Three quarters of Brits do not trust online checks when buying a property

Despite heavy Covid restrictions forcing a lot of sectors to trade virtually, estate agents in the UK have been able to safely conduct in-person house viewings. This is perhaps unsurprising as online estate agents were far from prominent in 2020, with only held 8% of the market share.

However, with hybrid or online estate agents enjoying a 10% surge in trade, and a market growth of 2.7% in the last 12 months, research carried out by anti-money laundering specialists, SmartSearch, reveals three quarters (74%) of Brits do not trust property documentation to be handled safely and securely online.

The research also shows varying levels of consumer trust across banks when it comes to property documentation. High street banks, ranked in order of trust in their ability to handle property documentation safely, securely and entirely online are:

1. Handelsbanken (50%)
2. First Direct (44%)
3. Nationwide (32%)
4. Halifax (30%)
5. HSBC (30%)

Interestingly, half (50%) of people who bank with Handelsbanken said they would trust their property documentation to be carried out online. By contrast, those banking with Atom bank were the least trustworthy with none of their customers having confidence in their ability to process those important documents virtually.

Furthermore, the research revealed over half (59%) of people do not trust a mortgage application to be carried out safely and securely online either. Surprisingly, more than two thirds (68%) of those aged 18-24 years old said they would not trust their mortgage application to be carried out online, compared to 45% of those aged 35-54 years old.

However, despite an underlying lack of confidence in this process, 60% of those banking with First Direct and 50% of those banking with Nationwide said they would trust their mortgage applications to be carried out online.

John Dobson, CEO at SmartSearch, added: “Buying a property online is very convenient, especially during the current climate where people may be worried about conducting such transactions face to face. However, it is a big shake up to the industry and consumers alike. The last year has forced many of us to adapt to digital or automated services, but it seems the property market has some work to do to instil confidence in their consumers.

“While online estate agents are on the rise, they need to ensure they are taking the necessary steps to communicate trust to their customers, putting the right systems in place to make the process of buying and selling property online as safe and secure as possible. We are certainly seeing steps being taken to achieve this, with the introduction of the new conveyancing taskforce set to tighten up procedures for customers and lawyers.

“Our Trust Barometer tool pulls live Twitter sentiment towards high street and digital banks, highlighting how well banking institutions are trusted when it comes to handling important identity documentation online, and it’ll be interesting to see how this fluctuates as the virtual house market and banking sector continues to grow.”