Agent Provocateur: Has the time come to rethink Home Information Packs?

Home Information Packs were first proposed back in 2004 and started gracing us with their presence in late 2007 – which was great timing obviously, given the impending housing crash.

I was a vocal opponent at the time, even if the thinking behind HIPs had merit.

The introduction was botched, adding cost upfront – which agents often ended up having to shoulder – and their usefulness was watered down.

Political will seemed to ebb away and eventually after a lacklustre career they were binned in May 2010 when the Coalition arrived.

As recently as April Fools’ Day 2016 one of the recent plethora of housing ministers suggested they should come back, and although there’s been chat nothing seems to have come out of the woodwork – yet.

Frankly, when agents face challenging times, moving costs are high and politicians are somewhat distracted, it’ll take a brave minister to think about it now.

Completely by coincidence I’ve been involved in no fewer than three discussion groups considering questions posed by the newly named Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government.

It is looking at ways to improve the home buying process from the point of view of those paying for or using services, i.e. buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants.

This includes how technology might help, how redress/regulation can be tightened/simplified and how the legal process can be strengthened to avoid unnecessary cost implications from gazumping and gazundering.

It seems to me that both the above can be largely answered by looking at some of the companies that now produce seemingly absurdly cheap solutions for agents requiring information about properties on which they are doing appraisals, stuff that’ll set them apart from competitors.

I’ve been staggered by how cheaply companies like Sprift and One Dome can produce data that would have filled a HIP.

Detail available at the click of a button can now include such niceties as tree preservation orders and a simple owner’s manual telling you who has done what to a property and when.

The usual legal bumf is a doddle.

One of the main issues in the past was cost, but no longer, and solicitors I’ve spoken to, and let’s face it if you’re going to speed the process up we know where the acceleration needs to come from, are somewhat puzzled as to why these companies haven’t been marketing to them?

I reckon there are answers out there but perhaps there are too many vested interests in the way to allow them to be seen?

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7 Comments

  1. Chris Wood

    Good article Ed.

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  2. Peter Ambrose (The Partnership)

    Having been heavily involved in the Home Information Pack rollout, how the days of SPLINTA seem but a distant memory for me!

    Sadly, your comment that “the usual legal bumf is a doddle” is rather oversimplifying the issue, because, let’s face it, it’s not the “usual legal bumf” that causes the problems in conveyancing!  We are familiar with both Sprift and OneDome and yes, the information they provide is quick and looks really good – the costs involved in the past that you refer to refer to different areas such as title and searches, which, still need to be obtained at additional cost.

    However, providing information like tree preservation orders is sadly such a small part of the “information delivery” model, that whilst definitely very interesting and useful, will sadly, will have little impact on the speed of the delivery of conveyancing.

    The key, as you point out, is the handling by the lawyers of ALL aspects of the case and this is where change needs to come.  Whilst lawyers remain overloaded due to low fees caused by panel managers, then their responsiveness will continue to suffer.

    Obviously we completely support the concept of information up front, but sadly, this will not solve the current conveyancing bottlenecks that we all suffer from.

    Peter

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  3. smile please

    I think the last paragraph in this story could pertain to the author.

    Hips were an unmitigated disaster,

    Why should agents spend more money, especially with fee erosion.

    I know you are no longer an agent but there is a draught of property coming to the market. Hips is the last thing we need.

    If you want to improve the process make offers binding. The rest is just change for the sake of change.

     

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  4. Fairfax87

    Peter Ambrose, you are like a broken record… lets blame evil Panel Managers for everything… the latest being driving down legal fees.

    The worst culprits for driving down legal fees are individual Solicitor firms who seem to have no idea about the actual cost of Conveyancing, and who just compete on price…  whatever you’ve been quoted, we’ll do it for less.   This has been the case since I started practising Conveyancing in ’87, long before Panel Managers or Estate Agency branded Conveyancing propositions had even been thought of.

     

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  5. Woodentop

    Do not bring back HIPs. A total disaster. Today the information should be available at the click of a computer and that is where the problem really is. All those things that should be a click away are often not there. I do wonder at times if it is cost to implement and job losses for admin staff. A very nice earner for local government departments. Peter Ambrose is correct, it’s not the “usual legal bumf” that causes the problems in conveyancing! Conveyancers are doing their bit, in their time management which often is not aligned to other conveyancers time management within the chain and is that which could be made a breeze if “click and get” was working. But as we all know, contract enquiries can throw up all sorts or issues which are not straightforward… so maybe a conveyancing pack on a title, is a way forward that requires no shelf life, which the other easy work can be added on with a click.  This should be sorted out within days of a property coming onto the market … conveyancers doing a thorough fact find and planning head for the sale? As for subsequent enquiries, survey issues and lending terms…. how long is a piece of string?

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  6. CountryLass

    I think that the idea behind having all of the information is good. I recently heard of a property being sold through an asset manager that was discovered to have issues over building regulations and couldn’t actually be used for the purpose the previous owner had used it for, and the purchasers wanted it to. This was discovered completely by accident, and not actually by the solicitor. It is possible that this would have been avoided if the asset manager and/or solicitor had had to provide more information up front.

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  7. Steve Dawkins Gazeal

    From talking to many professionals in the industry, it is widely believed that improvements can and should be made to the home buying and selling process.

    Providing transparent information in a timely manner is absolutely crucial in my opinion.

    Our Gazeal Xpress service essentially creates a digital pack up front when the property is listed, including the full contract pack and searches.

    The prospective buyer is able to view the pack free of charge which increases transparency and once the offer has been accepted, the entire pack is sent to their conveyancer immediately, saving weeks or months.

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