A leading figure in the Home Information Pack industry has said that – despite the Government’s strong denials that it will bring back HIPs – he has the feeling of deja vu.
Mike Ockenden, formerly director general of disbanded trade body the Association of Home Information Pack Providers (AHIPP), also said that there is unlikely to be any change soon.
He said: “In the current political environment, nothing is going to happen any time soon.
“From primary legislation to the implementation of HIPs took six years (which of course left enough time for the Government to bodge the final implementation) and it will take a long time before we even get primary legislation.”
Ockenden said he did not want to be drawn into a debate on HIPs, but said that one possible solution could be to expand auction packs for more general use.
He said: “They are a tried and tested product, and the only downside is the potential for multiple surveys to be conducted on the same property before buyer commitment.”
Ockenden, who currently works with a number of bodies including the Society of Licensed Conveyancers, the Residential Property Surveyors Association, the Property Energy Professionals Association and the Council of Property Search Organisations, said he could not envisage that he would resuscitate AHIPP. However, he said he would be advising his members on their responses to the call for evidence.
Former HIP provider Rob Hailstone, now CEO of the Bold Legal Group, urged everyone in the industry – lenders, conveyancers and estate agents – to pull together.
He said the Government was not interested in industry in-fighting, with one sector pinning the blame on another.
He also said that ministers should understand that home-moving is typically a complex jigsaw puzzle, with perhaps eight different transactions in a chain.
Hailstone said: “This could be another opportunity to try improve the home buying process, not just for the consumer but for those that help them complete that process.
“Let’s not waste it.”
Elsewhere, there was no shortage of views.
NAEA Propertymark chief executive Mark Hayward said: “We have long been calling for more regulation of the estate agency sector to ensure that consumers are protected when dealing with the biggest asset most people own, their home.
“This is a welcome review of the process, which is currently archaic and does not reflect the 21st century.”
Alex Neill of Which? said: “The current home buying process is outdated and flawed. The Government must put consumers first, ensuring that estate agents deliver a better service for both home-buyers and sellers and that the conveyancing process is simplified.”
Shadow housing secretary John Healey – and the final housing minister in Labour’s last administration – was scathing. He said: “This is a government out of touch and out of ideas.
“After seven years of failure, ministers still have no plan to fix the housing crisis.”
Paula Higgins, chief executive of the HomeOwners Alliance, said she hoped the Government’s latest call for evidence was not “simply a publicity stunt”. She also announced a new campaign by her organisation.
She said: “We’ve been calling for the government to review the home buying system for some time now so I’m pleased progress is finally being made, after months and months of delay.
“However, it’s important that focus is given to the right areas. There are a multitude of areas which need reforming, including transaction times, but our biggest concern is the lack of certainty in the home buying system. Buyers don’t mind if it takes ten weeks to move, they just want the certainty that it is going to happen.
“Furthermore, while costs are an important issue it isn’t necessarily the direct costs of selling and buying that need addressing but rather the additional costs that buyers (and sellers) are unaware of – the hidden referral fees and backhanders that property professionals are making, along with the losses incurred when transactions fall through.
“Buyers can be out of pocket by up to £1,500 for each transaction, not to mention other expenses incurred when having to change plans, just because someone on a whim decides to pull out of a transaction somewhere along the chain.
“It is for these reasons that we are launching our campaign to make the home buying and selling process easier for all involved. It’s clear to us that the home buying and selling process – at least in England and Wales – is not fit for purpose.
“Gazundering, gazumping, collapsing chains, and one in three sales falling through. It takes too long, is too uncertain, too open to abuse by unscrupulous operators, and too often homebuyers can end up paying huge costs without having even bought somewhere to live.
“This call for evidence will hopefully provide the Government with enough material to spur them to take real action in the industry.
“We hope that this is the case and this is not simply a publicity stunt – although the number of general questions and the lack of firm commitment or roadmap for change does raise some red flags.”