David Prosser: Dumping Hips won't help housing market

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The Independent Online

Outlook The writing was on the wall for home information packs the moment Kirstie Allsopp, the property world's best-loved celebrity, signed up as a Conservative Party adviser and began calling for the abolition of them. By suspending the requirement for anyone selling a house to have a Hip yesterday, the Tories kept their promise to get rid of the packs within weeks of coming to office.

Estate agents are cockahoop, which in normal circumstances would give the rest of us reason for anxiety. Yet it is difficult to find anyone – other than the 10,000 poor souls who trained up to be inspectors following the launch of Hips in 2007 – who will mourn their passing.

That's unfortunate. For all the complaints there have been about Hips, it is worth remembering why they were introduced. In England and Wales, up to 30 per cent of agreed property transactions fall through before completion, often because of problems discovered late on in the sale process, or because sellers put property on the market half-heartedly and then changed their mind.

The concept of Hips was thus sound. They were designed to deter sellers who weren't really sure they wanted to sell. And they were supposed to ensure the sort of information that might torpedo a transaction if discovered late on was available from the word go.

Shame about the execution, then. The previous government's masterstroke was to require Hips to include far more information than necessary – seven documents compared to three in Scotland – but not actually the information that would have been of most use – a survey of the property for sale. And to add insult to injury, it then allowed Hip providers to market the plans at highly inflated prices.

Little wonder the plans were so universally disliked. But getting rid of them will not solve the fundamental problem facing buyers and sellers of homes in England and Wales. The process remains too susceptible to breakdown, with all the potential for financial loss and heartache that causes.

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