HMLR and digital conveyancing – what difference will it make?

HM Land Registry’s (HMLR) decision to streamline the house buying process by digitising conveyancing and making Local Land Charge search results available instantly is a much-needed move for the housing market. It will enable conveyancers to both access property information more easily and register titles more quickly.

HMLR aims to have all local councils on board by 2025, but only 40 out of 331 local authorities in England and Wales having migrated to the digital application process so far. With three years left to achieve that target, and the time taken to complete a house purchase continuing to rise, there is a long way to go before it fulfils the potential it has to ease workload.

As such, the next stage of HMLR’s digitalisation will include real time data access to property information and may assist in speeding up the work conveyancers do. However, there is still some way to go to get all stakeholders working collaboratively and sharing data effectively. That’s why automation and one source of data is so important in facilitating speedier transactions

While digitising the conveyancing process will of course help to eliminate processing delays, it is greater collaboration between industry stakeholders such as lenders, lawyers, brokers and management companies that will truly revolutionise the housing market.

An inefficient process

So far, the digitisation process has focussed on digital signatures on deeds, digital ID and the automation of applications to HMLR. While these will improve the customer journey during some parts of the application process, they are unlikely to drastically change the current pain points facing the industry.

This is because the main delays are typically with local authorities and the movement of data between lenders, brokers, valuers and management companies in addition to the handling of enquiries. In some cases, these processes are still manual, while in others any digital developments have been siloed in approach and serve to benefit only one part of the purchasing chain.

All these delays mean the house buying process can be inefficient. Currently, it takes on average 18 weeks to move house due to lack of stock and ongoing challenges in getting a full chain to work together. In many cases, this process is only as fast as the slowest moving part and delays in some parts of the process continue to drive up completion times even further.

For example, applicants in the London Borough of Hackney can wait 180 working days for a personal search to be completed, showing how local authority searches can prove to be a postcode lottery.

Streamlining means collaborating

Hopefully, the next part of the HMLR plan to digitise the process will include real time data access to property information that will assist in speeding up the work for conveyancers, but there is still some way to go here. In order to truly create a faster and more efficient house buying process, greater collaboration and the effective sharing of data is needed.

This can be achieved through automation and a validated single source of data across the board to facilitate speedier transactions between all stakeholders. Perhaps even more important is the fact that it will create more certainty throughout the purchase process for the end customer. Lenders will be able to identify more complex cases from the very start as they’ll be able to spot when more data or further clarification will be needed, allowing them to give more accurate estimations on completion dates.

While HMLR’s move to digitisation may assist in speeding up the work conveyancers do, automating only one aspect of the conveyancing journey will only address part of the problem. Instead, we need to get stakeholders working collaboratively and sharing data effectively to truly see market innovation.

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