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?
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 In 2010, the incoming coalition government repealed the law and HiPs were dead.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.