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From smart contracts to blockchain: year two of our research

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Members of the Digital Street Team

As described in a recent blog post, Digital Street has started its second year of research and development as part of the HM Land Registry Digital Programme.

Our goal is to work with the industry to explore and find ways to solve some of the key problems with buying and selling land and property. The Digital Street project is a key part of our ambition to position HM Land Registry at the forefront of global land registration innovation. As we learn, we want to pass insights and recommendations to our colleagues in our Digital and Data programmes, as well as the wider industry. You can read more about our plans for Digital Street in our Annual Report.

To show how we will be working with our users at the heart of the project, I wanted to share some insights from our ‘kick-off week’ back at the start of the summer. Kick-off weeks are important because they help us:

  • understand our roles within the team, our responsibilities and preferred working methods
  • set our mission and goals for year two of Digital Street
  • understand if we have identified all our users and who we could be reaching out to
  • identify the most pressing things to get started on

Understanding the context

Digital Street is looking at the wider conveyancing and land registration process. We started by expanding our research from year one and thoroughly mapped the property buying/selling process, to help us better understand the changing landscape we’re working within. We plan to use that map to show the key pain points and areas of opportunity. It's also been a useful tool for discussion with users.

The conveyancing and registration process mapped out being read by a Digital Street Team member

We had help for this task from our in-house service designer, Paul Batterham. He produced a powerful visual map (pictured above). We went through it in detail, mainly so that we could both check we had the process correct and challenge some of our earlier assumptions.

This work helped us identify some new pain points and areas of opportunity - areas where we think Digital Street’s innovative thinking has the potential to revolutionise how buying and selling works.

It also helped us define our vision for the year ahead: “Property buying/selling made simpler, quicker and cheaper through data, technology and innovation.”

Understanding users and needs

During our second year, we want to step back and re-think: will we use the same approach to user research? Will the users and their needs be the same, or different? The list of possible users is very long, and includes estate agents, mortgage brokers, lenders, citizens, conveyancers, other government departments and our own staff.

Since the kick-off week, we have started to engage with our users. Back in May, we ran a workshop with them to really understand where HM Land Registry could work with the industry to add the most value.

We’re keen to build a close relationship with users. Thanks to the success of our year one engagements, we’ve set up something called the Digital Street community, made up of industry experts including conveyancers, lenders, mortgage brokers and property technology (“PropTech”) organisations. We’ve also started to engage with other government departments such as the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to understand how we can work more closely together. The community is already around 70 members strong and growing; email us if you would like to get involved.

Understanding where to start

Digital Street Team members using a laptop in a meeting room.

Our plans for this year are ambitious. Building on our research from last year and continuing to collaborate with the industry, we want to explore a future vision for buying and selling property with a particular focus on understanding:

Digital Street will be developing concepts over the next coming months to test future models with our users and to validate our learning. We’ve decided to make understanding the technology our first priority, particularly smart contracts, and distributed ledgers.

We’ll post more updates here to let you know how we’re getting on.

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  1. Comment by Bertram Webster Frater posted on

    I am sorry that you do not allow Birmingham local Land Registry to show a Postal Address.

    Bertram Webster Frater.

    • Replies to Bertram Webster Frater>

      Comment by ianflowers posted on

      Bertram - We do not have a land registry office in Birmingham - the nearest offices geographically would be Coventry and Leicester.

      The office addresses we publish most prominently on GOV.UK are central ones. This because any postal applications we receive that involve an update to the land register or requests for copies of the deeds and documents that we hold are scanned at ‘front end’ at a central facility and then sent electronically to the appropriate area for processing. We therefore have a central address for these applications. The address for applications sent by members of the public is as follows:

      HM Land Registry Citizen Centre
      PO Box 74
      GL14 9BB.

      Our office geographical addresses are shown here: . But if a member of the public wishes to visit one of our offices in person, they will need to call us in advance to make an appointment.

  2. Comment by Bertram Webster Frater. LLB. posted on

    Mr. Ian Flower, I thank you very much for your response. This information is useful for me.
    Thanks. Webster Frater LLB.

  3. Comment by Helen O'Neil posted on

    Where can I find info on ground rent. Can the freeholder take my flat from me.
    The ground rent was due on January 2017 but he does not demand it.
    Is he trying to procure my flat through some source that I know nothing about.

    Flat at 4/14 Alma Square Scarborough Yo11 1JR

    • Replies to Helen O'Neil>

      Comment by ianflowers posted on

      Helen - The ground rent payable will be contained in the lease for your flat. We have an administrative role so can't comment on your legal position regarding the reported actions of your freeholder. You may want to consider getting independent advice if you're unsure, for example, from Citizen's Advice or from a conveyancer such as solicitor. Information and assistance available from the leasehold advisory service - may also be of interest.