The government, as we all know, immediately suspended Home Information Packs (HIPs) on coming into power. The problems with HIPs were well documented but primarily included the lack of an official local search, the uninformative questionnaires and the often incomplete or inaccurate legal title information. That said, there were some positive aspects of the HIP which we hope will continue.
From a buyer's solicitor's point of view, the HIP could prove very useful by providing the legal title information and search results electronically and at an early stage in the process, allowing us to prepare directed enquiries at an early date. It also encouraged other solicitors to correspond much more via e-mail, something we have advocated for a long time.
As a consequence of the HIP, we have learnt the benefit of compiling the legal title documents prior to a property going under offer. We offer a review service to clients who are putting their property on the market; we look through the legal title and can then be in a position to rectify title issues before time constraints are introduced. This means that we have gathered together the correct legal titles and documents which we can produce to buyers' solicitors from the outset.
We were often unable to use the personal search contained within a HIP but a good pack contained an official local search, which had the benefit of being acceptable to all mortgage providers. This could be relied on immediately and saved delays in waiting for the local search result to be returned; at present Kensington and Chelsea searches are taking 30 working days! We therefore advise sellers of more expensive properties to undertake the official local authority search at the same time as marketing their property to avoid delays.
We encourage all our clients to contact us prior to putting their property on the market or if that is not possible to contact us before the price negotiation is completed so that we can email the forms for them to complete. This means that a complete package of papers can be sent out as quickly as possible, which often proves vital in today's economic climate; transactions are taking longer to complete and it is vital sellers do all they can to speed the process up.
HIPs will not be missed by most practitioners due to their inaccuracy and needless bureaucracy but they did highlight the benefits of compiling a cogent legal pack which are welcomed by sellers, buyers and their respective solicitors.