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