Fantasy house price service sparks HIP debate

The Association of Home Information Pack Providers has accused property website Zoopla of breaching the latest HIP rules with its service called TemptMe!.

The service allows owners to indicate a dream price that might tempt them to sell their property as a way of testing the market.

AHIPP says that under the HIP rules that came in on April 6, even a casual conversation constitutes marketing and means the owner involved needs a pack.

On the subject of HIPs, the Housing Act 2004 states that a residential property is put on the market “when the fact that it is or may become available for sale is, with the intention of marketing the property, first made public in England and Wales by or on behalf of the seller”.

Mike Ockenden, director-general of AHIPP, says: “The estate agent community is required to adhere to the rules on HIPS and agents face fines of up to £200 per day if they fail to comply. It is unfair and unjust if Zoopla is not subject to the same rules.

“As far as we’re concerned Zoopla is advertising these properties as if they will be marketed at the stated price without HIPs and that is not allowed.”

Zoopla says TemptMe! is no different from a casual conversation between neighbours over a fence or bet- ween friends in a pub, in which one party indicates a figure that might tempt them to sell their home.

But Ockenden says a casual conversation in the pub or over a fence would constitute a form of public marketing.

He adds: “The only thing that isn’t marketing is if a buyer goes up to the owner of a property and tells them they will buy their house whenever the owner wants to sell it.”

Apparently, this isn’t as unlikely a scenario as it sounds. Ironically, it happened to Ockenden in 1991 with a property he owned. When he was looking to sell, he gave the individual a call.

But Alex Chesterman, chief executive officer of Zoopla, says: “A hypothetical conversation about how much you might sell your house for is not marketing – it’s a hypothetical conversation.

“The notion that every home owner who has a conversation about the sale value of their property needs a HIP to do so or faces a £200 fine is farcical.”