The 'will they won't they' (happen) saga revolving around home information packs continued unabated last week with a spat between the government and two trade associations asked to support them.
Now while I know it may be hard to contain your surprise or even disbelief at the idea of the government falling out with two trade bodies in the same week, the fact it did suggests the fighting over Hips is beginning to get serious.
Such bickering also (or once again depending on your viewpoint) suggests the government’s apparent lack of coherent joined-up thinking where the housing market is concerned.
In the last few months we’ve had the government back away from compulsory home condition reports - mainly as a result of industry pressure - despite having earlier committed whole-heartedly to them.
Then it launched the Homebuy scheme - replacement for the ever so successful 'key worker' scheme - with only three lenders because the fourth says it hasn’t quite finished designing its product yet. The government then tries to fend off accusations of a lack of support by saying it is talking to other lenders about their involvement in the scheme and there are interested parties out there honest!!
Then the government provides funding to the Association of Home Information Pack Providers (Ahipp) to conduct a “dry run“ of Hips without conducting its own independent “dry run” of the packs. And it provides accreditation to Sava for the training of home inspectors but not the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
Both the above actions angered first the Rics and then the Council of Mortgage Lenders enough that one announced it had sent the government a freedom of information request regarding the criteria it was using to accredit home inspector training schemes and the other said Hips simply would not work in their current format.
Rics even went as far as accusing the government of not working with the industry and either corruption or nepotism - again depending on your point of view - in a letter sent to Yvette Cooper but handily also leaked to the national press.
It may also be nothing more than a coincidence but the conspiracy theorists among you might think the CML and Rics may have shown a little more 'joined up' thinking than the government has been of late.
Whether the two spats about Hips last week were coordinated or not - and it’s highly unlikely that they were - it’s nice to see both organisations baring their teeth a little bit.
Hips as they currently are to be implemented are a stupid idea and pretty much everyone but Ahipp appears to think so.
It's not that the industry is anti-government thinking on this but rather the industry would like the government to have done some thinking about this in the first place.
The more the government lets the Hips saga roll on the more of an embarrassment it becomes.
And as if to prove the point there was an implicit threat in what Michael Coogan, director general of the CML said about the timing of Hips last week. If they are implemented next summer, and the infrastructure is not right and there are not enough home inspectors to produce the packs, the housing market will grind to a halt. The threat is simple: Hips will bring the housing market to its knees.
For those needing evidence let me point out Hips are due for launch next summer. It's very nearly November so there are around, well let’s be generous, eight months for the government to have approximately 7000 trained and qualified home inspectors out in the field doing the job not to mention everything in place to support them. Eight months left, only one home information pack training body accredited and only around 500 home inspectors actually qualified so far.
First-time buyers might be well advised to hang on for a year or so and wait to pick up a bargain. There could be a few about next autumn.
Like Coogan said last week the industry needs to know from the government what's going on sooner rather than later.
If you have any comments you would like to add to this story or would like to speak to its author about a similar subject, telephone Matthew West on 020 7484 9893 or email [email protected].IFAonline
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