A new year means the testing time begins for the controversial Home Information Packs scheme.
The Government took the decision to extend HIPs to one and two bed-roomed homes from December 14, in order to cover the entire market.
It means all sellers face an additional cost of £350-£500 to put their homes on sale – and could lose the money if no sale is agreed.
Jeff Smith, chief executive of HIP Payment Services which offers deferred payment schemes to HIP providers and estate agents, claims the move is welcome – because it switches the cost of gathering information on homes from buyer to seller, easing the burden on hard-up first time buyers.
Estate agents are less impressed. Says Stewart Lilly, president of the National Association of Estate Agents: "We remain absolutely convinced HIPs are not the way to improve the home buying and selling process or to deliver the important energy performance certificates (EPCs) which they include. HIPs just waste everybody's time."
Lawyers are scathing too. Says Jeremy Raj, Head of Residential Property at Wedlake Bell: "We have seen no discernible benefit so far from HIPs in terms of speeding up the conveyancing process or delivering a fairer deal for buyers.
"In fact, in many cases, things have been slowed down noticeably because of the teething problems arising from the introduction of HIPs."
Two major themes are emerging in the bitter argument between backers of HIPs, and opponents.
First, will anybody actually read them and act on the information?
Though HIP supporters say they bring ‘transparency’ much earlier in property sales and will slash notional losses of £1 million a day from sales which collapse before exchange, an agent in Winchester, Hampshire, says not a single one of his sellers has so far wanted to see the HIP they paid for. The charitable view is that EPCs compiled by domestic energy assessors (DEAs) as part of HIPs might encourage energy efficiency improvements by the new owners.
Secondly, will HIPs accelerate the drastic fall in housing market turnover predicted in 2008?
Once it decided to add another tier of bureaucracy to the housing market, Government probably had little option but to cover the entire market – for individuals and small companies on the new HIPs production line have been going bust because of lack of work.
Now, in theory, thousands of pounds in training costs spent by home inspectors and DEAs could at least begin to generate some sort of return.
Published in the Blackpool Gazette, 3 January 2008