The huge impact technology is having on the UK property industry was explored at a London business lunch.
Electronic payments and transactions, property exchanges, smart technology, alternative currencies and Blockchain deals were detailed to a gathering of over 100 industry professionals at the Royal Institution, Mayfair last Wednesday (Feb 19).
Real estate investors, developers, lenders and intermediaries were attending the Axiom Stone Solicitors’ Real Estate Lunch – the latest in a series organised by the company, one of the capital’s fastest-growing full-service law firms with offices in Mayfair, Edgware and Birmingham.
Sou Babaei of Axiom Stone’s Commercial Property Group, told the meeting that over the past 10 years the courts had accepted the validity of electronic signatures with the 2019 Law Commission report deciding that, with the law as it stands, legal documents could be executed electronically, other than deeds which still needed a physical signature from a witness in person.
Axiom Stone real estate colleague Munsifah Choudhary added that while electronic means were simpler and faster ways to conduct deals, a physical presence avoided potential fraud and duress.
Neil Singer, of surveyors and investment agents Singer Vielle, explained the workings of the Blockchain concept of conducting property deals. Data is coordinated into blocks which stores and secures the information making it impossible to hack. Blockchain’s reliability meant the instantaneous payment by crypto currency and removed the need for third parties.
Anthony Abell of APX, said that his company was using Blockchain in property exchanges – the aim of which was to make property a fully liquid traded asset. His company planned 20 property exchanges globally this year.
The meeting also heard about the application of algorithms in data platforms and the growing use of smart technology in the form of mobile phones controlling a property’s heating, lighting and security.
However. a few notes of caution were sounded. The potential for electronic fraud was identified by Axiom Stone’s Daniel Gleek, Head of Litigation and Disputes Resolution. Examples were tenants changing their name to that of the owner and attempting to sell the property, while banks received financial instructions via sophisticated bogus emails – where email accounts had been hacked.
Jonathan Metliss, Axiom Stone Chairman, who hosted the event, acknowledged the digital transformation of the industry, but insisted that, ultimately, it was a “people business”, which was one of his company’s core values
This sentiment was shared by Will Clough of auctioneers Allsop, who said that while technology offered wider marketing and online registration and bidding, the auction world was still about “the people behind the technology”.