SPECIAL FEATURE: Driving change with digital property logbooks – RLBA
Special feature: The RLBA’s Nigel Walley discusses the role of Digital Property Logbooks in driving change in the property buying and selling market and how they will help the conveyancing process.
In the last two years digital Property Logbooks for our homes have moved from concept to reality with almost a quarter of a million homes in the UK now having one. There is a vibrant and competitive market for logbooks emerging, as the six different providers represented by the Residential Logbook Association (RLBA) will attest. Their impact is beginning to be felt in the Conveyancing industry, but knowledge and awareness is lagging behind.
So what is a Property Logbook?
A Property Logbook is like a dashboard, user manual and service history combined into one digital asset. We already have all three for our cars, but few of us have them for our homes. As our residential property become more complex, with installations of smart home, security and green energy systems increasing, the need to centrally manage digital records and accounts is becoming pressing.
The key thing to stress is that Property Logbooks are not actually a product of the home buying and selling industry, although clearly, they come into play at sale. A logbook has functions that are relevant throughout the lifecycle of property ownership, and across multiple industries. Depending on your provider, they should be able to produce, host and share data that supports maintenance, building work, council services, lettings and, if occasion arises, selling and buying homes.
A Property Logbook is therefore a record of a property, a place where documents can be stored, and links provided to arm the owner with all the information they need to know about their home.
Why do I need a Property Logbook?
As data around property is increasingly liberated and shared across professional systems, the amount of information on our homes held by government and industry is ballooning. What is remarkable is how little of it is routinely available to the homeowner. The RLBA believes a homeowner should have either ownership, oversight or, at least, access to all public data about what, for most of us, is the most expensive asset we will ever buy.
More than that, a homeowner should have a tool to store the kind of private data about a property that only they would ever have access to. This might include maintenance or performance records, construction details and running costs. This information can be made available to a committed buyer during a transaction. A digital Property Logbook is the only consumer-centric tool that puts the homeowner in the driving seat.
What information can be stored in a Property Logbook?
One again, this depends on the Logbook provider. The RLBA supports a vibrant and competitive market between Logbook providers, with innovation and variation encouraged. The Property Logbook for a listed Georgian house will have fundamentally different content and functionality to one used by a young couple in a flat full of smart devices. However, the RLBA has agreed a standard data core for each RLBA registered Logbook. This is so we can guarantee all players in the property market can build a standard way of integrating and sharing data. The data in a Logbook will include all the public data available on a property, as well as the private data mentioned above.
Are Property Logbooks and HIPS the same thing?
No. HIPS were just a specific snapshot of information about a home. A Property Logbook is a digital companion for the life of a property and will pass on to the next owner on sale. Most importantly, HIPs were dead information from the moment they were printed and were hard to validate. Logbooks have a large and growing set of links to live data sources that keep them perpetually up to date. A good logbook should be a tool to help a household manage their home and be able to output different reports to suit different user cases.
What is the difference between Property Logbooks and Sellers Information Packs?
As with HIPs, the new Sellers Information Pack (SIP) being launched by the Home Buying & Selling Group will be a snapshot in time to support a single transaction available as ‘upfront information’. They will be a one-off download of data about a home. Most Logbooks will have a functionality to output one of the packs, and we anticipate RLBA members being the primary suppliers of SIPs in the future. But the data transferred represents only a small subset of the information a Logbook can potentially hold. RLBA-registered Logbooks will be able to keep past SIPs in an archive, so an owner or buyer will be able to trace back the data from past transactions.
How do Property Logbooks benefit conveyancers?
Over time, as properties increasingly come to market with a Property Logbook, they will speed up the process of getting a property listed for sale, increase transparency and reduce fall through. So quicker, hassle-free sales. As the Logbook companies integrate systems with the Conveyancer CRMs, back office processes will be automated, and admin reduced. Our vision is that SIPs, and the Property Logbooks that produce them, will reduce the time and costs conveyancers face in the research part of any sale, and will free up time for conveyancers to deliver insight and value.
But it’s likely that Logbooks will also be part of the wider re-imagining of property sales. RLBA registered Logbooks will have the ability to connect directly to systems used by all players in the industry and make data available in ways not envisaged by the current system. Partners we are working with include the identity industry. The growing shift towards ‘passportable’ identity checks mean that a vendor can get a KYC/AML check done before they even bother an agent, host it in their Logbook and present it at every stage of the sale process..
The RLBA is also working with the mortgage industry, which is looking to access Logbook data at the start of the process to pre-clear properties for mortgages (so properties can also be marketed as ‘Mortgage Ready’).
What else do conveyancers need to think about?
Logbooks have emerged at the same time as a wider debate on how the legal industry should view ‘digital assets’. The RLBA were contributors to the recent Law Commission Consultation on ‘digital assets’ and we pointed out that a modern home now contains a growing array of systems, services and apps, that need to be handed over on sale. The new BASPI form now includes questions about whether a Property Logbook is present to support a sale, and includes them in the list of ‘digital assets’ that need to be included in the fixtures and fittings review.
The RLBA is currently working with the Home Buying & Selling Group to investigate how the handover of Property Logbooks and these other digital assets can be made a reserved legal activity, and have the process enshrined in the CQS..
What’s the RLBA’s role in all this?
The RLBA is committed to establishing Logbooks as a primary tool we use to manage our homes. We want to create a competitive market, but one based on standards, rules and verification.
For buying and selling we are determined that, along with participating in the digitisation of property sales, Logbooks will support the fight against property fraud. At the heart of this is the RLBA Logbook Register, which is being built at the moment. Our system of Logbook registration will ensure that Logbooks can only be registered by the legal owners and, most importantly, will ensure there is only ever one recognised Logbook for any property.
If a Logbook provider is a member of the RLBA, and their Logbooks are listed with the RLBA Logbook Register, we can guarantee that ownership has been verified, and agreed data standards complied with. Over time we anticipate the Register’s systems will be integrated with all Estate Agency and Conveyancer CRMs and a Logbook check will be a standard, automated step in any sale.
What should Conveyancers do next?
The RLBA is keen to drive awareness of logbooks into the conveyancing world. The most important thing is for everyone to experiment and learn about Logbooks. Every conveyancer should set up a Logbook for their own home from an RLBA Registered provider, and every conveyancing firm should ask the RLBA or individual Logbook companies to demo their products and explain them to their teams.
But most importantly, conveyancers should work with the RLBA or individual providers to look at how Logbooks can help improve their core business and in particular drive return business, referrals and on-sale of further legal services. All of the RLBA providers are clear, we intend to be strategic partners to the conveyancing industry, not competitors. A faster, more transparent industry will benefit everyone.
Nigel Walley, CEO of property logbook company Chimni and Chair of the Residential Logbook Association (RLBA).
Kindly shared by The Residential Logbook Association (RLBA)
Main article photo courtesy of Pixabay