It's time to move on: HIPs are here to stay
Home Information Packs may be a nuisance, but they are a fact of life
Saturday 11 April 2009
New laws which came into force this week will make it harder than ever for people to sell their homes. Despite much opposition, Home Information Packs (HIPs) are now a compulsory part of the home-selling process.
Rule changes which came into effect on 6 April mean that every home must have a HIP in place – not just ordered as has been the case up until now – before it can be put on the market.
A HIP contains detailed information regarding the energy rating of the home, Local Authority searches, evidence of title and "sustainability information", if the property is classed as a "new home".
But that's not all. Sellers are also now required to complete a Property Information Questionnaire (PIQ). This outlines pre-sale information such as the property's council tax band, parking arrangements, utilities and any structural alterations made to the property.
The new requirements will lead to expensive delays for home sellers, critics say. They are the culmination of a troubled passage to law for HIPs.
Originally a Labour manifesto commitment in 1997 and 2001, the so-called "sellers' packs" were designed to speed up the process of buying and selling homes.
John Prescott, who oversaw the policy development, heralded the pack, claiming it would transform the process, making it "easier, more transparent and more successful".
However, a key element of the pack, the Home Condition Report, became only a voluntary part of the pack in 2007. This followed widespread concern that what was effectively a seller's survey would not be accepted by any potential mortgage lender.
Despite opposition from many quarters – particularly estate agents – the Government has ploughed on with the HIP and today's home-seller needs to gather together an unprecedented amount of information.
This typically adds between £200 to £400 to the cost of selling your home, although some pack providers will allow payment to be deferred. While an estate agent is not responsible for the veracity of the PIQ, it is their responsibility to ensure it is included in the HIP.
The onus is on the sellers to fill it out themselves and to be "truthful and accurate".
A PIQ is typically about eight pages long and if the home being sold is a leasehold property, there are further questions to be completed. There are two types of questionnaire: one for newly-built properties and another for other types of property.
It is important to note that the information required on the PIQ only relates to the time when the seller has owned the property. However, if any of the information changes before the sale is completed, the seller is obliged to tell the conveyancer or estate agent.
So will the PIQ add further delay to an already convoluted process? Not necessarily, say the HIP providers, so long as the vendor completes the questionnaire.
The Association of Home Information Pack Providers (AHIPP) claims its members are currently turning HIPs around in an average of five days. But this is only possible if sellers play ball and complete the PIQ rapidly and allow energy assessors into their homes as quickly as possible, the Association warns.
The assessors have to complete an energy performance certificate which has been a requirement since October 2008 for any property being built, sold or rented. It provides ratings from A to G on the building, with A being the most energy efficient. The Government says the average rating is currently D.
Despite recent government research indicating that both sellers and buyers have largely been ignoring the HIP, Mike Ockenden of AHIPP argues that the questionnaire will significantly increase the number of consumers viewing the pack.
He says: "Providing simple, easy to understand, upfront information regarding a property will enable buyers to make a more informed decision, making them less likely to pull out later in the process. The PIQ will also raise consumer awareness and appetite for the HIP, as vendors completing the questionnaire are likely to request to see similarly completed forms for any properties they go on to view.
"The information required in the PIQ is already obtained from the seller in the present system, but much later in the sale process.
"There is nothing new, just different timing that makes total sense."
But critics argue that political dogma is behind the decision to continue with HIPs, despite their potential to further damage the property market. Louise Cuming, the head of mortgages at moneysupermarket.com, feels that HIPs have been a disaster from the beginning. She says: "In their current state HIPs are little more than an annoying, overly expensive delay to the process of selling a house. In short; more forms, more doubt, more delay – just what we don't need now."
The National Association of Estate Agents is calling on the Government to suspend HIPs in this month's Budget and re-examine their viability only once the recession is over. It recently revealed that 65 per cent of property professionals surveyed believe that the new HIP arrangements will actually discourage sellers from putting their properties on the market.
However, the fact is that the Government seems set to avoid yet another policy U-turn, regardless of the consequences. And even in the extremely unlikely event of HIPs being scrapped, the energy performance of the property would still have to be rated, as it is part of EU requirements to combat climate change.
So while HIPs look set to be another headache for property owners, anyone planning to sell their home should simply get their pack together as soon as they can to avoid frustrating delays.
Keep track of interesting mortgage opportunities
The Bank of England's decision to keep interest rates at 0.5 per cent this week was widely expected. But the Bank's lack of action should spur people with tracker mortgages into action, advises Ray Boulger of mortgage broker John Charcol. He points out that borrowers with tracker mortgages priced below the bank rate can expect to continue paying little or no interest for most or all of this year, or until the end of their deal, whichever comes first.
"Borrowers with tracker mortgages should take advantage of the windfall cut in their mortgage payments by using at least some of their extra spare cash each month to pay down their debt, starting with the most expensive, or putting the money in a savings account," he says.
He says the priority should be to pay back the most expensive debt. "After that, the mortgage should be reduced, subject to being able to do so without incurring an early repayment charge, unless the pay rate is so low that a better net of tax return can be obtained from a savings account," Boulger says.
"For example, there is no point in overpaying a mortgage on which no interest is being paid until the rate goes back up. The cash should be put into an instant access savings account and then withdrawn and used to reduce the mortgage when the cheap rate finishes."
- 1 Caitlyn Jenner's mother Ester thought her daughter, formerly known as Bruce Jenner, had transitioned for money
- 2 Charles Kennedy 1959-2015: A gifted, compassionate politician whose career was cut short by the 'demon drink' - latest news
- 3 Alton Towers crash: Four seriously injured and 16 guests trapped as Smiler ride carriages collide
- 4 Ann Summers survey reveals the UK's favourite sex position
- 5 Gay teenager 'forced to have sex with his own mother' to 'cure' his homosexuality, campaigners in India say
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Church of England 'one generation away from extinction' after dramatic loss of followers
iJobs Money & Business
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's fastest growing, multi...
£70000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Financial Reporting Manager i...
£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They win lots of awards for the...
£13500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This nationwide enforcement com...
Day In a Page
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This four-bedroom Edwardian home offers a combination of original features and contemporary design after a renovation by the current owners.
This four-bedroom home offers a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining with doors that open to the patio and garden.
On the market for the first time in more than 50 years, this six-bedroom home is a project with vast potential - spread over three floors of living space.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Surrounded by rolling countryside, this four-bedroom barn conversion comes with a self-contained, one-bedroom annexe that could serve as an office or a holiday let.
Located near Harrogate town centre, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is arranged over three storeys while a current study serves as an optional sixth bedroom.
A ground-floor flat in a country house, located a mile from Sway; this two-bedroom home would make an ideal weekend retreat on the edge of the New Forest.
On a popular residential lane in Caterham on the Hill, this four-bedroom family home offers a secluded garden and a convenient location for local schools and public transport.
Just a short walk from Westerham green, this three-bedroom cottage has a light kitchen with exposed brickwork and double doors that lead to a south-facing garden.
In a prime spot opposite the River Thames, this one-bedroom flat has an 18sq ft reception room with glass doors that open out to a private terrace.
Set in the hills above Llanwrda Village, west Wales, this 18th-century three-bedroom farmhouse has holiday-let potential from a separate barn conversion and annexe.
This charming end-of-terrace townhouse is arranged over three floors, with two double bedrooms and a private courtyard garden located at the rear of the property.
Located in the University area, this semi-detached five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors - there's even a rear garden and off-road parking too.
Only a few minutes' drive from the charming town of Marlow, this two-bedroom home sits on the private riverside estate of Harleyford.
This detached four-bedroom home in Middleyard is arranged over two floors, with features that include a wood-burning stove and bespoke oak staircase.
In a row of eight detached Georgian residences, this five-bedroom home offers views of The Sound, Mount Edgcumbe and Cornwall from its impressive veranda and full-length balcony.
If you love cooking for friends this two-bedroom flat - complete with views of the iconic Battersea Power Station and an open-plan kitchen/dining area - will go down a treat.
Located above Grasmere village, this five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors and offers countryside views across Grasmere Lake towards Silver Howe.
Surrounded by the Western fells, this five-bedroom Georgian home retains many original features including panel-plastered ceilings, sash windows and fireplaces.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B, subject to change of use permissions.
A former period coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool