HIPs are better than the buyers’ lottery

There is an old adage that goes “The first casualty of war is the truth”. This may sound pretty grand in relation to Home Information Packs but is nonetheless apt.

A common theme that has become accepted as the truth is that the phoney war about cost and effectiveness has been lost and the industry, along with the nation’s home owners, will have to bear this particular cross with fortitude.

Well, that’s one point of view but it most certainly is not mine. My question has always been – how is it that in 2005 it takes as long to buy and sell a property as it did in 1945?

Assertions of how expensive, unworkable and unwieldy HIPs would be were quickly shot down. Many early estimates of pack prices were high and many were simply scare mongering.

Some now say customers will not be able to market their properties and will become frustrated, having to wait seven days for the HIP to be assembled. This is laughable.

A Which? survey shows 82% of people think HIPs will be useful and 13% feel they will be fairly useful. The respondents to the survey were those who had bought and sold a property in England or Wales. Maybe their experiences of black holes, lack of progress, long delays and wasted time were factors in forming their opinions.

The HIP is an attempt to find a modern solution to an old problem. In the 21st century market, properties should change hands with far greater speed than they do.

There is also a possible benefit HIPs could bring to the mortgage industry. The long list of cases where deals have fallen through could become a fading memory. The total bill for wasted legal fees and valuations is estimated to be 350m annually. And this probably does not include the millions wasted by intermediaries in mortgage applications that go nowhere. I wouldn’t mind betting the real total in wasted resources is closer to 500m.

HIPs will give consumers more transparent access to information and enable them to make choices that are better informed. From their perspective they might see only the cost of assembling the packs, but the benefits of improved information and transaction speeds surely outweigh the costs. A cost of 500 is tiny in relation when compared with an average property price of 150,000.

Changes to systems often result in short-term challenges but we have the technology to iron problems out. Surely anything is better than the antediluvian lottery home buyers currently faceSimon biddle