Why digitisation would improve the house buying process

The process of buying and selling properties in the UK has remained fundamentally the same for decades now. Despite the market experiencing rapid fluctuations in recent years due to an economic downturn, the exchange process has largely been unaffected.

But is technology playing a factor? If recent trends are anything to go by, there is mounting pressure from buyers and sellers alike to modernise and streamline the house buying process, or at least parts of it. The new generations of mortgage applicants and house buyers are intertwined with fast transactions and technology, but it can still take weeks or even months for mortgage offers to come through, according to the Home Owners Alliance, let alone the conveyancing process.

What is often viewed as an archaic, time-consuming, and paperwork-heavy exchange can undoubtedly benefit from the plethora of innovative tools and tech that we have at our disposal. In this guide, we’ll explore how embracing digitisation could benefit everyone involved in both the buying and selling side of a property purchase, from estate agents and conveyancing solicitors to vendors and buyers themselves.

The current state of affairs

here is a fine line between making a property transaction as quick as possible and not rushing into hasty decisions. If there is one investment that you do not want to rush, it’s buying a home.

Digital property portals like Rightmove and Zoopla have made househunting more convenient for buyers. However, even by expressing an interest in a property listed by estate agents, buyers must be forthcoming and willing to take many of the following steps rather laboriously. Stacks of paper, mountains of home information packs, and postal communications quickly compound to make the process feel overwhelming.

The inherent belief behind why these processes have remained largely unchanged is for security and peace of mind. That said, with life happening at such a rapid pace nowadays, it feels far more cumbersome and time-consuming than it really ought to be.

An estate agent is lumbered with hefty admin responsibilities like producing paperwork packs, offers, and contracts, taking high-quality property and architecture photographs that do the listing justice, and much more. Estate agents often have to dedicate many working hours to being on hand for multiple property visits at their clients’ discretion. 

On the buyer’s side, arranging viewings repeatedly for prospective properties can be challenging. With limited digital viewing options available, they often have to liaise with multiple estate agents for different properties within their budget and target area, which can be hard to manage. This, coupled with creating or managing offers with estate agents online or obtaining additional funding from lenders often involves keeping the estate agent in the loop.

A conveyancing solicitor will typically rely heavily on physical documents, paperwork and postal correspondence. While they will maintain transparency through email and phone calls, on the surface, their services feel rather paper-intensive and often lack digital infrastructure.

How can this be improved with the help of technology?

The benefits of digital property transactions

Embracing digital technology at all stages of a home-buying exchange could significantly smooth and speed up the experience. 

1. Flexibility for agents and buyers

Agents should undoubtedly maximise the potential of property portals as that’s where prospective buyers are predominantly scouring for available homes to buy. Adopting a flexible and adaptable template for all available properties will help agents upload and manage property listings wherever they are located in real-time. 

Where applicable, estate agents can incorporate digital floorplans and virtual viewing software, thus allowing buyers to view homes remotely. With careful consideration, they can shortlist interested buyers by hosting virtual viewings to start with and filter out any uninterested buyers for in-person viewings. Doing this early creates a first impression that helps buyers envision how a property looks more clearly, envisioning it with greater preparedness when visiting in person.

Buyers can benefit greatly by having more digital assets available to them before they set foot on the property. They can shortlist favourites, book digital viewings, peruse digital floorplans, liaise with agents and vendors online, and, if allowed, ‌make offers. This additional flexibility provides buyers and agents with plenty of automated and instant responses from the outset.

2. Faster transaction times

Going a step further than the initial property viewings and information exchanges, digital offers and contracts with e-signature capabilities will facilitate the next stage. 

If offers, rebuttals, and acceptances could be made online in a secure, encrypted space, the transaction could speed up exponentially. Using collaborative software and tools where estate agents, vendors, and buyers can communicate and ‘sign’ agreements, the conveyancing process can begin with greater speed and efficiency. 

While the property purchase can remain in a state of limbo until the exchange process begins, following repeated discussions with both parties’ conveyancing solicitors, this next step can be made much easier with the help of all-inclusive software to sign contracts and make offers. It’s even more effective if there are updates built into the software that show all parties the status and progress of the purchase. 

3. Reduced administration and enhanced collaboration

Digitising contracts, conveyancing processes, requests, and instructions removes the need to dispense and distribute mountains of paperwork and reduces the amount of manual processes required.

A secure, collaborative platform that can facilitate instant communication and real-time updates makes the whole process more transparent and productive. Facilitating conversations between estate agents, buyers, sellers, conveyancers, and other parties will help transactions feel more efficient and effective. The additional transparency will also lessen the likelihood of bottlenecks and delays which are never easy to attribute to one party while communication barriers remain so rigid.

AgencyQR’s innovative digital approach

At Agency Express, we take great pride in assisting thousands of high street and online estate agents with marketing their properties. With the help of AgencyQR, property marketing is inherently easier and more productive. 

Using an innovative QR code system embedded with the online board tool SignMaster3, we create seamless gateways between your available properties and potential high-quality buyers. This technology is a prime example of how you can offer an instant, immersive experience for interested buyers to peruse properties with the help of QR codes on signs. Now you can connect instantly with buyers browsing properties on their mobile devices and facilitate open conversations with greater ease.

Manual processes must remain

There’s no denying that some parts of a house exchange will require manual oversight and for parties to be physically present. 

For instance, it would be daft to commit to purchasing a property if a buyer had not visited or viewed it once. In much the same way, exchanging and completion to take place where buyers hand over keys to sellers would be somewhat counterproductive if that wasn’t done face to face.

Nowadays, mortgage lenders and solicitors stipulate that independent surveyors conduct impartial assessments of properties to ensure there are no legal or regulatory concerns. It’s impossible to get an accurate picture of a property’s condition without visiting it in person entirely. 

However, it’s clear to see that technology can speed up and improve many laborious and arduous tasks between all parties.

Realising the digital potential

Transitioning to digital may seem somewhat daunting and is certainly not without risk, considering the evolving cyber threat landscape. However, the benefits can outweigh the drawbacks with careful precision and consideration.

Covid-19 accelerated the need to embrace digital technology, so introduce digital elements strategically and incrementally before moving your operations entirely into the cloud. Offering virtual viewings, going paperless, facilitating e-signatures, and optimising your listings will be a great start in helping you navigate the digital terrain. 

Do this successfully and you will connect with more tech-savvy buyers who want to be free from paperwork, time-consuming processes, and repeated in-person meetings. Progress may be gradual and take time, but digitisation is clearly the future of real estate. Embrace it now if you want to remain competitive and avoid falling behind. 

Written by Agency Express guest writer Annie Button