We must keep the big picture in mind

People seem to be getting used to the idea that Home Information Packs will not include compulsory Home Condition Reports. The general opinion seems to be that this is a good thing and people are certainly not as hostile towards HIPs as they were a few weeks ago.

As we all start to make detailed preparations for the introduction of HIPs it is worth remembering the big picture issues that should influence our thinking.

HIPs are being introduced to help home owners. For donkey’s years, consumers have been mystified by everything to do with moving house. Everybody can tell a story about delays, being kept in the dark, errors and missed deadlines. I’ve changed my mortgage 13 times and even for someone who knows what’s going on, it is a journey fraught with frustration.

The problem is that the process hasn’t changed much since Dickens’ days. It is still heavily reliant on paperwork and if one piece of information throws up a problem the whole chain grinds to a halt.

Technology is dragging the process into the 21st century. Lenders have made great strides with online application processing and we’re close to seeing instant online offers. Similarly, automated valuation models will become the norm and even the Land Registry is on a multimillion pound mission to automate the conveyancing process.

In five years’ time we will have a fully automated house buying process. Everything will be done online and everything will be transparent. This will be the most significant benefit to home owners for years.

HIPs are part of the transformation process. They will make information available at the start of the house buying process, not weeks into it when maximum disruption is caused by erroneous information coming to light.

So HIPs could cut frustration and heartache. I say could because one component, the HCR, is now optional. Only time will tell how many people buy HCRs but not everyone will. Which means that some buyers will make offers on houses only to find, weeks down the line, that the property has a serious problem which causes them to pull out. This means that HIPs may fail to achieve one of the objectives set for them.

But HIPs must be considered in the context of other important developments in the market. We are in the midst of a revolution that will transform the home buying process and it’s the result that matters, not the relatively small setbacks along the way.

So as we prepare for HIPs, we should try to avoid getting hung up on minor issues and keep the big picture in mind – especially as we review the results of the HIP dry run. Ultimately, it’s consumers who will benefit.