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"All we are saying is give HIPS a Chance?" - Analysis of new Government report

The Department for Communities and Local Government published at the end of last month the Summary findings of its Home Information Packs; Consumer Focus Groups Qualitative Research. http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/housing/pdf/hipconsumerfocusgroups.pdf  

The Focus Groups were based in London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Nottingham and Stockport. They were asked for their overall impressions of the introduction of HIPs, their impact so far and their advantages and disadvantages.

A constant theme of the Groups was the lack of clarity and understanding of not only the implementation but of the main purpose of the HIP.

These weaknesses, in my opinion, can be imparted to the "double whammy" of a poorly funded initial and continuing advertising campaign, but more significantly to the ever decreasing sales of Properties due to the credit crunch and mortgage squeeze. It might be argued that the Housing Market has simply not reached a sufficient critical mass to lend any main conclusion from the findings.

Some of the perceived disadvantages were:-

The cost of the HIP was not balanced out by its benefits; too much jargon was used and they were too complicated for most People to understand; the lack of a survey or Home Condition Report was unhelpful; the packs were felt to be incomplete and would benefit with more information, such as relevant planning permissions and building regulation approvals; confusion over how long HIPs were valid and were they transferable between agents.

It is fair to say that a lot of this information can be readily obtained through the governments dedicated website: http://www.homeinformationpacks.gov.uk/industry/181_Latest_FAQs.html Nevertheless, the ability to communicate information is far from complete.

There was also praise for the HIPs and advantages were clearly outlined:-

Both Sellers and Buyers alike felt it was important to receive the information contained in the HIP upfront; greater commitment from the Seller (in having to pay for the HIP) was cited as an important element. It was considered less likely that a Seller would pull out of a transaction at a later stage; impartiality in production of the HIP was a strength. Not much weight was attached to self assembled HIPs produced by the Seller; Buyers were of the opinion that money was saved by them in not having to duplicate the information at a later stage; the Energy Performance Certificate was generally well received. It raised awareness of the energy efficiency of the Property they were buying

The Report's Conclusions

The majority of Buyers and Sellers were optimistic about the future of the Home Information Pack. HIPs were a step in the right direction towards making the home buying and selling process more transparent.

Most agreed that "somewhere down the line", HIPs would be fully integrated and accepted. The increased awareness of the quality of the property and the knowledge of any potential issues contained within a HIP was always going to be beneficial.

What should we make of the Report's findings?

A qualified success or a qualified failure depends on your standpoint. Many still remain to be convinced and cannot forgive the Government for its cack-handed implementation.

Of more import, perhaps, is the general public's willingness to give HIPs a chance. They see the concept a Home Information Pack as a positive one, but issues of content, relevance and value for money will be integral to the their development and success.

The good news is that we are beginning to see improvements in the content and relevance of HIPs. The next generation of "exchange ready HIPs", which include such items as draft Contracts, planning documents and a Sellers Property Information together with a Contents Questionnaire are being developed and in some cases are already available. Such improvements will go a long way to building on the advantages of HIPs that the Focus Groups so obviously value.

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