I've just devoured the summary of responses to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government's call of evidence on improving the home buying and selling process (yes, I geek out on this stuff these days!).
...My honest feeling - a lot of time and thinking has gone into this...but I'm sadly a bit underwhelmed. There seems to be a strong focus on more regulation and risk and, what with all the changes going on around us in the property sector (including the first ever digital mortgage going through last week and the very current changes with open banking) it feels like it's high time for the Government to push more innovation into the agenda.
The Government's rhetoric concentrates on risk and, on balance, is lacking in what I'd really hoped we'd see; the impetus for us to lead (or at least join) some of the more innovative nations across the globe when it comes to property innovation.
There's reference to other countries doing things well in terms of digital property processes (Australia and France are called out), however, the view our UK Government seems to take is that the UK's private sector will kind of 'work out' innovation...and they might just help us...a bit...maybe...
I am a passionate private sector person and, I agree, we (the private sector) will work it out - but there is a real chance for the Government to do more than to 'collect a working group'; now's the ideal time for them to galvanise the private and public sector and to commit to driving the policies which will make a real difference.
The summary shows the Government are very much positioned towards the here and now; there's a concern for those who 'may not' be digitally literate for example. I hear this - but: a growing percentage of the population is digitally native - one thing that's for sure, this demographic is the only one that's growing.
The report's summary states "there should 'always' be a place for face to face contact" - I don't disagree that some consumers may want this for many years to come - but to claim 'always' again feels like we're more backward than forward-facing. A recent industry report by Deloitte revealed that millennials have a high appetite for automated financial services and advice - how does the report seek to serve this demographic?
If we don't focus on these needs; the agenda here looks set to become out of date pretty rapidly. In 5 years, we'll be pushing for another call for evidence... how about we build for the future now?
As an advocate for technological innovation, I see a convergence of so many exciting changes at this present time in history - this summary doesn't grasp this opportunity - the word 'accelerate' is used just once...
It's also worth putting into context that 932 consumers responded to this call for evidence. I'm not going to cast aspersions on the kind of consumer who has the time or inclination to complete calls for evidence from the Government (but consider the typical demographic here...) I am going to make the point that it's important we view these contributions in context. Well over 3 million consumers are impacted by this each year. 932 people represent no more than 0.03% - it's a start but it's 99.99*% away from being the holy grail of opinion.
The social sphere (other real estate professionals on Twitter e.t.c) today has widely reacted by focusing on the advantages of new regulations - saying that it's time that unwieldy real estate professionals took more exams and jumped through some regulatory hoops.
But, let's be frank and real - regulation is costly and takes time to implement - we have seen the Government's commitment to introduce a new code of practice for letting and managing agents will only kick off in early 2019 once proposals are drawn. I'm all for investment but it comes from the UK budget and we all want to spend it on the right things. Let's deeply question whether further regulation will address the things which this report is trying to address, namely:
• a better consumer experience;
• reducing the time from offer to completion;
• reducing failed transactions
I rather dream of the impact that the investment (which is currently, no doubt, ring-fenced for this expansion of regulation) would have if it were to be placed into technology and innovation...let me ask this - will more regulation have an impact on our wider country's economy like technological advancements could have?
If we truly made moving more streamlined, we'd all do it more...therefore we'd see a real uplift in contribution to the economy right?
We're in the midst of seismic change in the real estate sector - I'd love us centrally and privately to get a bit more excited about the changes that are possible - that may just make buying and selling homes one of the most straightforward things we can do in our lifetimes, rather than one of the most stressful."
Gemma Young is the CEO and co-founder of digital property platform, Settled.