‘Knowledge is power’ goes the old saying, and one variation on that theme is a quote from academic, Robert Boyce, who said, and I think this is certainly true for the property market, ‘Knowledge is power. Knowledge shared is power multiplied’.
In a market so inter-connected between various practitioners all speaking and dealing with the end customer, the ability to secure knowledge is undoubtedly a big part of our home buying and selling process.
However, as we all know, it can be a huge drain on resources in just securing that knowledge, especially when we are often reliant on the memory, understanding and filing systems of our customers, who might not be so interested in their own property details as we are.
Therefore, when it comes to property data, and its provision, it’s absolutely imperative that practitioners can rely upon the veracity and source of that data in order to be able to move the process on effectively. And, if we are confident in that information’s reliability and it comes from sources which we know are to be relied upon, then it not only cuts down on our work but also the work that those other practitioners within the process need to do.
It's an issue we have been tackling within the Home Buying & Selling Group (HBSG), because we could see the major benefits of this ‘verified’ data especially in a system where the provision of upfront information holds such a vital role.
To that end, we asked the Technology Sub-Group of the HBSG to look at the ways and means by which they might identify and authenticate the provenance of the data, if it was imported into the BASPI (the Buying & Selling Property Information form) that we hope will form the bedrock of that upfront information.
This work would result in the creation of a Property Data Trust Framework (PDTF) whereby regulated entities such as conveyancers and lenders could use it to identify the extent to which they can rely on that data. So, as mentioned above, did the data come from the seller’s memory banks or from the Land Registry, the Local Authority, NICEIC, the Water Authority, etc? Essentially any relevant authority.
Also, is that data historic or real-time? If it’s then latter then we believe the buyer’s property lawyer can rely on it for their due diligence rather than having to duplicate their own data/information searches, and the like. Can multiple parties across the process use that same data and be able to trust it?
This task seemed like a major one for the Sub-Group, however we have been fortunate because a number of its members have been involved in the delivery of Open Banking, and they (quite brilliantly) took the Digital Identity Trust Framework, which the Department for Digital, Culture Media & Sport are currently in a beta pilot phase with, and have used it to create the PDTF.
So, for example, they were able to change the identity attributes they are using within the Open Banking framework such as age, disability, race, etc, and apply them to property, so tenure, services, convenants, and the like. The idea being that the meta-data linked to the data will identify just who has provided the data, what warranties come with it, and will ultimately provide the user with the reliability they require if it has come from those trusted sources. How to identify those trusted sources though?
The creation of the PDTF is another step down the road towards a far more efficient process and practitioners not wasting a huge amount of time carrying out tasks and information gathering that has already been done by others.
However, we need further movement in order to solidify its usage – we need a public body to take on the PDTF and identify which companies are compliant with it, to list them for all to see, and to follow the path taken by Open Banking, in delivering this to as wide a group as possible.
As always with improving the home buying and selling process, these are steps on the road to a greater good, but it should hopefully be clear to all stakeholders, the benefits inherent in delivering on these next steps. It is certainly something we are pushing for at the CA, and I hope others within the property industry will join with us in spreading the PDTF message and how it can be utilised for all.
*Beth Rudolf is Director of Delivery at the Conveyancing Association (CA)