Covid-19 has presented the world with the worst health crisis in over a century, prompting governments and business leaders to work closely, pool resources and limit the impact of the virus. Amidst the chaos, it has acted as an unexpected catalyst for several changes in some of the UK’s leading sectors.
The property sector has been a core focus, sustaining severe disruption and being forced to pivot quickly and adopt digital practices to prevent further damage. While accurate data was available pre-Covid and the growing capability of technology had already started to change how the property market operated, there was considerable room for improvement.
We have long been proponents of better data consumption and the uptake of innovations to further this. Covid-19 has provided the tipping point for the accelerated digitisation of the property sector. To capitalise on these changes as we move forward, firms must take stock of the lessons from recent months.
It is time to deepen the collaboration that has been forged of late. The public and private sector need to work together to seize the opportunity to carry forward digital practices and create a more efficient, productive and future-proofed property market.
The acceleration of data consumption and technology uptake
Strict lockdowns and social distancing measures introduced to reduce the spread of coronavirus have shaken businesses. We have been encouraged by those who have reacted quickly and shown their agility, with many in the property sector emerging as innovators.
Estate agents have adapted to a more digital offering, providing prospective buyers with virtual tours, while valuation officers, mortgage brokers and conveyancers have all integrated technology into their usual in-person processes to ensure some level of activity even during the height of lockdown restrictions. Our priority has always been to generate better data-based insights for conveyancers and commercial property lawyers and we have been exploring additional avenues to digitise the due diligence requirements that are crucial to a successful transaction.
It is vital we continue to build on this forward momentum as the market starts to open. Now is the time to embrace digital once and for all as we work to create a ‘new normal’.
Focus on: Data Snapshot
One way that we have sought to support the property market at this critical time is the introduction of Data Snapshot. We have launched this offering at a crucial point when the property market is opening up, to enable conveyancers and commercial property lawyers to preview and assess the available data in order to better progress the backlog of property transactions safely and securely.
The report is designed to help clients to preview sites and properties, enabling them to access the known information within minutes and identify risks upfront. They can then share the resulting data led evidence directly with their customers and progress transactions more swiftly.
The service allows for rapid risk assessment that accelerates current transaction timelines as soon as a potential buyer registers their interest in a property or site. Lawyers can give clients early and better-informed insights into potential issues through a helicopter view of important risk factors. They can then take steps to help their clients make better informed decisions about how to proceed and keep transactions progressing.
The report marks a further step in the UK property market’s digitisation, with better use of data bringing long-term benefits to the transaction process. Beyond Covid, we envisage conveyancers and commercial property lawyers turning to Data Snapshot as the first port of call. It has the potential be the instinctive first step in the transaction process, creating a more immediate, efficient and intuitive experience.
Collaborating for a better future
To bring about impactful and positive change, the collaboration of the entire industry is required to accelerate digitisation and improve the property buying and selling experience. It is essential that businesses come together to create widespread adoption of new processes that can manage the release of pent-up demand and clear the large backlog of transactions.
To achieve this, firms will need to embrace a digital mindset, enabling them to take advantage of the data and technology at our fingertips and look out for opportunities to work with the Government to push forward change.
In the global financial crisis, we almost saw the complete wipe out of small housebuilders. To prevent history repeating itself, private firms and the Government must collaborate so that schemes can continue, and risk sharing can take place. This time around, it is important that firms learn from the pandemic to shift towards digital and realise the long-term productivity and cost saving benefits of technology.
Taking stock of lessons learned
Firms failing to pivot their operations toward digitisation as we come out of the coronavirus crisis leave themselves open to competitors that are seeking to disrupt the market. This is a trend that we saw in the banking sector following the global financial crisis where retail banks failed to invest in IT infrastructure – leaving the door open to the rise of digital banks.
As a result, fintech and challenger brands have increased their market share and are attracting a growing number of consumers by offering a streamlined and personalised banking service delivered through a digital-only app-based experience. During the credit crunch, consumers often switched to banks such as Metro Bank, Aldermore and Virgin because their adoption of big data in their underwriting procedures sped up mortgage and personal loan applications. This meant borrowers could secure credit quicker to make large asset purchases, which partly contributed to stimulating the recovery of the UK’s property market.
One of the main lessons learned from the last crisis is that firms that invest heavily and adopt digital innovations will be best placed to capitalise on changing consumer behaviour and are most likely to contribute to the economic recovery. Recognising the value of taking a new approach to data will help companies capitalise on the pent-up demand, deliver the best insights to clients, and create a competitive and compelling UK property market for the future.
Written by Caroline Robinson, Commercial Real Estate Business Development Manager at Search Acumen
This article was submitted to be published by Search Acumen as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Conveyancer. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Conveyancer.