Up to seven out of ten updates to the land register will be automated by March 2025, HM Land Registry (HMLR) has predicted, as it pledged to promote “a secure and inclusive digital system of conveyancing”.
However, it acknowledged that there remained a long way to go with improving the home-buying and selling process, which still lacked “basic digital experiences” for consumers.
In its newly published business plan for 2022-25 and strategy, HMLR said it was “prioritising register update applications, which represent around 90% of our manually processed work” and would have the most immediate impact on the speed of services.
“We already have many of the pieces in place to enable end-to-end automation – this year will serve as a proof of concept for those efforts.”
Automated applications would be completed “within one day − many of them in seconds”.
HMLR currently receives around 20,000 requests to change the register every day. The aim is to automate up to 70% of register updates by March 2025 and to have begun digitally transforming applications to create first titles, which consume around 10% of its manually processed casework – 12% of land in England and Wales remains unregistered.
HMLR estimated that customers currently saved nine days and £9 per search on average by using the online local land charges register launched in 2018.
“So far, we have migrated 47 local authorities, standardising and cleansing the data as we go. We are aiming to complete the remainder within the next four years.” There are 336 local authorities in all and the government has been encouraging their migration.
HMLR said it would be working with the property sector in encouraging the market to adopt new technology, such as digital ID and e-signatures, by introducing new standards and “working with property partners to create an open, integrated ecosystem of digital services that support property transactions”.
Meanwhile, HMLR would continue to “energise innovation in the use of property data” through its Digital Street research and development programme and Geovation accelerator, which had “supported 137 start-ups to develop new products and services and has created more than 1,500 jobs”.
But the strategy acknowledged that, despite technological advances, there was evidence that that the average 2021 home sale took 49% longer to complete than in 2007, and that more than a quarter of all property transactions in England and Wales did not complete.
It went on: “The current system of homebuying and selling lacks the basic digital experiences that people expect from professional services in the 21st century. People find the process opaque, confusing and stressful.
“Many of the inefficiencies in buying and selling residential property are also present when commercial property is traded.
“What is emerging is a vision of connected digital platforms and services that enable buyers and sellers, their banks, lawyers and others to join together each time property is bought and sold, all interacting entirely digitally.
“Customers tell us the system would be most effective if it were fed by standardised information, available to all, including data on the property concerned, the parties involved and the progress of the transaction.”
The strategy argued that HMLR has “a clear leadership role to play” in this, but that it would take “collaboration and leadership across all those with an interest in how our nation’s property market works”.
The agency pledged to work with the property sector to make the process of buying and selling property digital, develop services that were fully digital and connected easily with other services in the property sector, and promote “a secure and inclusive digital system of conveyancing”.
End-to-end automation of applications would allow HMLR to provide “more holistic and personalised services that work in step with the property transaction”.
It explained: “Applications to change the register could be started before completion and our requirements clearly understood and ticked off as part of the conveyancing workflow.”
In his foreword to the strategy document, chief executive and chief land registrar Simon Hayes said: “I believe we are now at a pivotal moment in HM Land Registry’s journey. In the five years since our previous strategy, we have successfully tackled longstanding obstacles to the delivery of high-quality services.
“This next phase of our strategy will transform the process of land registration in England and Wales, putting outstanding customer service at the heart of what we do. It will place us among the most modern and effective systems anywhere in the world.”