Monday, August 31, 2009

Tech platform boost for property transactions

PROPERTY buyers hunting for their dream Housing Development Board (HDB) flat could find their task made easier when a project by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) to computerise 800,000 HDB titles and 3,300,000 HDB documents comes online.

The $8.2 million undertaking, called Singapore Titles Automated Registration System 21 (STARS21), will also benefit lawyers, property agents and the general public, said Bryan Chew, SLA director of Regulatory Division and senior deputy registrar of titles.

Speaking to BizIT last week in an interview, Mr Chew said convenience and time-savings will be the key benefits of this system, which is expected to be completed by end-2013.

SLA, a statutory board that oversees land sales, leases, acquisitions and allocation and other land-related duties in Singapore, currently operates a computerised land registration system for private properties but upkeeps its far-larger crop of HDB titles and documents as physical records. Its current database of 800,000 HDB titles and 3,300,000 HDB documents form about 80 per cent of its registry’s records.

With STARS21, SLA is set to create a single computerised and integrated platform that encompasses both private and HDB properties. Tasks associated with the transaction of properties, like title search, lodgement and registration of properties, are expected to be significantly boosted under the new platform.

Presently, searches on property details of HDB flats typically takes 10 to 15 minutes. This process involves SLA staff retrieving hardcopy leases or documents, making copies of them and then faxing or posting them to the customer.

In future, search results can be immediately and automatically dispatched over the Internet.

While the ease and speed of the title searches will not by themselves shorten the transaction process, they could help buyers in their search. ‘Before placing a deposit, buyers can always go online and search that the owners are who they profess to be,’ Mr Chew said.

For lawyers, key benefits include time savings and convenience as they will be able search for information faster, as well as lodge HDB caveats, transfers and mortgages electronically, without leaving their offices and at any time of the day.

SLA, too, is expecting to reap rewards from its investment.

According to an SLA, there are an average of 5,500 searches for HDB flats each month, based on figures collated from the first seven months this year. Extrapolating the numbers give an annual average of around 66,000 searches for 2009.

This means a saving of over 450 man-days, taking into account the estimate of around 10 to 15 minutes to process each search request.

STARS21 was unveiled earlier this month by Singapore Technologies Engineering (ST Engineering), which announced at the time its electronics arm ST Electronics had won the contract. The system is being built around Hewlett-Packard equipment and software, and employs a technology concept known as Service-Oriented Architecture.

Source: Business Times, 31 Aug 2009

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