Could blockchain speed up home buying?

Buying or selling a house is said to be one of the most stressful life events — but a blockchain-enabled fintech aims to make the process easier and quicker for consumers.

Demand for property soared during the pandemic, but an analysis of Land Registry data found the full sale process took an average 295 days from start to finish, as estate agents, solicitors, mortgage brokers, lenders, buyers and sellers grapple with the paperwork.

Coadjute is the latest attempt to digitise the UK’s convoluted conveyancing process. It has now begun a national roll out, enabling all parties involved in a property transaction to securely share data and track live progress of the deal from start to finish.

Backed by Swiss venture capitalist firm Blockchain Valley Ventures, Coadjute comes after two previous attempts to modernise the conveyancing process by the Land Registry and the Law Society ended in failure.

Dan Salmons, chief executive, said that because Coadjute is a digital network that uses private blockchain — a record of asset ownership — to connect to existing systems that different groups of professionals already use, it can enable data, documentation and live updates to be shared in real time without having to use a standalone piece of software.

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It is already integrated within the most popular case management systems that are used by property professionals, such as Redbrick, and he said consumers would also be able to see live updates on their housing transactions in real time later this year.

Salmons, a former NatWest director who spearheaded the introduction of contactless cards, said the ability for different professionals to use blockchain securely to share centralised documents, such as identity checks, title deeds and local searches would “synchronise what is a highly fragmented process” and speed up transaction times.

He added the technology would make it easier for professionals to spot omissions and other factors holding up deals, making the homebuying process less stressful for consumers and more efficient for professionals, who will pay to use the service.

One of Salmons’ team is currently moving house. “Since his offer was accepted nine months ago, he’s made 323 phone calls chasing up where the deal has got to,” he said. “The problem is, the people you’re calling don’t know the answer. They have to make another phone call to find out, and the consumer has no visibility over where they are in the process.”

Coadjute is one of several fintech innovations attempting to crack this problem, others include View My Chain, a data-driven chain management tool for agents, buyers and sellers.

Industry professionals believe Coadjute’s chances of success will depend on how widely its data-sharing model is adopted.

“The time is absolutely ripe for technology to resolve these issues, but everyone needs to be on board for this to succeed,” said Andrew Montlake, managing director of mortgage broker Coreco.

“I was sceptical at first, but when you look at the number of case management systems, estate agents and search companies Coadjute’s got involved, it stands a good chance,” said Beth Rudolf, director of delivery at the Conveyancing Association, a trade body for the industry.

“For consumers, the difficulty is this process only starts when their offer is accepted. There are so many problems with leaseholds, title and restrictive covenants, it would be better if this data were collected up front and made available at the point of sale.”

She added that, currently, 34 per cent of property transactions fall through. “It can be easy to fix these problems if you have time to do it, but not if you have a buyer desperate to proceed.”

The ability to collect and share data up front could also help to minimise disputes and delays caused by rows over what fixtures and fittings are included with the property.

Coadjute is taking part in a pilot scheme to improve this process with the Home Buying and Selling Group, a government initiative to bring the industry together to improve the consumer experience.

“A lot of these industry problems are fundamentally issues of not having secure access to data,” Salmons said.

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