Microsoft and Centaline develop blockchain real estate platform for Hong Kong

Hong Kong property agency Centaline developed a blockchain-based real estate platform with Microsoft and TFI Blockchain Technology (TFI). The platform, integrated with Centaline’s existing app, allows for immutably stored and digitally signed documents. The aim of having this platform is to digitalise the industry and provides convenience for property buyers.

The platform employs Microsoft’s Azure to host its blockchain solution and claims that 30% of its property sales currently have the paperwork digitized using blockchain technology whereas in other regions the figure is as high as 40%.

According to Serena Cheung, Director for One Commercial Partner and Small, Medium & Corporate Customers at Microsoft Hong Kong, Microsoft Azure has been providing end-to-end service support to Centaline.

She said the agility and security of Microsoft Azure’s cloud and blockchain technology enable corporate users to significantly reduce the time-to-market.

Microsoft will also work with Centaline in the deployment of data analytics and artificial intelligence to create new business opportunities during the second-hand property transaction and leasing process.

There are two nodes, one controlled by Centaline and the other operated by TFI. However, there are plans to add legal firms and banks in early 2020 to handle verified documents.

By bringing these parties onboard, Pang said one of the potential applications for the platform is to automatically follow up on the status of the property transaction or leasing process, which will then notify the customers instantly via the mobile app.

On top of that, Centaline will also be able to enhance the after-sales service, such as providing legal service and mortgage plan referrals.

Chief Executive Officer of Centaline Data Technology Tomy Pang said that transactions for second-hand properties involve a long process and a long list of detailed forms. Prospective sellers and buyers have to sign various forms and handle stacks of paper brochures.

“Transfer of the paper documents is time and effort-consuming, and there can be disputes over discrepancies in pricing and property information due to handwriting errors,” he said.

With blockchain technology, documents are digitized and protected from tampering and the distributed ledger structure allows other parties involved in the process to verify and securely share the document and data, enhancing the efficiency of the process.

The Centaline property mobile app contains all the necessary forms and documents for buying, selling, renting, and listing can be processed and completed securely online, enabling customers to sign the forms digitally.

“We have customers all over the world – even some residing as far away as Canada – who are keen to buy properties in Hong Kong,” said Pang. “With blockchain, they no longer need to take a flight to Hong Kong to sign documents and can now do that securely on their mobile phones.”

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