The Conservatives now say they are not resuscitating Home Information Packs, despite a suggestion by a prominent former minister that they "had some validity".
In an interview yesterday evening on the BBC Radio 4 programme PM, Michael Gove - the former minister put up as the official Conservative representative to discuss the Tory manifesto - was asked by presenter Eddie Mair what the pledge, put in the party's General Election manifesto, actually meant.
Gove replied: “One of the things we can revisit is to look for example at the way in the past ... the arguments behind Home Information Packs which Labour hoped to deliver before 2010. They had some validity. The implementation of Home Information Packs was botched but we can look again at this process.
“I wouldn’t want to pre-judge what the outcome is but we all know the process of buying a home can be complex and it can be the case sometimes that information has to be generated more than once.”
However, a statement this afternoon from the Conservative Party promises major reform to the house buying process - but not through HIPs.
“The government wants to speed up the home buying and selling process, to cut costs for consumers and make the experience of buying a home more consumer-friendly and less stressful. This will include encouraging greater competition in the market and more digitisation” a Conservative spokesman told Estate Agent Today.
“Evidence shows that large numbers of transactions are delayed or fall through and the financial, and emotional, costs to consumers when this happens can be high.
This is not only bad for individual consumers who spend £270m per year on failed transactions.
“Millions more are lost to estate agents and conveyancers operating on a ‘no sale, no fee’ basis who incur costs they cannot recoup directly when transactions fall through. These costs are likely to be passed on in the form of higher fees and commissions, meaning many consumers will pay more for these intermediary services than they should.
“The last Labour government’s attempted reforms were a failure. Labour’s Home Information Packs duplicated costs and no-one trusted them.”
Just over a year ago the then-housing minister Brandon Lewis inserted an amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill which many interpreted as Home Information Packs being resuscitated.
For those readers too young to remember - or keen to put HIPs out of their minds - the packs were originally a Labour idea in which, under Part 5 of the Housing Act 2004, a Home Information Pack was to be provided before a property in England or Wales could be put on the open market.
There was huge opposition from within the agency industry.
A watered-down version of the HIP became mandatory for homes with four or more bedrooms on August 1 2007 and was extended to three-bedroomed properties from September 10 that year, but were scrapped by the Coalition government in 2010.
Meanwhile industry groups have been forthright in explaining how they are unimpressed with the housing policies put forward by the Conservatives and other political parties.
A statement from Mark Hayward and David Cox - chief executives of NAEA and ARLA Propertymark - have issued a statement suggesting they are distinctly underwhelmed by the pledges outlined this week in the Labour, Lib Dem and Tory manifestos.
“The housing market is in crisis. We are simply not building enough homes to meet the demand from both the private rented and sales sectors. We are concerned that housing has become a political football for future governments to score points against each other and this is getting in the way of actually ensuring we have the right sort of houses available, in the right areas, across all tenures, to provide the homes that people need” says the statement.
“Only 32,000 affordable homes were built in 2016, which hasn’t made a dent; although the parties are pledging to build hundreds of thousands of new homes, we need to seriously consider if such pledges are even remotely practically possible. As we have said many times, we need to take the politics out of housing and consider other ways to ease the pressure on housebuilding that will allow us to provide a more accessible and affordable housing market for all” the Propertymark statement concludes.
NALS’ chief executive Isobel Thomson says her organisation welcomes parties’ interest on greater protection and security for tenants - but she says these must not come at the cost of sacrificing a strong and functioning private rented sector.
“While all three manifestos pledge longer tenancies, within promises to make renting better and fairer, we are yet to see the genuine evidence of demand from tenants for these tenancies. Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives all specifically pledge to ban letting agent fees. While this not a surprise, we have warned that the fee ban will lead to a number of unintended negative consequences for the consumer - driving fees underground, a reduction in service to tenants and the lowering of standards in the sector” she says.