Alexa, is my home ready to sell?

4 February, 2020

Stephen Ward, director of strategy at the CLC looks at what the home buying and selling process of the future might look

Just five years ago, the idea of a smart, connected home still felt futuristic. However, in those intervening years, sales of Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa have exploded, surpassing 100 million in 2019 – and connected home skills are some of the platform’s most used technology.

With other big tech companies such as Google also now in on the act, the future has firmly arrived. So, if we can now nonchalantly ask Alexa to turn on the oven, dim the lights, or even see who’s at our front door, might we soon be asking “Alexa, is my home ready to sell”? It might not be quite a reality yet, but is it as far off as it sounds? Perhaps not.

A 2017 report by smart home technology company Andrew Lucas International foresaw that by 2030, technology such as virtual assistants connected to smart meters, doorbells, lighting and heating will have become a standard feature in houses.

Artificial intelligence is looking like it will play a major role in the house of 2030, with predictive algorithms, inference engines and deep-learning networks helping smart home technology to contextualise its surroundings.

“Facial and voice recognition could immediately recognise various members of the household and provide informed responses to open-ended questions, as well as alter settings and trigger systems to create an ideal living environment without the need for any human interaction.”

But what does all of this mean for the business of buying and selling property?

A 2016 report by the NHBC Foundation, The Connected Home, looked ahead to developments like self-diagnosing and reporting mechanical and electrical systems, such as boilers, heat pumps and mechanical ventilation units that will diagnose their own faults, schedule routine maintenance actions and request appropriate action from a central service company.

The Home Buying and Selling Group, a stakeholder body set up by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), has created Buying and Selling Property Information (BASPI) – which has been described as “one source of truth” about a property.

One area that BASPI is looking at is access to internet-enabled tools at a property and the data these tools hold, which will need to be considered as part of the transaction in future too.

Work will need to be done to ensure that necessary data is preserved while the privacy of both seller and buyer is protected. This takes us towards the idea of properties having and automatically updating their own logbooks.

Property logbooks

But it means that rather than going through an arduous process of aggregating all the data needed to transfer a property and then leaving it in a dead file, all the information would be accessible for when property is next put on the market, and updated as necessary.

If such logbooks were available they could be downloaded at the start of the marketing process and all electronic data made available. Sellers would then be able to confirm if the data presented is correct and make any necessary changes.

Once signed off all parties, buyers, sellers and valuers would be given access to the log. This would considerably reduce the amount of to-ing and fro-ing that occurs with questions being passed from buyer to vendor through their respective conveyancers.

The log books could also trigger searches and ensure that only required searches are undertaken, dictated by a property’s postcode.

All of this shows a property market in transition, looking at the technology available and ways in which it can best modernise the transaction to ensure better outcomes for buyers and sellers alike. While digital logbooks won’t be mainstream for property transactions in 2020, they may well be by 2030.

These and other ideas are explored in the CLC’s new discussion paper Conveyancing 2030 that explores how the property world may look in the future. You can read it and join the discussion here.

This article first appeared in What Mortgage

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