PART ONE: THE ENERGY PERFORMANCE CERTIFICATE
Wasting energy is the new smoking so sellers and buyers will want a good score on this, the main part of the HIP. If a home performs badly, buyers may admit that characterful, period, draughty old houses cost so much to heat and waste so much money, they should instead choose a more energy-efficient new-build home instead. EPCs should push responsible sellers to fill leaky window frames and finally put a jacket on that hot water cylinder before the inspector calls - or risk losing the sale.
The EPC, issued after an hour's examination by a qualified inspector, contains details of the home and its size; a table showing average energy use per square metre and the property's overall carbon dioxide emissions; and how much it costs to light, heat and provide hot water to the home.
It will make standard assumptions about occupancy and heating to allow different properties to be compared. Energy use will include the fuel used in the home and the energy it takes to deliver the fuel to the home, too. It will also show a summary of the eco-efficiency of walls, roofs, floors, windows, heating systems, hot water systems and lighting, each individually rated as very poor, poor, average, good or very good, and recommend measures to improve the home's performance ratings.
PART TWO: COUNCIL SEARCHES
If the council plans to build a new housing estate, or sites a wind farm in the field behind the house, it will surface first in these dull but essential documents - and the seller won't be able to hide them. They show plans for any nearby work that has been lodged with local councils for consideration, even if they have not yet been given planning permission. Buyers will be able to scrutinise these before visiting a home they like the look of - if plans affect access, the view, or cause noise, would-be purchasers may well look elsewhere.
PART THREE: DRAINAGE AND WATER SEARCHES
Sellers may get nasty surprises here. If drainage pipes are old and need renewing, or the land surrounding their house is at risk of subsidence, the problem will emerge in these documents which show pipe locations and details of firms responsible for them. In some areas, near old mines for example, buyers may also urge sellers to include non-mandatory searches into the threat of contamination and land stability.
PART FOUR: PLANNING CONSENTS AND BUILDING REGULATIONS
Buyers always take command here. In recent years, their solicitors have been terrier-like in demanding official proof that extensions have been permitted by planners, and constructed in line with national building regulations. If a seller can't provide the paperwork, they may have to get retrospective permission or insure the construction against problems before the buyer's solicitors will finalise the deal.
Sellers of homes less than 10 years old should include warranty details, and confess if they have unresolved disputes with a developer.
PART FIVE: SALE STATEMENT
Unless the home has slipped the net of the Land Registry, this should be the least troubling part of the pack. The statement includes deeds stating the address; a boundary map; whether it's freehold, leasehold or commonhold; the seller's name and the property's status.
PART SIX: LEASEHOLD DETAILS
If it's a leasehold property, sellers must include a copy of the lease with details of service charges, the management firm and its rules, and any work set to be carried out.
Buyers should also be able to discover if there are disputes between other flat-owners, or between the residents themselves and the leaseholders.
HIPs in brief
* When do they come into effect? 1 June.
* What if my home is on sale before then? You won't need a pack, unless the property remains unsold on 1 January 2008 - then you must get one.
* How long does a HIP last? Until the home is sold, and if it's taken off the market for less than a year and then re-marketed, the same pack may be used.
* Who compiles HIPs? Sellers can hire estate agents, solicitors, separate pack providers, or do it themselves.
* How much will they cost? The seller pays £450. Most agents will fund this, then charge the seller upon completion. A few agents are offering HIPs for free.
* Will buyers pay? Not if they are happy to see the pack contents online, but if they want a paper version, HIP laws say "a reasonable charge" may be made.
* Is there a survey in a HIP? No - mortgage firms say a survey commissioned by a seller would not be impartial.
* How long will it take to compile a HIP? A maximum of 10 working days.
* Are HIPs required across the UK? No - only in England and Wales.
* Where can I find more information? www.homeinformationpacks.gov.uk has more details of how HIPs will work. Lists of independent pack providers through the Association of HIP Providers on www.hipassociation.co.uk. Details of surveyors from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors on www.rics.org.uk.