For me, the low point was not the government’s U-turn on Home Condition Reports or the Council of Mortgage Lenders’ increasing hostility towards HIPs, or even the battering the packs took from other quarters of the financial services industry. My biggest disappointment was brokers’ lack of enthusiasm and reluctance to recognise the significant commercial opportunity HIPs will deliver.
In the course of the final quarter of 2006 I regularly spoke to brokers about HIPs so I feel I have a pretty good fix on their attitudes and opinions. Most of them still don’t know much about what is happening regarding HIPs. But they do believe there is a strong possibility that the government will do a last-minute U-turn and scrap the initiative.
And they continue to position estate agents as the front runners when it comes to capitalising on the business stream HIPs will generate.
But I’m not despondent and last year was not dominated by bad news. Contrary to popular opinion, all the indications are that HIPs will go ahead and I’m encouraged that organisations such as the National Association of Estate Agents have started to put training programmes in place, despite the objections it has raised about the packs.
Significantly, lenders are also starting to develop their plans for the June launch, as are a number of legal firms I deal with.
As 2007 gets underway we will get feedback from the HIP trials. I hope everyone involved – the government, trade bodies, estate agents, brokers, journalists – treats the dry run fairly. The objective is to find out what works and what needs fine tuning. There will be niggles but that doesn’t mean the scheme is flawed.
Some say the dry run is a sham because packs are being given away free so it does not reflect reality but it would be unrealistic to expect home owners to buy a HIP while they are not compulsory. People will have no option but to buy a HIP in due course. Then the market and competitive forces will determine the price. To try and fix a price now is pointless.
The value of the trial is not to do with pricing but whether HIPs deliver value by helping with the housing transaction process. The question is what added value HIPs will deliver beyond the changes already being made to the conveyancing process by the Land Registry.
In the meantime, if you work in one of the HIP trial areas, don’t sit back. Go and introduce yourself to the estate agents involved and see what’s happening and how you can benefit.
You have the chance to be a step ahead of brokers not in trial areas.