Step by step, slowly but surely, Home Information Packs are entering our lives and, although it is probably too early to assess their long-term impact on the market, anecdotal evidence suggests that, so far, they have been largely perceived as negative.
As expected, there was a surge in 4 bedroom properties coming onto the market in order to beat the 1st August implementation deadline, and a further, lesser, surge before 3 bedroom properties came into the regime on 10th September.
The subsequent decrease in properties coming on sale was widely expected, and the impact of the ‘credit crunch’ has added to this number, at least in the short term.
Post implementation market research shows that the public are still largely unaware of the new regime.
Neither do potential home-buyers perceive any real benefits, with less than 10% of prospective purchasers asking to view the Pack before making an offer on a property.
Not even the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) included in the Pack, which the Government predicted would influence purchasers’ buying decisions, appears to have aroused any interest.
Now that the Government has finally announced the implementation date for HIPs for 1 and 2 bedroom properties, we will at least have a level playing field for all parties in a chain of sales.
However, further changes to the Regulations relating to the provision of lease documents mean that we still do not have a seamless and consistent approach to all properties.
Whilst it can be argued that the reduction of properties coming onto the market is more the result of the economic climate than any direct impact of HIPs, the fact remains that new instructions were tailing off well before the US Sub-Prime and Northern Rock problems surfaced.
The question now is – how will HIPs fare in what is predicted to be a much more depressed residential market for the foreseeable future?
Will extended selling times impact on the usefulness of the Pack, as searches become out of date and, in those relatively few cases where a vendor has commissioned a Home Condition Report, that report also passes its sell-by date.
Potentially this will add more costs to the process as documents have to be renewed, and negate any time-savings the initial Pack may have provided.
In the latest twist, proposals for an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) to be compulsory for all new-build properties from January 2008 has been postponed until at least April.
So what we are left with is a fragmented and confusing HIP regime, with little certainty as to when all elements within the Pack will become universal.
For those individuals who have spent considerable time and money qualifying as Home Inspectors or EPC Assessors, or made a conscious career change to join this ‘brave new world’, these constant twists and turns must be extremely frustrating.
For consumers and property professions, it is not only confusing, but potentially damaging to the whole home-buying process, the very process it was designed to simplify and streamline.
There is no doubt that support exists for Home Information Packs; the Association of Home Information Pack Providers (AHIPP) recently reached 100 members and AHIPP is committed to ensuring the campaign reaches borrowers.
But we appear to have reached a halfway house. Greater clarity is needed, and a widening of the net to include all property types if HIPs are to become truly embedded in the housing market and prove their value.
David Dalby is chief surveyor at Advantage
The views expressed in this article of those of its author and do not necessarily represent those of IFAonline or any other Incisive Media affiliated organisation.IFAonline
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