A conveyancer's guide to the Property Trust Data Framework

A conveyancer’s guide to the Property Data Trust Framework: April 2023

The Property Data Trust Framework promises to be the enabler that finally enables a fully digital conveyancing process. Many other initiatives and products have promised that, and failed. Ed Molyneux, co-founder of Moverly, Participant of the Home Buying and Selling Technology Group, and key contributor to the framework, explains why this time it’s different.

In Data We Trust

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, we talked about how important data standards and interoperability are in solving some of the central collaboration problems at the heart of the conveyancing process.

But it’s arguably not enough, because it’s not actually that hard to get “property data” from any one of a variety of sources and providers. The question is: can you trust it?

That might sound like a really difficult problem to solve, but one of the really powerful things about the Property Data Trust Framework (as the name kind of suggests) is that it is designed to solve precisely that problem.

To understand how, consider this decorated Christmas tree (yes, it’s April but bear with me):

christmas tree
A decorated Christmas tree

Let’s think about a fully comprehensive data set about a property being like a decorated Christmas tree – the baubles represent the pieces of data that we know about that property.

How do we know where to place any given bauble? Well we have our methods of describing each piece of data and its proper location, written down in what we call a schema.

For a Christmas tree, the bare branches represent the schema:

graphic showing what the branches represent in conveyancing
The PDTF Property Pack schema, in Christmas tree form

And if we want to place a bauble that we’ve obtained, we just need to find the right place in the tree to hang it. Here’s an EPC rating we know about:

chirstmas tree graphic
Which branch? /propertyPack/materialFacts/energyEfficiency/currentEnergyEfficienctRating

Now here’s the important bit: every bauble has a label attached to it, saying where it came from and when.

graphic christmas tree

Hmmm, who should we believe?

So you might have multiple bits of information of the same type from different sources, but you can make your own mind up about which ones to trust. And you have a complete audit trail of what makes up all the data in the pack.

In PDTF-speak we call these labelled baubles “verified claims”, as each of these pieces of data is really just something that is claimed to be true about the property. Within the PDTF there are standard ways of representing verifications of different kinds, which live on a scale from “not that trusted” to “almost certainly trusted” as shown below: 

five shades of trust
Five shades of trust

Really importantly, everything in the property pack is made up of claims, and once they are created in a PDTF system they can’t ever be changed. If a new piece of information comes to light, we can create a new claim to add to the picture, but you can always see what everyone knew at an earlier point in time.

In a very real sense, the PDTF stores Christmas tree decoration kits, not decorated Christmas trees, and it’s that distinction that allows us to make our own minds up whether to trust what we’re seeing.

The seller says it’s not in a conservation area? Well, maybe. Historic England says so? Now, that I’d believe!

This capability is what underpins the ability to actually re-use data across all the participants in a transaction, even for such potentially challenging things like Vendor Identity Verification (where appropriate).

Next time, we’ll dive into Upfront Information, what’s in a PDTF Property Pack, and how PDTF ecosystems have the potential to deliver truly digital conveyancing…at long last.

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