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20 March 2008

Home Information Packs subject to criticism again

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by Kay Mitchell

Home Information Packs subject to criticism again

Home information packs (Hips) are subject to heavy criticism again as they have now been branded the ‘worst piece of consumer legislation in 50 years’.

Hips were introduced to speed up the home buying and selling process as well as providing consumers with a faster and more cost effective service.

The Government also said Hips would prevent gazumping – where the seller accepts a purchase offer, having already accepted another lower offer from another potential buyer.

Housing minister, Caroline Flint, said consumers are already benefiting from the introduction of Hips.

Hips were launched on August 1 to include properties with 4-bedrooms or more and rolled-out to include 3-bedroom properties on September 10. They included all properties from December 14 last year.

However, a report from consumer group, Which? indicate they are of little value, confusing and are not respected by the public or estate agents. They have been universally opposed by estate agent trade bodies, the legal profession and the Council of Mortgage Lenders.

Which? quotes the Law Society today saying it believes the packs to be ‘the worst piece of consumer legislation in 50 years’.

Furthermore, Ipsos MORI, a multi-specialist research company, carried out a survey on 3,118 Hips. 60% of buyers said they had not seen a Hip while another 24% said they saw the pack after they made an offer.

Hips include an energy efficiency rating for the property, which requires a visit and survey by a domestic energy assessor. There is also a local authority search of planning applications in the vicinity together with details of the title deeds of the property or any leases.

However, the planning searches become out of date after 4 months so they have to be repeated by the seller or buyer.

Many buyers consider the packs to be of such little value that they do not ask for them when viewing a property.

Researchers from Which? went undercover pretending to be homebuyers to find out about the quality and value of the packs. The researchers visited 23 estate agents across the UK and found it was very difficult to get staff to hand over packs for the properties they were marketing. Eleven of the agents had properties with Hips on their books but the researchers were only offered a sight of packs by two.

The undercover visits to estate agents took place in Eastbourne, Ipswich, Leicester and Rotherham.

The researchers also surveyed the price of packs in London, Oxfordshire, Rotherham and Swansea and established that prices ranged from £234 to £499.

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