Date
17 September 2019
Attending the unveiling of the PropTech blockchain platform on Wednesday are (from left) ASTRI chief executive Hugh Chow, NWD vice chairman Adrien Cheng, and BOCHK deputy chief executive Ann Kung. Photo: NWD
Attending the unveiling of the PropTech blockchain platform on Wednesday are (from left) ASTRI chief executive Hugh Chow, NWD vice chairman Adrien Cheng, and BOCHK deputy chief executive Ann Kung. Photo: NWD

Blockchain signals new world of home sales in Hong Kong

How much time did you spend to buy your first property?

Acquiring a home is hard enough for ordinary Hong Kong families, who have to save up all their income for 17 years before they could have enough money for a decent flat. 

But even if they have the cash, the procedures involved in acquiring a home is still so daunting and time-consuming.

New World Development (00017.HK) has come up with a system that employs blockchain technology to speed up the process of property purchase, which it says would save homebuyers at least eight hours by integrating the laborious steps of form-filling and going back and forth between banks and lawyers.

“In the past 30 years, the real estate market has very rarely seen high technology introduced into the purchasing process,” says NWD vice chairman and general manager Adrian Cheng Chi-kong.

“Traditionally, buyers, real estate developers, banks and law firms all work separately. Until now, there has been no one-stop platform to connect all parties.”

The new platform, called PropTech, has been developed in collaboration with the Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI).

New World also enlisted Bank of China (Hong Kong) (02388.HK) to become the first participating bank in the scheme, which is the first time blockchain technology is being used in the real estate industry.

The platform uses distributed ledger technology or DLT, which enables all data users in the ecosystem to share customer information and transaction histories securely over a distributed data infrastructure, without compromising customer privacy or sensitive business information.

According to NWD, because much of the paperwork, applications and authorizations are done on the one-stop platform, it could save service providers up to 47 hours of their time. That means the entire industry chain will save around 55 hours by using the new system.

Many industry players agree that the new platform could be a real time-saver, noting that a buyer would normally queue up the entire day to be able to start the buying process when the entire procedure could be done online.

However, some developers would rather have the old way because long queues are a great come-on for would-be homebuyers who are still dilly-dallying, and a sign of success for a project.

Besides, they say, there’s no escaping the bureaucracy. Online property transactions will require lots of amendments to current regulatory procedures.

Homebuyers, of course, would always welcome time-saving innovations. But what they really care about is how to cut the enormous cost of acquiring a home.

Buying a home is a lifetime goal, and many have been spending all their life trying to realize that dream. They really won’t mind spending long hours waiting in queues or filling forms if in the end they will have a home they can call their own.

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CG

EJ Insight writer