The proliferation of big data is paving the way to improving our economy on almost every front as entrepreneurial digital companies reimagine just about every service and transaction we do.
Information services are advancing steadily and, as data becomes more accessible, it will redefine the services businesses offer.
The property industry will be no exception - the scale of digital property data now available is vast. Take for example the HM Land Registry (HMLR) National Polygon Service (NPS), which contains 25 million titles and includes 28 million geospatial data points.
HMLR Corporate and Commercial Ownership Data (CCOD) contains more than 3.3 million title records of freehold and leasehold property in England and Wales, and HMLR Overseas Ownership Data (OCOD) contains around 100,000 title records of freehold and leasehold property in England and Wales.
But these datasets are just the start. According to HMLR’s Five Year Business Strategy, we already know it plans to release many more datasets – and this does not begin to consider the data the newly created Geospatial Commission will reveal later this year.
HMLR and Local Authorities (LA) across England and Wales are also gearing up to digitise their Local Land Charges register. A handful of LAs have already fully digitised their process meaning huge amounts of data on millions of properties in England and Wales, crucial to the property purchase process, is now at the fingertips of conveyancers.
An avalanche of property data is already on its way. The question is how do we use it most effectively?
Big data will change the way we all do business
The key to unlocking the potential of millions of lines of raw data is to consider where it can add value for estate agents, conveyancers and everyone else along the property transaction process, and crucially, where that data can be converted into an accessible and maintainable format to create innovative solutions.
For example, a potential solution for consumers could be a platform that allows users to explore a property’s data history within seconds, right there on the street. It would be another step in the evolution of the house buying experience, fuelled by big data.
In essence, it could exceed the aims of the Home Information Pack to provide not just Land Registry and energy information but historical planning applications and local environmental hazards. The data is out there, it’s just a case of understanding consumer needs and using it to its fullest potential to create new ways of transacting property.
Using data in this way could be a gateway into a highly efficient property transaction process. A data-driven platform that offers data to customers up front would enable consumers to make instant, informed decisions, perhaps with the ability to communicate with all professional parties straight away, such as agents, mortgage providers, conveyancers and surveyors.
Why shouldn’t data be part of every future transaction?
Hundreds of thousands of property sales fall through at a later stage in the process in England and Wales each year, often because the buyer decided against buying the property on further inspection. Having in-depth information about a property at an early stage in the process could significantly reduce these problems, as a professional could input on the case directly and in real-time at an earlier stage.
To stabilise buying chains and keep property sales from falling through, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is keen to open the data flood gates to provide more information to everyone involved from the start.
Particularly for estate agents, allowing customers to see data on a property and the surrounding area before the sales process has even begun, could be a competitive stepping stone.
Upfront due diligence and clearly signposted potential pitfalls could speed up and smooth the buying process for all parties involved.
We are at a point in time where there will be no turning back from buyers accessing the data about the property they want to purchase. Much of the data is already out there and many businesses are building solutions to make the property transaction process more transparent through big datasets.
Much like retailers of the last decade who chose to put their heads in the sand while online retailers took their business, those property professionals who ignore the digital data tsunami do so at their peril. There is little point avoiding this eventuality and we must all move forward together.
Estate agents can play an important part in this future property transaction process. By using data-driven solutions to elevate their role, and by working with technology companies to assist homebuyers, chains can become stronger and less vulnerable to collapse.
*Andrew Lloyd is Managing Director of Search Acumen