Get off the sidelines and get involved with HIPs

As you\'re probably aware, the Home Information Pack dry run is underway in six towns across the country - Bath, Cambridge, Huddersfield, Newcastle, Northampton and Southampton.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has pled-ged 4m to support the area trials, the first of which began on November 6. The cash is being used to encourage sellers to offer free packs.

There will be independent monitoring to learn lessons and ensure that consumers’ experiences are considered when making final tweaks before full implementation in June next year.

Testing products and services is a prudent and sensible way to move forward with a major project such as this.

Inevitably there will be lessons that can be learned and it is better to learn them beforehand and make the necessary corr-ections rather than push through hurried repairs after the sch-eme has gone live.

But as sensible as the testing phase might appear, not everyone is happy with it. Tre-vor Kent, former president of the National Association of Estate Agents, has criticised the dry run.

He says: “Despite the fact that the in-tended rollout of mandatory HIPs will cover the whole of England and Wales, only six relatively prosperous towns in England have been selected, and even in these only a few convenient postcodes have been identified for trial.

“Agents will not cooperate with the government in a trial of what they believe to be nonsense legislation, especially when they’ve already seen one climbdown with the withdrawal of Home Condition Reports from the packs.”

Strong words, but in fairness to Kent his stance regarding HIPs has always been consistent, whether you agree with him or not.

The problem, of course, is that the NAEA opposes HIPs and is therefore willing to be critical of each and every stage of the rollout. Unfortunately, this isn’t very constructive and does not contribute to moving the project forward.

I’m the first to admit that HIPs are not a perfect solution, but I’m also a realist and acknowledge that they are probably going to go ahead. If my assumption is correct, surely it is better to find ways to ensure HIPs are as successful as possible rather than condemning them at every opportunity.

I know Kent’s response will be that I represent a HIPs provider and therefore have a vested interest. True. But it isn’t up to me or eConveyancer whether HIPs go ahead or not – it’s the government’s decision. What we can do is try to make packs successful if the men in Whitehall go through with the initiative.

I believe the dry run is an important process and I’m sure there are lessons that can be learned from it.

Over the next few weeks I will tap into feedback from estate agents participating in the experiment and let you know their thoughts, in an impartial way, via this column. I promise to tell it as it is – I won’t try to spin a positive story.

In the meantime, if you live in one of the six test areas, why not make contact with some of the agents who are participating in the trail and find out for yourself how it’s going?