading Standards guidance demands the disclosure of material information: council tax band, tenure and purchase price all need to be included in any listing. And while we’re still awaiting the next phase of guidance, we know that it will require any “information which the average consumer needs, according to the context, to take an informed transactional decision”.


As yet, Part A is not mandatory, and we don’t yet know when parts B and C are coming. But to think that we wouldn’t adopt best practice as an industry and give the customer what they actually need to make informed decisions, seems like madness - especially when you consider the benefits to everyone involved.

Change is inevitable

When today’s technology means that consumers are increasingly expecting information at their fingertips, wherever and whenever they want it, it’s interesting that as an industry, we have failed to deliver the type of customer experience that most of us (as consumers) would expect.

According to the recent industry research report ‘Back to the Future’, 40% of property transaction delays are blamed on managing enquiries, duplication of information or confusing communication. So, if we can provide greater transparency and a ‘single version of the truth’ that can be relied on and that everyone accepts, we are bound to have a positive impact on the entire home buying process. All that’s needed is a way to bring together the data sources that already exist  and allow systems to talk to each other.

APIs are the key

APIs have been around for decades. Simply put, they are a way to join two systems together, allowing them to talk to each other and share information. Fill in a form on one system, and that data can be used to populate fields on another system: streamlining processes, reducing duplication and enquiries, and making transactions faster and smoother. Whole systems and user experiences can be created by flexing APIs – and that’s exactly what we do at tmgroup. Through the smart application of technology, the property transaction can be streamlined for the benefit of all.

The goal here is to simplify

At tmgroup, Upfront Material Information is now digitised with a Sellers Information Pack, available for estate agents through the mio sales management hub. It contains a Property Information Form, which applies the Home Buying and Selling Group’s BASPI dataset as the ‘one source of truth’. It pulls through Land Registry and Local Authority data to reduce duplication within the transaction process. Once complete, this information can be exchanged with conveyancers, to get the seller’s legal preparations underway while a buyer is being secured.

Upfront Material Information is entirely within our grasp

The information and technology we need to deliver Upfront Material Information already exists. Our sales progression software can pull together data from a range of reliable sources and present it to all parties involved, so they’re all informed and working from the same information that makes up the ‘DNA’ of that property. We simply need to agree how that data is standardised and presented.

Members of the Home Buying & Selling Group, have already made great progress in developing the Property Data Trust Framework (PDTF) – a set of data and technical standards, plus process rules that organisations involved in the property transaction agree to follow. By adopting these standards, all services and organisations using the framework can describe property information in a consistent way, making it easier to complete property transactions and share information with other trust framework participants.

It's time to get on board

So, the framework is there, the data is there, and the technology to facilitate data sharing is available – so what are we waiting for?

Well, in any industry, change can take time. There will always be those resistant to change as well as the early adopters. Changing professional practices and adopting technology needs a change in mindset. There’s no doubt that we need to be better at educating the market and building awareness of how, facilitated by technology, we can really change the profession for the better.

But the reality is that in a rapidly changing world, the consumer expects better access to information and faster, more convenient transactions. They can order a new laptop and have it delivered tomorrow. They can open a banking app and view all of their transactions across all of their accounts, whatever the bank. Our profession looks ancient in comparison.

Agents, conveyancers and customers all win

The agents and conveyancers who become the early adopters of the technology to deliver Upfront Material Information will undoubtedly gain competitive advantage. They’ll have better knowledge of the property from the word go, raising the bar for the standard of service they can offer the customer.

And of course, over time, customers will come to expect a more transparent, quicker and less frustrating property transaction. They’ll want to be able to check progress and share information on their phones while they’re watching TV in the evening or commuting to work in the morning. Those professionals that fail to adopt new practices will become the dinosaurs of the profession.

We must start with the customer experience. As a profession we have a duty to put the customer first and make property transactions easier, quicker, more transparent, less frustrating and less stressful. With the right technology, the Property Data Trust Framework and the will to make it happen, we can finally unlock the potential of Upfront Material Information.

“We all understand the causes of problems and delays in the property transaction and recognise that Upfront Material Information could go a long way to solving these. The data is available, the technology is available. So it’s high time that we really put the customer first and raise standards of professionalism to a new level.”


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