Today, blockchain is what the iPhone was in 2007. Revolutionary and disrupting, it can soon become a common part of day-to-day life with transparency in business operations.
Blockchain has a comprehensive approach in industries which need to be protected from corruption, human error or human intervention.
Land Registry is one of the use cases that involve a lot of intermediaries to put trust in the system. The existing solutions in place are out of date. Tracking who owns which pieces of property is challenging when you have thousands of land records to maintain.
It is quite common to confront discrepancies within the paperwork such as counterfeit titles, forged documents and a complete loss of the record. Such situations lead to expensive court battles between conflicted parties.
The transparent nature of blockchain can make it possible to trace how property changes hands. Blockchain’s immutable, auditable and traceable features are enticing governments around the world to implement the decentralized technology in the land registry process.
In this article, we shall explain:
- The Involvement of middlemen and brokers
Middlemen and brokers are an integral part of every big business as they know more about market offerings. Buyers and Sellers usually prefer to call them to build a full support team.As a result, buyers acquire a deeper understanding of the market and identify lower/higher prices for the transaction. Middlemen gather required information from traders, identify errors, interpret and facilitate the implementation of real estate transactions.Since real estate is big business, it involves a huge number of players, including brokers, lenders, intermediaries and local governments. It leads to additional costs, making the entire ecosystem expensive.
- The increasing number of fraud cases
There has been several cases of imposters posing as the seller of a property. If an imposter successfully pretends as a property owner, they may receive the full amount of after completion and escape with the funds.In many of the cases, both sellers and buyers were unaware of the fraud until discovered by the land registry as part of a spot check exercise.
- Time Delays
Land Registry takes a considerably long time to complete title registrations. There could be a gap of several months between completion and registration.Many legal problems can also arise during this long gap. For example, what if you have to serve the landlord’s notice to break a lease where property has been sold. Such issues can make the entire process delayed and buyers have to wait for a long time.
- Human error/intervention
Currently, updates to the land registry records are made manually and the accuracy of those changes depends on a particular individual. It means that the land registry is more vulnerable to human errors.Human intervention can increase the chances of errors in the land registry system.
Could blockchain overcome these challenges in the existing land registry system?
Yes, it can. Read further to know how.
- Accelerating the Process
Middlemen involved in the land registry process hold information that you cannot access, or you might not have the license required to operate in a property transaction ecosystem.But the blockchain land registry platform can offer you a distributed database where anyone can record and access information without the involvement of any centralized authority.At present, the title to a property/land is just a piece of paper. You require to fill blanks in the deed, sign it, get it notarized for rubber stamping and send the documents to the government to transfer the property.
The process looks too old and slow. However, creating a digital title with blockchain land registry platform can improve the process.
With the blockchain’s potential to prove authenticity, homeowners can transfer the land ownership legitimately to the buyer without needing third-party verification.
- Reducing Fraud Cases
In today’s digital world, it is now possible for imposters to forge the documents and fake the title ownership with the editing software.Blockchain land registry platform will allow you to upload the title documentation to the blockchain network where signers can sign the document and other users can verify it when needed.By keeping an immutable record of transactions, blockchain can prove that you are the owner of the land title and prevent from forgery of documents.
Therefore, it can be said that the blockchain land registry platform could serve as proof of ownership, existence, exchange and transaction.
- Bringing Transparency with Smart Contracts
There are only a few people who buy property directly. The process of loan or mortgage is comparatively slower due to administrative issues.But smart contracts can make the process simpler by automating verified transactions. With the blockchain land registry platform, you can create a digital, decentralized ID as a seller and buyer. Doing so would make ownership transfer seamless and quicker than the traditional method.As soon as the registrar confirms the transfer of land title, smart contracts trigger to update ownership for a new buyer and transaction corresponding to it gets stored on the blockchain.
In this way, it is always possible to trace back the history of ownership records.
Many countries have started experimenting with the potential of blockchain to reconstruct the land registry process.
Let’s discuss some of the countries that have planned to build a blockchain land registry platform.
- United States
In January 2019, South Burlington Clerk Office announced its collaboration with the blockchain startup, Propy, Inc. to pilot real estate transfers on the blockchain.Presently, Vermont officials spend thousands on saving and securing real estate records. A digital solution built on the blockchain could reduce these costs and free up required funds for the city.Also, Wyoming, Teton County signed a Memorandum of Understanding in December 2018 with Medici Land Governance, a subsidiary of the blockchain. This partnership emphasizes on the shift of the country’s land records to a new blockchain platform.
As part of the innovative program, all records dated after 1996 need to move to the new blockchain solution.
Koen Huisstede, the Netherland’s Land Registry Enterprise Architect, said that they would integrate the blockchain solution into the country’s land registry ecosystem within one to three years.The Netherlands was one of 22 EU members that signed a declaration to develop a European Blockchain Partnership.
The UK’s land registry released a statement about a partnership with the blockchain-based firm Methods on 1st October 2018. The collaboration is aimed at simplifying the growing land registry issues. The project titled “Digital Steet” could resolve many challenges faced by UK land registry professionals presently.
The Wall Street Journal revealed that the Swedish Land Ownership Authority has reached the final stages of testing of the two-year long blockchain land registry research program.Started in 2016, the program uses the ChromaWay’s private blockchain for land registry and property sales.
Since it is now clear why blockchain technology is suited for the land registry process, it is time to understand how can the platform work.
Stakeholders involved in the Blockchain Land Registry Platform:
- Buyer: A person who buys the land and uses the platform to search the property, request access and interact with the seller and get the land title ownership.
- Seller: A person who sells the land and uses the platform to manage properties and transfer land title to buyers.
- Land inspector: A person who uses the platform to manage property requests, view reports, confirm and initiate the transfer.
Step 1: Users register to the platform
Users who either want to sell or buy properties register to the blockchain land registry platform.
They can create the profile on the platform with details like name, government-issued ID proofs and designation. A hash for the identity information submitted by the users gets stored on the blockchain.
Step 2: Sellers upload the property specifications on the platform
Sellers can upload properties’ images and documents on the platform and pin the land’s location on the map. The transaction corresponding to the seller’s action of listing the property details is recorded on the blockchain.
Once the property’s details are uploaded to the platform, it is made available to all users who have signed up as a buyer.
Step 3: Buyers request access to the listed property
A buyer interested in any specific property can send a request to access its specification to the seller.
Sellers receive notification for property access requests. They can either deny or accept it by looking at the buyer’s profile.
Buyers can view the previous ownership records of the property and send a request to purchase it and initiate the transfer.
Transactions corresponding to the requests made by both sellers and buyers are recorded on the blockchain to ensure authenticity and traceability.
Step 4: Sellers approve the transfer request and land inspector gets the notification
If the seller approves the land ownership transfer request, the land inspector gets the notification to initiate the transfer of property. Smart contracts trigger to provide land documents’ access to the land inspector.
After the land inspector verifies the documents, they schedule the meeting for ownership transfer with buyer and seller.
The meeting record is also added to the blockchain to solve property related disputes if occur in the future.
Step 5: Land Inspector verifies the transaction and initiates the transfer
Land inspector verifies the documents submitted by buyers and sellers and adds the authenticated records to the blockchain land registry platform.
Sellers and buyers sign the property ownership transfer document in front of the land inspector on the land registry platform.
The signed document gets saved in the database and transaction corresponding to it is recorded on the blockchain.
The transfer is initiated and smart contracts trigger to send funds to the seller and title’s ownership to a new buyer.
Step 6: Land Registry Document Validation and Authenticity
In case of any disputes, any authorized party can upload the signed land registry document on the platform to check its authenticity and validate it.
If hash generated after uploading the document is the same as that of the hash created at the time of signing the document, then the document is authenticated and no modifications have been made to the document.
Developed on the Hyperledger Sawtooth, Land Registry is a scalable decentralized application that enables buyers and sellers to deal directly without the involvement of intermediaries.
On Land Registry, buyers can sign up and use the platform to view the land, request access and get the land title ownership.
To sign up to the application, buyers need to enter details like personal, financial and professional details to complete the verification process.
Buyers can request access to view the properties details on the mobile.
Sellers can view the request and grant access to the buyer. Also, the seller can either deny or allow the requests.
As soon as the seller accepts the request, the buyer can view the property details.
Moreover, the buyer can also view the ownership history and documents of the property.
Seller sends the request to the Land inspector to register the property. The land inspector can verify the documents from the blockchain network and add a new land record after complete verification.
Buyers can search for the properties they want to buy.
Buyers can request access for the property and mark it as favorite.
The seller receives the land record access request from the buyer.
The seller can view the list of pending access requests. They can either deny or allow the requests. Also, they can revoke the access permission and set the time for access.
Once the access is granted by sellers, buyers can view the property details.
Buyer can view the ownership history of the property.
Buyers can access the documents of the property uploaded by the seller.
The land inspector uses the land registry platform to add a new land record. They can search for the properties that need to be registered. They can find properties either by entering the details or pinning the location on the map.
The land inspector can view the ownership details of the properties and initiate the property transfer.
Buyer and seller both enter their private key to verify the identities. After verification, they digitally sign the agreement from the land inspector’s portal.
Land inspector captures the pictures of the seller and buyer to ensure authenticity. After getting the property document signed by the seller and purchaser, the land inspector can add the legal land record to the system.
With industry experts and governments exploring and implementing blockchain solutions in the land registry ecosystem, it is possible that the traditional industry can be remodeled to bring fairness in the property transactions.
If you are planning to build a blockchain land registry platform, our team of blockchain developers can assist you with the entire process from identification of system components through the development.
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