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Brokers will need HIPs to boost income

I’ve been on my travels again over the past few days and the message I’m getting loud and clear from brokers is that it’s not worth doing anything in readiness for Home Information Packs because the government could still do a last-minute U-turn and scrap the whole idea.

Recent statements by the Council of Mortgage Lenders and the Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors have added fuel to this fire.

Brokers are mindful that Whitehall has a record of changes of heart (remember self-invested pension plans?) and so are reluctant to commit time and money to prepare for HIPs.

I can’t deny it is technically possible for the government to pull the plug. I doubt it will, but anyway it’s best not to see the June 1 implementation deadline as the key date – because it isn’t.

On March 29, the final HIP regulations will go before Parliament. They will come into force on April 19 before going live on June 1. If the government was thinking about pulling out it would have to do so before March 29.

Assuming we pass that deadline, April 19 is the point of no return – the date on which the HIP regulations become law. So by mid-April the time for debate and discussion will be over. We will know for sure if HIPs are going to happen and there will be no excuses for doing nothing.

One other piece of feedback I’ve received is that I’m “Mr HIP” (I assume brokers mean I talk a lot about HIPs rather than thinking I’m cool. However, now I think about it ). For the record, I don’t think of myself as a HIP fanatic. Does anyone?

No, I’m more of a HIP realist. My views reflect much of the debate taking place within the industry. I don’t think HIPs are a perfect solution and if I was asked to come up with a way to improve the housing transaction process, my proposal certainly wouldn’t look like a HIP.

But neither am I a HIP hater. For all their faults I believe they have some points in their favour. Consumers certainly seem to appreciate having clear information upfront, rather than discovering problems several weeks down the line.

My view is that if HIPs are going to happen, they represent a significant commercial opportunity and brokers should take advantage of this. The mortgage and housing markets are forecast to grow at only a modest pace over the next couple of years so brokers should grasp every opportunity to boost their income.

HIPs will be an easy sell because they are compulsory. If brokers are canny they can use savings made on buying conveyancing services to offset their costs. For their clients, it will be a buy one, get one free-type deal.

My money is on HIPs coming in. If you don’t agree, fine, but watch carefully what happens at the end of March and in mid-April. Don’t leave it until June before you do anything.

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