History of log book providers
We have been creating a Property Log Book® used in residential property transactions to the total sales value of £486,983,283, so we have some experience.
Since the days of HIPs, we have seen many log book providers come and go. We saw the sad demise of the likes of Habiplace, Hoppy and Home Passport.
Habiplace digitised 27m residential properties, essentially creating a form of log book for every UK property. Yet they struggled to monetise their offering. Part of their offering was to enable potential buyers to peruse a property they were interested in buying and if it came on the market make a move on it.
Hoppy enjoyed a huge EDF investment with access to EDF’s customer base. Hoppy evolved from being a utility price comparison site to one about home management. It included lots of consumer tools such as energy switching, mobile phone offerings and an ability to source tradespeople. Combined with this, they used free and paid-for APIs to augment your Hoppy with information. However, customer acquisition costs were high and not enough revenue was generated to cover costs.
Home Passport took the approach of digitising property and local information for estate agents and developers. A great idea but as one estate agent said to me, they would expect their own agents to be fully knowledgeable of their local area anyway.
Where are log book providers now?
We have seen the recent growth of other log book providers as storage costs have reduced, as have the costs of developing a simple front-end user interface. Accessing good-quality land and property information is also free.
There are many free B2C propositions enabling homeowners to upload and store their documents online, see who their local authority is and so on. Nothing that the Internet does not already provide me and once you move into a property you tend to know about your local area anyway. With three of these free propositions, I was able to create a ‘log book’ for my parent’s house as well as two other random properties, which I do not own.
Not once was I asked to prove who I was or legally confirm that I was the genuine owner of the property. No identity verification behind them at all!
On all three sites, I could set up as many properties as I wanted!
None offered me anything different, all with the ability to upload and store property documents, describe my property, lots of data entry required and get local property valuations.
Twice at Property Log Book® we have directed potential customers to Dropbox. Why? You can store lots of property information, and share documents, videos and information with whomever you want and it’s FREE.
I think we can safely assume these days that most buyers and sellers go to Rightmove, Zoopla or OnTheMarket, which offer huge amounts of free locality information and property valuations.
Yet is this not part of the role of a good estate agent or conveyancer who has the local knowledge to provide relevant advice?
What is the use of a property log book?
Information upfront is without a doubt a clear benefit to the industry and consumer. At Property Log Book® (PLB) we know that we contribute towards a reduction of two weeks in sales completion times. For new home developers, post-occupancy customer information enquires drop dramatically, for example.
The use and value of a log book is the information that is in it and the importance of this information changes over time, especially when different stakeholders need to rely on different information.
A lifetime approach to a log book is a must, not just a transaction.
Trust and Reliance and Liability?
This brings me onto trust, reliance and liability. There needs to be a set of agreed basic data standards and an agreed unique property identifier used by the industry, such as the UPRN.
We need to look at the Home Buying & Selling Group and their Property Data Trust Framework. This framework defines the common open-source data dictionary, technology and data standards, and the provenance of the data needed to deliver upfront information digitally. Using the National Data Strategy principles, it is based on property data being FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable), everything we need to identify which data has come from a trusted and verified source.
For a residential property transaction to go through, stakeholders need to trust the information they are being presented with, as they are expected to make decisions relying on this.
From these free log book offerings, there are no controls in place to ensure we know who the property owner is, and no standards-based identity verification. There is no provenance linked to the contained information, so can you trust and rely on it?
It would seem to me that without something authenticating the data provenance, then the estate agent and conveyancer are going to have to double-check everything that is in these log books, duplicating effort. Completing a BASPI could populate the TA6 and other property information questionnaires saving time and money.
Finally, where does liability sit? If you do not know who owns the property and who put the information in there, then who is held liable if the information is wrong? Trust in the data and governance and identity are three key requirements for any kind of log book provider.
*Stuart Young is managing director at Etive Technologies