Have home information packs improved the property buying and selling process?

Our experts are split, with one saying HIPs have resolved several problems and the other maintaining they are a waste of time and money

Karen Babington: Despite the content of Home Information Packs being di-luted, they have improved the conveyancing process in a number of ways so they have been beneficial to the housing market.

First, they highlight title defects at the outset of the house selling process, allowing solicitors to work on problems with transactions at the earliest opportunity.

This speeds up the buying process as well as significantly cutting the number of deals dropped due to problems with properties. It also ensures that brokers’ time is not wasted on unsuccessful deals.

HIPs have also helped to highlight issues that already existed within the market such as difficulties with water searches. At last, these problems are in the process of being rectified.

The rollout of HIPs to new-build properties will bring advantages to buyers of such properties. New-builds are likely to have much higher energy ratings than most existing properties which makes them more appealing, particularly to buyers concerned about the effect of housing on the environment.

For some time, the government has been vocal in its commitment to minimising the environmental impact of housing. As well as rolling out HIPs, it has scrapped Stamp Duty for zero-carbon homes and may also introduce tax rebates for those with energy efficient properties.

This should give buyers an incentive to use the Energy Performance Certificates within HIPs to help save the planet as well as their wallets.

So while they are not perfect, HIPs have already brought plenty of benefits to consumers, brokers and builders. Not bad for an initiative that many pundits declared was destined to fail.

Nicholas Leeming: The only thing the government has been consistent about during the rollout of HIPs is indecision.

This is a shame because the detrimental impact of HIPs stems from the government’s dithering over their implementation rather than the legislation itself.

Now that HIPs are compulsory for almost all properties, they are simply an expensive and unavoidable inconvenience, rather like taxes.

HIPs were originally intended to speed up the buying and selling of homes by making information available to buyers at the start of the process. This would supposedly prevent consumers pulling out of deals down the line.

But after several U-turns, the government burdened the market with diluted HIPs that do not provide the necessary information. Without structural surveys, lenders lack sufficient information to guarantee that buyers can proceed with transactions.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that HIPs have not speeded up transactions. Buyers are not asking to see them and solicitors often refuse to rely on the information in them.

HIPs’ supporters – mostly those with vested interests – make positive noises about EPCs but buying a home is an emotional process and energy efficiency does not influence most buyers.

The rollout of HIPs to new-builds is particularly futile. New properties are built to the latest regulatory standards so HIPs won’t tell buyers anything new. The extended rollout is simply about the government burnishing its green credentials at the expense of the housing market.

The only other outcome of extending the reach of HIPs will be to create work for HIP providers that suffered from the government’s earlier dithering and are now struggling in a slow housing market.