Given that property is changing hands more frequently (on average every seven years), the legal profession is faced with a number of challenges. These include the need for speedier transactions, detailed records of each transaction, and the ability to re-use property information for subsequent deals. This is where the "Online Deal Room" or "eRoom" will prove invaluable.

Such a room will provide a central depository for all information regarding each property transfer where parties can negotiate documentation in a secure and managed environment - a type of closed extranet. Although similar to Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) it is different, as more information is needed for each property transaction - property details, rental yield, terms of lease etc.

This information is vital and the legal profession has to agree to an industry wide data standard to manage it. If this is not done, transaction information will be held by clients within their own data environments, presenting a threat to the legal profession. Real estate organisations that have adopted such standards will then be in a position to demand that data held in online deal rooms is able to be transferred electronically to existing internal systems without the need of costly manual data input.

With the advent of Extensible Markup Language (XML) technology that delivers data storage functionality, real estate companies will eventually only deal with those conveyancing firms that are in a position to interface with their knowledge management systems. They will only deal with those firms who allow for the circulation of information across the enterprise therefore streamlining administration, acquisition, disposal, reporting and valuation of property.

As a result of this potential threat, the Law Society of England and Wales has established a data standards working group to analyse current working practices. In so doing, they will be adding value to real estate clients, leading other business sectors and helping them maximise the benefits that collaborative environments offer.

What is relevant to the South African conveyancing profession is the fact that PISCES is not so much a product but a methodology and a procedure that allows information to be stored and transferred between all parties involved in the residential sector. Future concerns do not lie with the development of technology - to a greater extent, these have been solved. These future concerns involve reluctant conveyancers who won't appreciate the need for- and the exploitation of the new technology. It is necessary then for all parties in the conveyancing profession - attorneys, banks, estate agents and mortgage originators - to debate adopting common standards. Perhaps the Law Society should establish a data standards working group.

The Property Forum

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