Comment: Scotland looks to Norway’s property hub

All information required by law to complete a transaction in Norway is now available online, mostly accessible within minutes. Picture: Contributed
All information required by law to complete a transaction in Norway is now available online, mostly accessible within minutes. Picture: Contributed
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SCOTLAND looks to Norway for land and property hub, says Trude B-J Margel

Doing business quickly and efficiently is the cornerstone of a healthy, successful economy.

The ability to carry out land and property transactions in a fast, safe manner is an important part of this – and has propelled Norway into sixth place in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business survey.

The UK lags behind Norway in the survey and is way behind for ease of property transactions (68th place compared to Norway’s fifth). The key to success is making the wide range of information needed for land and property transactions available in one place – and making it credible and protected, though easy to access by those who need it.

Government-owned land information specialist Ambita laid the foundations by digitising the Norwegian land registry in the 1980s, then developed land-related information systems for the property market. All information required by law to complete a transaction in Norway is now available online, mostly accessible within minutes.

Scotland is behind Norway, but the Scottish Government and Registers of Scotland are moving to bridge the gap. The ambition to digitise the land registry by 2024 is a great start, but a one-stop digital land and property database must be the ultimate goal.

The Norwegian model, Infoland, has generated interest in Scotland and elsewhere as a viable, easily transferrable system. It is a central hub, consisting of suppliers to an online portal, such as the land registry, councils, the mapping authority and suppliers of environmental information – each directly linked to the property or land in question.

Ambita remunerates suppliers monthly, based on paid searches for information.

Making information digitally available in one place around the clock, has many economic benefits, including speedier conveyancing. Integration among banks, customers and property professionals reduced transaction periods from 2-3 weeks to hours in Norway. By the year end, half of Norwegian mortgage-lending could be handled like this – and swift, efficient transactions mean gains for everyone.

• Trude B-J Margel, head of global enterprise at AMBITA AS, speaks at “A world-class digital land and property information database for Scotland”, 10 March: www.scotsmanconferences.com