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OTHER FEATURES

HIP, HIP, Hooray - The Other 10-Year Anniversary

You’ll see a lot of 10th anniversary stories in the property industry and consumer media in the coming days: early August marks a decade since the start of the credit crunch.

Yet lost in the noise of this dubious anniversary is the fact that it’s also 10 years since Home Information Packs - loved by a few, loathed by the many - came into existence.

For readers not in the industry in 2007, a quick recap.

The Housing Act 2004 introduced the concept of a seller’s pack (the HIP) to be provided before a property in England or Wales could be marketed. The pack consisted of the EPC, council searches, title documents, building consents and the like.

The agency industry complained - and how - about three aspects in particular.

Firstly, the delay in marketing a property as the pack was gathered (remember, the housing market was very hot in the 2005-7 period and local searches in particular could take months). Secondly, there was widespread scepticism that conveyancers acting for buyers would trust the accuracy of documents prepared on behalf of sellers. Thirdly, the pack could add several hundreds of pounds to the marketing of a home, and having to pay it upfront would deter sellers from ‘dipping their toes in the water’ and testing the market.

As a result of the widespread scepticism of the effectiveness of HIPs, their introduction was severely compromised. They became mandatory for homes with four or more bedrooms on August 1 2007 and extended to three-bedders from September 10 2007.

The number of homes marketed fell sharply - although, of course, this was also when the first stories of the banking crisis came to light, casting a pall over the market anyhow. *

So, 10 years on, is it time to reappraise them?

Cabinet member Michael Gove thinks so - he suggested just after the launch of this year’s ill-fated Conservative manifesto that a version of HIPs could be introduced, this time with the aim of speeding up what he saw as a slow, confusing sales process.

One criticism of HIPs - that people wouldn’t want to pay upfront - seems weaker in 2017 than it did in 2007, simply because we pay upfront for many items today.

Some restaurants insist on credit card details when booking, we pay online for many items some time before we receive them, and of course online agents persuade some sellers to pay upfront (even when they may not be certain of having their home sold at all...)

However, the two other drawbacks are harder nuts to crack.

Encouraging people to test the market is a key weapon in the high street agent’s armoury: EAT recently ran a story on some local searches taking literally months, so having to hold back marketing for that time kills any relatively spontaneous house selling stone dead.

Likewise conveyancers advising their buyer clients not to rely on the documentation put forward by sellers and thus - surprise, surprise - suggesting they pay out and commission the same reports again, is a problem likely to recur if HIPs return in some form in future.

Although some trade bodies like the Conveyancing Association call for log books for homes - HIPs by another name, really - it remains to be seen whether hugely risk-averse conveyancers in the field would play ball in practice.

All of which suggests achieving the intention behind HIPs (quicker and simpler sales, and an end to gazumping) is as far away today as in 2007. Except for one thing - the government has an ongoing commitment to reform and modernise the sales process.

It said so a year ago, repeated it in the Conservative manifesto in June this year, and has confirmed to Estate Agent Today recently that it is still an intention of the current Theresa May administration - despite Brexit and its struggle to reach majorities in parliament.

Quite how it will crack the problems above remains to be seen, but it will take perhaps more ingenuity and determination than we have seen to date from the current political leadership in the Department of Communities and Local Government.

One other thing that may be a deterrent is that it was the Conservatives, with Liberal Democrat support, who scrapped HIPs when the coalition government came to power in 2010; the same government then repealed the legislation completely in 2012.

How ironic if another minority Conservative administration struggled to get them back...

* The original version of this article erroneously suggested HIPs were not applied to smaller properties; this was not the case.

Editor of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today, Graham can be found tweeting all things property @PropertyJourn

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    Well lets hope THIS TIME the industry can get its act together to stop this tried and tested 'LUNACY' - dressing it up as 'a new version' does not detract from its stupidity.

    Landlords Tax hikes were largely noticed by ''this industry' who were only obsessed with the 3% Stamp Hike. When the REAL ISSUE was the mortgage tax relief - I know because I am a medium-sized landlord whose income is to be slashed by more than half!

    The whole property industry; its spokespeople, media and everyone else let Landlords like me and most of the other down BIG TIME - useless 'trade bodies' were clearly clueless last time - lets hope they wake up this time.

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    Typo:
    ''Landlords Tax hikes were largely UNnoticed by'' - how crass of me.

     
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    "Either way, HIPs were not extended to cover smaller properties."

    Haha, what a load of baloney, do you not even know about the subject of the article?

    I see the 'Industry' is still writing rubbish about HIPs after all these years.

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    "EAT recently ran a story on some local searches taking literally months, so having to hold back marketing for that time kills any relatively spontaneous house selling stone dead."

    More rubbish, properties could be marketed within days or even hours using, never a need to wait for searches at all, in fact under HIPs legislation consumers got a better deal as there was scrutiny placed on Councils over charging for public information and timescales were reduced as well.

    This really is a totally amateurish article.

  • David Bennett

    I have to agree with Colin. As an estate, back in the day, we regarded HIPs (a legal pack) as a positive way forward, to speed up the conveyancing process. Like anything new, it needed time to bed in and understandable resistance, as no one likes it when Govt tell us what to do!. In the main, instead of conveyancing solicitors providing the packs, along came HIPs companies (and even Domestic Energy Assessors), providing the packs to estate agents, for say £200, who sold them to the seller for say £400. Once a buyer was found, the seller ended up paying their conveyancer again. That is the main reason for the pack's being so unpopular and ultimate demise. Personally, I welcome another form of HIPs being brought back in, but somehow, cut all those middle men/persons.

  • Rob Hailstone

    The log book referred to is not a Hip by any other name, it is a property log book. The following paragraph has been taken from the Conveyancing Association White Paper (November 2016):

    "The introduction of a self-compiled ‘skinny’ electronic Home Report (e-Home Report) would provide a cost neutral solution. If the seller were able to complete the information online, on their preferred device, using artificial intelligence to prompt them to provide additional information required as a result of their responses, and download the Title Information Document from the Land Registry, the information could be compiled well ahead of time and provided both to their conveyancer and estate agent who would then be able to provide this to interested parties as part of their obligations under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008."

    On another purely personal note, because the launch of Hips was suddenly brought forward to the end of July 2007 it meant that our well timed and planned wedding took place two days before. Despite the fact our honeymoon had to be delayed, my marriage (thankfully and unlike Hips) is still in place.

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