‘Bizarre’ Land Registry Announcement Launches The Digital Property Market Steering Group

Those with long memories may recall the ill-fated attempt by Land Registry in about 2006/7 to create a digital ‘chain matrix’ that would enable solicitors, conveyancers, lenders and estate agents to share and update information in the home buying process.

Estate agents were very quickly excluded from any meaningful participation in the project when it was deemed that they could not possibly be trusted with access to such a powerful repository of information and certainly could not be allowed to add to or alter the records. In the end the project stalled anyway.

Now it looks as if something similar is under way.

Launched without much razzamataz or high-profile publicity, Land Registry has just announced that the ‘Digital Property Market Steering Group’ has been formed ‘to drive crucial digital transformation in the land and property market’. Who knew?

Apparently it is, ‘An important coming together of key industry partners under a shared vision at a pivotal time for the property market.’

One industry body – apparently excluded from the new group – has already branded the announcement as, ‘bizarre’.

The Land Registry said in its announcement:

It is more than 20 years since the Land Registration Act 2002 was introduced with the hope that ‘e-conveyancing’, which it enabled in law, would deliver these kinds of benefits. There has been some progress since then but the job of modernising the process has proved more challenging than envisaged and one that no single institution can achieve on its own.

That’s the view of a newly formed coalition of government and industry partners – the Digital Property Market Steering Group (DPMSG) – representing an important coming together of key industry partners under a shared vision at a pivotal time for the property market.

The group’s purpose is to help the property market work better for all by accelerating the adoption of digital technology, while ensuring it is transparent, secure and consumer friendly, through collaboration and innovation across the sector.

DPMSG has representation from key areas of the sector where there is likely to be the greatest potential for accelerated digital adoption. This includes legal property professionals, surveyors, conveyancers, lenders and estate agents.

DPMSG founding members:

Law Society

Conveyancing Association (CA)

Council for Licensed Conveyancers

The Society of Licensed Conveyancers

Solicitors Regulation Authority

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors

Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX)

CILEx Regulation

Council of Property Search Organisations


Building Societies Association

UK Finance

HM Land Registry

DPMSG vision

We want everyone involved in buying, leasing and selling land and property to experience a secure and modern market that is transparent, customer-friendly and business-friendly at all stages.

Through collaboration, innovation and a focus on emerging digital technologies we will build on existing progress across the home buying and selling system to get a better result for the customer: simpler, faster, more certain and less stressful.

Lubna Shuja, President of the Law Society of England and Wales said:

The Law Society is committed to improving the home-buying experience for consumers and others involved in the conveyancing process. Whilst we know that chains of transactions can lengthen timescales, involving sellers’ solicitors at an early stage would make the process smoother and more efficient.

Although there is no silver bullet, digitisation will be transformative in this work, especially in relation to ID, digital deeds, digital registration, and providing important information to consumers about both the process and the property at an early stage.

We recognise that the combined efforts of the whole sector – regulators, professional and trade bodies, and government – are needed to achieve this. This new group provides a forum for collaboration and achieving change, while enabling individual members to progress their own work in a co-ordinated way.

Nicky Heathcote, Non-Executive Chair at the Conveyancing Association, said:

At the CA, we want to boost confidence and investment in the digitisation of the property market by demonstrating how Government and industry regulators, professional and trade bodies are aligned and committed to working together to enable and accelerate positive change.

There are four DPMSG working groups that will focus on:

  • Public commitment: Joint conference on Digital Property Market in 2023
  • Removing barriers and empower members to drive change: Upfront information
  • Research and Development: Embracing digital identity
  • Increasing transparency: Advocating for data initiatives – exploring interoperability

DPMSG will hold a joint Government and industry launch event with the theme Digital Property Market in London on 12 September 2023. It will bring together leaders and influencers from across the sector to set a clear direction for a secure and modern land and property market, explore the barriers to change and demonstrate joint leadership and commitment among participants to taking forward this programme of transformation.

Around 300 invited guests will attend from across the property market sectors including estate agents, surveyors, conveyancers, financial, software providers, data providers, panel managers, Proptech and other groups key to driving change. HM Land Registry, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) and Geospatial Commission officials will also attend. Those participating will share insights on social media using #DigitalPropertyMarket.

DPMSG will also soon launch a new podcast series – Property with a View – hosted by Mike Harlow, HM Land Registry’s Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Customer and Strategy. Mike will speak with leaders across the sector as a way of exploring what changes need to happen and how the market can work together to achieve them. The programme of content will feature leaders from all corners of the industry.

But at least one interested body is unimpressed. Nigel Walley, chair of the Residential Logbook Association told EYE:

“This bizarre announcement raises more questions than it answers. Firstly, it’s unclear how this group differs from the HBSG [Home Buying and Selling Group] in its aims and objectives or if it is intended to replace it? This might explain why so many HBSG workgroups have disappeared without explanation, but most participants of the HBSG have been left in the dark. Its also unclear how this organisation relates to all the previous ‘digital reviews’ conducted by HMLR that, with the exception of ‘Digital Street’, have failed to put any reports into the public domain or impact policy.

“More importantly, the group contains no representatives of the tech companies and potentially transformative organisations who are delivering the most interesting digital solutions into the industry.

“There is no representation from the Open Property Data Association (OPDA) who have done so much to deliver the Property Data Trust Framework; there is no representation from Legal Software Suppliers Association (LSSA) or the case management companies on whose tech platforms the digitisation is going to be delivered; there is no representation for all the smaller tech companies who are actually involved in the launch of Upfront Information products; and there is no RLBA representation for all the Property Logbook companies who are attempting to deliver a new ‘homeowner-centric’ model of buying & selling. So none of the companies that would have to deliver a digital buying & selling process are represented?

“Finally, in its emphasis on ‘upfront information’ (UFI) as a solution to be pursued, it has effectively ruled on potential outcomes from its research activity even as significant questions are being asked about the importance of UFI in the broader sweep of new initiatives required to digitise conveyancing. There is growing awareness that we need a ‘whole lifecycle’ approach to digital property data and that UFI is only one, small component.

“So, we are not sure that this announcement advances the cause of digital property transformation in any meaningful way.”

EYE would be very interested to hear what readers think of this news.

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