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Labour’s not bovvered by HIPs but FTBs will be

Notwithstanding the recent cold snap, my garden tells me that we’ve moved into spring, when a young man’s fancy turns to love and the property market emerges from its winter hibernation.

But this year I suspect that any seasonal renaissance will be rather less pronounced.

The combination of high prices, high interest rates and a surprisingly buoyant buy-to-let presence are all market-constraining factors that have accompanied the daffodils’ arrival. And surely things can only get worse.

We are drawing to the end of life before Home Information Packs. This is the time when prospective vendors can float their properties speculatively, free of the constraining bureaucracy and additional cost that the government’s ill-conceived foray into the housing market will soon subject us to.

So, according to anti-HIP campaigners, we should be seeing a surge in houses up for sale and a destabilisation of the market.

But we aren’t. High interest rates have put paid to that. Estate agents are about to enter the HIP world with a depressingly low stock of properties for sale. Given that even the most vehement HIP proponents recognise that their introduction will have some impact, this doesn’t bode well.

This is not an immediate problem for existing home owners happy to stay put. But for first-time buy-ers, life is likely to become even more difficult. Short supply keeps prices high, and even lender largesse in terms of income stretch and lengthened mortgage terms will reach a point beyond which even the most cavalier will not go.

Of course, nobody can predict what the long-term impact of these changes will be. But it doesn’t take much of a brain to re-cognise that this intervention will do few favours, in particular for first-timers.

It’s all well and good trying to create a more transparent and streamlined process but this is of little value if there aren’t any affordable properties to buy.

But it seems that the government is impervious to reason and, to quote its leader, “ain’t bovvered”. That’s fine in the context of red noses but how will it play in terms of red faces?

What makes this debacle even harder to watch and bear is that the mortgage industry accepts that reform of the house buying process is desirable.

How tragic then that having had years to get it right, what we are about to end up with is a dog’s dinner. HIPs are neither fit for purpose nor are they the answer.

So once again, well-intentioned government intervention will exacerbate not rectify a problem. And the people who will be most disadvantaged are the ones who need the most help and upon whom the market depends.

We can only hope there’s a final roll of the dice yet to come.

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