How Home Information Packs (HIPs) are affecting the house-buying process in England & Wales
Following the last minute delay to the introduction of the Home Information Packs (HIPs for short) there was some doubt as to whether the new system for buying and selling a house would ever be implemented. We can now confirm that starting with four bedroom homes and above a HIP will be compulsory as from 1st of August 2007. For smaller homes HIPS will only become compulsory on a phased basis. The exact date when a HIP will have to be obtained to market a smaller home will depend on how quickly enough energy assessors become qualified to deal with the expected workload.
It is too early to assess the full impact HIPs have had on the house buying and selling process, but a snapshot of leading estate agents shows that most will offer a seller a HIP for between £300-£350 plus VAT. While this may seem expensive, it should be noted that under the current conveyancing system search fees of £200- £250 are already paid for by the purchaser of a property.
This government will be keen to make the best of what has been a bad situation to date. With this in mind, it is monitoring HIPs closely to try and ensure that the system works in favour of the consumer with increased competition thus reducing the cost of buying or selling a home. On this point, the introduction of HIPs has already led to nearly 50 local authorities reducing their local search fees.
As the new system is now fully implemented, we can expect the government to commission a full review. This review will no doubt lead to further amendments to the HIPs system and should consider the following elements:
HIPS were introduced to increase openness and transparency. The review will have to assess whether buyers have a clearer understanding of the property they are purchasing.
The review will also have to assess if the packs help to identify and resolve potential problems with a sale much earlier in the process. In principle contracts should be ready for exchange earlier therefore speeding up the conveyancing process. The packs should also reduce the number of renegotiations after an offer is accepted. We will have to wait and see if these improvements occur in practice.
The legal process should become more efficient under the HIPs system. Crucial preparatory legal work should take place at the beginning of the marketing period, rather than being spread out over several weeks.
4. Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs)
This was the only part of the HIPs system that the government was forced to include in order to meet the European Energy Performance Directive. It along with the now voluntary home condition report has caused the most controversy. Any review of the system will need to consider if these measures have been successful as they have the greatest potential to provide tangible benefits to the consumer.
There is usually resistance to any change in practice but, on this occasion, the level of objections has been unprecedented. Despite the reluctance of many property professionals to embrace HIPs, the system is now up and running. After all of the initial problems, and reforms made to the system, it can only be hoped that most of the objections were unwarranted. We will consider the success of the conveyancing revolution in future articles and consider what the full effect of HIPs has been on the house buying and selling system.