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How digital and data can provide the homebuying experience consumers want – Harris

by: Maria Harris, chair of the Open Property Data Association
  • 05/07/2023
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How digital and data can provide the homebuying experience consumers want – Harris
I’m a huge fan of technology. I love digital and the potential it has to deliver new and innovative products and customer experiences.

So much so, that after designing and launching the UK’s first digital mortgage with Atom bank, I realised just how poor the rest of the homebuying experience can be and wanted to digitise that too.

That realisation coincided with a number of other things that I was involved with during that time – setting up my consultancy business Digital Cat, joining the advisory board at Coadjute, and being asked by the Home Buying Selling Group to digitise Buyer and Seller Property Information (BASPI).

BASPI is an initiative that came from the Home Buying Selling Group participants’ drive to improve the property purchase process through upfront information.

Early guerilla testing showed lots of potential for positive outcomes including better understanding from the seller and estate agent on what could impact their transaction, increased transparency for buyers who could see the upfront information before committing to proceed, and a better process for the conveyancers who were instructed when the property was listed and could get ahead of the work needed for completion.

When I started looking at how to digitise the BASPI, a number of factors came to light that helped explain why no-one had managed to do this before:

 

Our fragmented data

The property industry and its data have traditionally operated in silos with government and industry stakeholders using very different systems and formats to manage and share information. This lack of standardised best practice and not having common formats means that we’ve never established a universal data structure or connectivity standard which makes it incredibly difficult to share data between platforms.

 

Industry complexity

The property industry is complicated, encompassing a diverse range of sectors across estate agencies, property portals, mortgage intermediaries, lenders, valuers, surveyors, conveyancers, data suppliers, software providers, and many more. Each sector has its own unique data requirements and workflows, making it difficult to develop a one-size-fits-all approach that caters to everyone’s needs and our different use cases.

 

Data privacy and security

Property data often contains sensitive information, including personal details, financial records, and legal documents. Ensuring the privacy and security of this data while enabling open collaboration has posed significant challenges which we need to overcome. Each silo has its own way of collecting and verifying the data or documents it needs, and our compliance frameworks and risk metrics are rarely consistent or aligned or sometimes even conflict with each other.

 

Technological limitations

In the past, our technology limitations and lack of interoperability have made it difficult to establish a standardised framework for property data sharing. Legacy systems, incompatible formats, and limited data integration or API capabilities hindered the development of any implementable standards. We have a reliance on third parties for collecting, verifying, translating, and facilitating the sharing of the data we need across our various systems or we’ve relied on physical documents, email, and other analogue processes to fill the data gaps and make a transaction work.

 

Lack of collaboration

Each silo of our mortgage and property industry is well established in its own vertical with deeply ingrained ways of working and internal processes to safely execute its part of the transaction. When it comes to the approach on data, technology, and connectivity, there’s been limited collaboration across the different stakeholders and there’s no overarching regulation or legislation that we all have to adhere to. The absence of a collective effort to establish common approaches and standards has contributed to our very fragmented data landscape.

It was a bit baffling to discover that an industry which creates some of the biggest advancements in people’s financial wellbeing, employs more than half a billion people, not to mention delivers a hefty contribution to GDP, doesn’t have an infrastructure to underpin it.

But it does explain a lot. There are substantial and challenging obstacles to solving our large and complex industry problems but who’s going to let a little thing like lack of infrastructure get in the way?

With advancements in technology, increasing recognition of the benefits of collaboration, and a growing demand for transparency and efficiency, we have an opportunity to approach this differently.

The emergence of trade bodies, such as the Open Property Data Association, officially launched in early June, and cross-cutting industry and government initiatives are driving a different approach based on modern technology and data thinking and delivering the collaboration we need.

We’re making tangible and meaningful progress in establishing common, shared standards that deliver interoperability, data quality, and transparency. And it’s this progress which is paving the way for the development and adoption of an open property data ecosystem. As each stage of these developments are delivered, they empower stakeholders and unlock the potential of our data and technology to drive real industry innovation.

 

Watch out for the next three blogs in this series coming shortly, exclusively on Mortgage Solutions.

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