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Government explores blockchain to make buying and selling property easier and cheaper

HM Land Registry moves into the next phase of a project that will use the latest technologies to speed up property transactions

HM Land Registry is working with blockchain specialists as it enters the next phase of a project to make the process of buying and selling property faster and cheaper.

In phase two of a research and development project known as Digital Street, Land Registry is working with software company Methods, which will use a blockchain platform from consortium R3, known as Corda.

The Digital Street team will establish how distributed ledger technology, smart contracts and other digital tech can expedite the buying and selling of property.

Conveyancing – the legal process to transfer property ownership – takes about 12 weeks, on average. It is also expensive and uses archaic methods.

“Our ambition to become the world’s leading land registry for speed, ease of use and an open approach to data requires Land Registry to be at the forefront of global innovation in land registration,” said Graham Farrant, CEO at the Land Registry.

“By working with Methods on Digital Street, we are taking another step towards that goal as we explore how new technologies like blockchain can help us to develop a faster, simpler and cheaper land registration process.”

Peter Rowlins, CEO at Methods, said Land Registry’s requirements can be met through blockchain. “We recognised that the unique features offered by Corda in terms of security, privacy, interoperability and the smart contract flow framework – originally designed for financial services – would be an excellent fit,” he said.

Blockchain is a nascent technology that originated in the finance sector as the distributed ledger that underpins the cryptocurrency bitcoin, but it holds much promise in other business and government sectors through its ability to record transactions that are tamper-proof and can be shared among multiple parties.

Read more about blockchain and its application

  • In this e-guide, read about how blockchain’s inherent security makes it tamper-proof, and perfect for keeping and sharing records for transactions in many scenarios.
  • Dubai government is introducing a biometric border checking system that uses blockchain to ensure sensitive data can only be seen by the digital passport holder and the relevant authorities.
  • Artificial intelligence and blockchain initiatives are earmarked for a doubling of investment, finds the Computer Weekly/TechTarget IT Priorities survey for 2018.
  • By reducing the cost of peer-to-peer data and resource transfer, blockchain can remove the need for third parties and middlemen across industries.

According to Gartner, the business value-add of blockchain will grow to more than $176bn by 2025, and then exceed $3.1tn by 2030.

But the technology is currently facing a giant leap from early experimentation in its application to enterprise adoption on a wide scale. Projects such as Land Registry’s will act as another proof of concept.

John Abbott, director of digital, data and technology at Land Registry, said Digital Street is exploring how technology can improve and transform land registration.

“It allows us to explore and visualise different ideas of how land registration might work in the future and make conveyancing simpler, faster and cheaper,” he said.

“We want to find out how access to the right data at the right time can help people confidently make decisions about property transactions earlier in order to make buying, renting, selling, financing, building and managing property easier.”

Abbott said the project has instigated collaboration between the IT industry, members of the public, data providers, government departments and technology startups, and is applying technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and chatbots to the land registration process.

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