Spring heralds the HIPs beauty parade season

In last week\'s column I pointed out that by mid-April we will know for certain whether Home Information Packs are going to happen or not.

On March 29 the final HIP regulations go before Parliament and come into force on April 19, before going live on June 1.

The mounting anti-HIP lobby, which now includes the likes of the Council of Mortgage Lenders, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the National Association of Estate Agents, has without doubt caused a lot of organisations of all sizes to shelve their development plans for HIPs.

These companies are biding their time until they know for certain that the packs will be introduced. During the past few days I have spoken to intermediaries, distributors and lenders and it’s true to say they are all equally hesitant about forging ahead with HIPs. I can’t blame them – the government’s record of U-turns does nothing to inspire confidence.

So, the reality is that we are in for a frenzied few weeks before the scheduled HIP launch date of June 1.

My firm’s view on all this is that we will launch our HIPs proposition – which is being marketed under the eHips brand – in early April after we have passed the March 29 deadline.

Our rationale for this is that if the government gets to the point at which the final regulations have been put before Parliament, it’s odds on that it will be all systems go.

It therefore looks increasingly likely that April and May will be the beauty parade season, with HIPs providers touting for business and doing their utmost to win fav-our with lenders, distributors and intermediaries.

As a broker, what factors should you take into consideration when looking at potential providers of HIPs for your business?

The first problem you have is that no companies have produced HIPs before so you can’t take the easy option and simply select the market leader.

But you can look at the provider companies’ records in related markets. I’ll make no secret of the fact that eHips is going to lean heavily on eConveyancer’s reputation, market position and record. Ours is a company that has proved it can deliver. Many HIPs providers have no such pedigree and will therefore be unknown quantities to brokers.

We are also going to make a big deal of the fact that we have developed and own our own software. Therefore, eHips is not a middleman offering, buying in software solutions and services, but rather is master of its own destiny. We believe this will give us far greater control when it comes to quality and reliability.

But enough of the eHips advertisement. I strongly suggest that any organisation which is thinking of providing HIPs to its clients does not make the mistake of relying on a single supplier.

I would suggest having two or three HIP suppliers because each will have different strengths and weaknesses.

If, after 12 months, you believe you only need one or two, make your cull then but don’t restrict your ability to offer your clients the best deals by being a one-trick pony. You wouldn’t do it with mortgage or insurance products, so why do it with HIPs?

Finally, be realistic about price. It’s going to be a competitive market and providers are aware that pricing needs to be sharp or they won’t get a look in.

But choosing a supplier simply because their HIP is 299 rather than 300 won’t make sense. Consider the other factors I have mentioned along with the service support you are likely to get. Good luck and let the beauty parade begin.