It is time for seller’s packs to return, otherwise nothing will improve

In search of a faster, more profitable, and more efficient home buying journey, the property industry has long been looking to advanced technology for guidance. But the truth is, we had the perfect answer in our hands years ago, before it was taken away from us. Isn’t it time that Seller’s Packs, aka Home Information Packs (HiPs) returned?

Silas Lees

If you’re of a certain age, as I am, you’ll remember the Seller’s Pack fiasco well. The idea was first devised as far back as 2004. Intended to increase the speed of sale and reduce fall-through rates, they were meant to take the form of a collection of vital upfront property information, including local authority searches, a contract information questionnaire, and replies to standard enquiries. It makes perfect sense. A good idea.

However, the version of the HiP that was eventually introduced by the Labour government in 2007 was bastardised. Gone was all of the best content. There was no survey, no property information questionnaire (PIQ), no searches. They were pointless and very quickly derided by all corners of the industry. I even have a memory of RICS taking the government to court for not properly consulting the industry when formulating the policy.

Seller’s Packs had become little more than expensive red tape, a burden to industry professionals and nigh on worthless to the public.  In 2010, the incoming coalition government repealed the law and HiPs were dead.

Gone but not forgotten
Maybe the festive season just past has left me sentimental, but if the government had introduced the HiP as it was first conceived, it’s my belief that our industry would be working at a far more efficient pace.

The two biggest issues with moving home are uncertainty (and the fall-through waste it creates), and speed (or lack thereof). The only way to circumvent these two issues is to have vital information available up-front to allow for earlier insight and reduce the chance of unexpected complications further down the line.

Seller’s Packs solve both of these issues and are, more than any cutting-edge innovation, the key to improving, dare I say fixing, the home buying process.

You wouldn’t dream of buying a second-hand car without looking it over first, without checking the service history and the log book before purchasing it. Why do we expect people to buy homes without similar foresight?

20 weeks is unacceptable. Half it, at least.
Today, we can expect 25% of all annual transactions to fall-through after an offer has already been accepted. This happens year after year. With roughly 225,000 UK fall-throughs per annum, which is what we saw in 2019, we’re dealing with a total cost, or waste, of more than £608,000,000 or an average of £2,700 per all-through.

The culprit is time. We’re using too much of it despite its tenacious appetite for profit. The average sale takes 20 weeks to complete. This is unacceptable and, perhaps more importantly, fiscally unsustainable.

That’s why my company, WiggyWam, the full-service property platform, is bringing Seller’s Packs  back.  We insist, for example, that all sellers pre-populate a PIQ before marketing their property, creating instant transparency and, thus, increasing transaction speed.

Today, as we remain tangled in the tedium of Covid-19, this issue of speed is more vital than ever. With sales up 47% year-on-year and the SDLT holiday coming to an end (maybe), there is a huge backlog of work. And while agents are more than doing their part, they can’t close deals quickly enough because of delays in the legal process. HiPs make total sense because they will unclog the conveyancing bottleneck.

Such is my confidence that this is true, based on both market forecasting and existing successes, that WiggyWam is putting our money where our mouth is by guaranteeing the deal will go from offer to exchange in less than 10 weeks.

I’m not suggesting that Seller’s Packs are a silver bullet, or that the technological innovations in our industry don’t have magnificent worth; they do. But while we have Innovation to give us the ability to ‘do all’, we must balance it with Knowledge, which they say is the ability to ‘see all’ and ‘know all’. This is what Seller’s Packs are all about.

Silas Lees is the CEO of property platform WiggyWam.

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14 Comments

  1. Hillofwad71

    “You wouldn’t dream of buying a second-hand car without looking it over first, without checking the service history and the log book before purchasing it. Why do we expect people to buy homes without similar foresight?”

     

    However unlikely to get “Want a new motor, .Guv”  to flag up all the defects and do it for  you.Caveat Emptor

     

    Sure, anything which  seeks to remove uncertainties and remove delays is welcome  of course but any decent agent will assemble as much info as possible before marketing in order to prevent any holdups

    However  first and foremost what you are relying on is the vendor providing  a full and frank account of the property and to have a”survey” conducted  which is an extra cost.some can’t afford prior to marketing .How far do you go?

     

    Who wants to bear the expense of a full survey before marketing ?

    Most surveys are heavily caveated ,so vendors more often that not need to satisfy themselves at an (extra cost) in any event

     

    In addition searches need  to be current and when most houses are languishing for 90 days  on the market .Up to date service charges etc These all time expire

    That;s why HIPS fell down the first time.No one size fits all

     

    “Such is my confidence that this is true, based on both market forecasting and existing successes, that WiggyWam is putting our money where our mouth is by guaranteeing the deal will go from offer to exchange in less than 10 weeks.”

    Is that caveated?

    Good luck with that one when all manner of external events can interfere to derail  a sale

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    1. UKisgreat

      We often instruct our sellers to put together a ‘tender pack’ obtaining searches and looking for any issues in those or the title, it works well to smooth the creases in a property before a buyer is on board. The only part we don’t suggest is surveys.

       

      I thought HIPS were a great idea but too many cooks spoiled the broth I fear. They make complete sense in shortening the time period between offer and exchange, Buyers would also have the comfort of searches, survey and and creases ironed on the title prior to offering.

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  2. KW

    Yes, remember the Sellers Packs well. Lets see how this unfolds. Are Wiggywam saying they process or help this? If they are, should the news not be more prominent given the current situation?

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  3. MisterP76

    The Sellers Pack, a fantastic concept completely mishandled by the incompetent government of the day.

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  4. Alanmilstein

    This is a concept that is already being explored…but this time on a voluntary basis, certainly for the time being. There is, understandably, no appetite in Government to go back to old HIP’s.

    It does make absolute sense…and where I’m involved (as Chairman of the Residential Property Surveyors Association) is in working with industry stakeholders to develop a survey product that would sit within such a framework. And because the RPSA standards require full and thorough survey inspections, rather than the cut-down Homebuyer type surveys that have become all too familiar, much less reliance on caveats and excuses.

    Done right then an updated HIP makes absolute sense. But it is better for industry to collaborate on this together to deliver a workable proposition that Government can adopt.

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  5. richardmathias

    Ryder & Dutton in conjunction with LFS Minerva have been doing just this since July 2020 – New sellers complete PIQ/TA6 online, searches are completed and lawyers instructed when property is marketed  – Its now proving very worth while with shorter transaction times and sellers “contract ready”. Agents get PIQ / Full ID and Office Copies  FOC to help with Money Laundering compliance. It not rocket science but does  need  agents and law firms working together and not against each other. The problems currently lie with a lack of capacity in the conveyancing sector and there is no silver bullet to this. Higher conveyancing fees will attract new blood but it will take time. HIPS failed by the way because they were used as a political football. It was nothing to do with the search – they were included and were one of the main reasons transaction times improved. Lack of a survey was and will remain the biggest stumbling block.  

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  6. #ImpressiveConveyancing

    Seller’s packs? They are already used and called ‘the contract pack’ . Nothing new is being suggested here.

    The issue with conveyancing is, and always will be – until the Governmnet as our regulatory bodies are doing nothing steps in and dictates who is allowed to tout themselves as a conveyancer – is the quality of the human being doing the work.

    In my experience  8 out of 10 are simply not good enough to be offering their service to the public.

    Shoddy legal training, if any, failure to treat the sale/purchase as they would had it been their own, and more interested in going home that getting the job done.

    Law firms take any CV, in far too many cases, and so the cycle continues.

    2021 will be no different and there is nothing new on the horizon to challenge this.

    So just be excellent in your own service, that is all you can do – while other firms milk the public for a service not fit for purpose.

     

     

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  7. JonnyBanana43

    Less about surveys, more about searches…

    For example, why can’t all the searches be instantly available ? Surely we have the technology now that if something has changed on someones search that can be updated automatically?

    Not excuse for transactions to take 4 months, when it can be done in 3 weeks in other parts of the world

     

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    1. RedRebel

      Because buyers conveyancers don’t want to use them. Often blaming their lender, even with an indemnity.

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    2. RedRebel

      Frustrating for everyone, also a presupplied set of searches removes the margin for the buyers lawyer!

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  8. M24

    Those of us who are of, um, an even more certain age – as I am – will recall that Home Information Packs were a thing before 2004. At the end of the 1990s the Government wanted to find a way to speed up property transactions in order to curb the number of buyers who were being gazumped.

    In 2000, they launched a Pilot Scheme, mainly in Bristol, for Sellers’ Packs. A small selection of estate agents (including branches of national corporates, larger franchises, all the way up to tiny single-office independents like me) were selected to offer a limited number of these Packs to vendors, all funded by the Government. A panel of local solicitors and surveyors was assembled to compile the Packs.

    The only downside was having to wait until the Pack was complete before marketing could begin. This, sadly, resulted in some agents not actually being able to shift any packs during the months-long process, because their eager staff wanted to print their “sold in 24 hours, aren’t I clever?” window cards.

    We got through our allocation of Packs in next to no time, and the powers-that-be then reallocated some more to us. And it would be fair to say that I loved them!

    The joy of being able to set an asking price that took into account a full (and, this is the important bit, independent) survey of the property, knowing if there are any nasties lurking in the legals, and then being in a position to be completely up-front, honest and open with potential buyers, made house-selling a very enjoyable and relatively stress-free occupation. And, although I no longer have any facts to back it up, I am convinced our fall-through rate was a lot lower too.

    However, the Sellers’ Pack Pilot Scheme came to an end, and it would be years before they were to be introduced as Home Information Packs. These were a mere shadow of their original premise and, as a result, were lambasted by most of the industry (yes, including me) and eventually wiped from the statute books.

    I honestly believe that they would have worked in their original form if you could have guaranteed the following:

    1. The survey was full, but above all completely independent, and the legal paperwork thorough. If not, this poses problems for lenders and buyers’ lawyers in trusting a whole raft of information that has essentially been compiled by the vendor. Ultimately we found during 2000 that solicitors and lenders who were unaware that the contents of the Pack they were provided with was completely independent (let’s be charitable and say that, rather than they wanted to make more money) insisted that the work was carried out all over again. Thus the time-saving element was lost altogether.

    2. The Government would carry on funding the Packs. The cost of a full survey, and everything else, would have made persuading vendors to take up the Packs nigh on impossible, if they had not been fully funded. But it’s not just the upfront costs. What happens, in a more difficult market, when properties naturally take longer to find a buyer, when parts of the Pack pass their use-by date? The vendor would be continully dipping their hands into their pockets to replace elements of the Pack as they expire … with still no guarantee of a sale.

    Bear in mind, though, that this was 2000. You couldn’t access information in the same way as you can today. The Packs were lumpy portfolios of bits of paper that prospective purchasers had to read in our office – these days everything would be stored online.

    I’m pretty sure there are various companies, agents and lawyers who are currently peddling their own version of Sellers Packs, but I’m not entirely sure anyone’s yet hit the perfect solution.

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  9. RedRebel

    We always ask our sellers to complete the TAs upfront before we market any property. This helps us understand what issues might delay the sale later. The seller is then given advice about what they need to do to help themselves move faster by finding the right documents before we find them a buyer. We do all this digitally by using the free Gazeal service. Our sellers appreciate that their move is a partnership with us not just on us.

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  10. WiltsAgent

    Well remember a competitor spending a small fortune on training to become the local Pack Provider only to see the whole thing binned because of a change in Government. He wasted around £9k to end up charging around £50 a go for EPCs. Now sells cars.

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  11. Woodentop

    HIPs was a fiasco and failed miserably unless the property was bought within the first month and no chain to a cash buyer.

     

    All this talk of it can be done better … is all targeted at delays in the admin. People need to remember why the delays are there and no system has yet to be devised that can shorten a list that is so, so long for the first hurdles (many more) are ………….

     

    1. Delay in the property in a position to proceed with offer from being listed i.e. Buyer starts looking, discovers the property they like and chain restraints.

    2. Legal requirement and liability including on ‘time factors’ during all aspects of the process under current legislation.

     

    Having a survey upfront does not make the sale go quicker if for example its three months or more old. If there were faults indicated they need to be checked again for adverse progression = back to a new survey! Considering most surveys are done (average within a fortnight) long before other aspects of conveyancing are sorted = red herring for an upfront survey will speed the process. It would help the buyer prior to offer stage, but that doesn’t speed up the sale if shelf life expired and legal liability issues in the legal system. There are advantages to a MOT at time of listing and is more do with ‘marketing management’ rather than actually speed the sale.

     

    ‘On-line’ today is the norm. So get all the conveyancing aspects operating ‘on-line’ with majority instant access and reduction in time delays will halve? Far too much paper pushing in an antiquated conveyancing system which is seriously lacking a revolution.

     

     

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