Almost one year after the intital introduction of Home Information Packs (HIPs), there is still the same amount of controversy surrounding them.

Many saw merit in the original proposal, but most have been critical in how and when they were introduced. The merit seen was the benefit to the purchaser as the HIP would provide key information about the property being purchased. HIPs were also proposed to be produced before a vendor placed their property on the market, with the intention of speeding up Conveyancing.

However, neither materialised. HIPs are being produced after properties are being placed on the market. Also, most HIP producers include personal searches on grounds of price, even though these are not accepted by most purchasers’ Solicitors, and most packs are often missing vital documents.

This week, Birmingham Trading Standards inspected HIPs at 15 Estate agents, randomly selecting 5 for scrutiny. All contained false or misleading search information. Officers suggested that private search companies are short-circuiting the system to save money.

Sean Barrow, a solicitor with 30 years experience said “I’m not even slightly surprised by the findings. Over the past year we have seen a wide range of HIPs from average to woeful.

The worst have included searches for the wrong property, title documents missing, and even some not bound together.

People don’t realise that a poorly constructed HIP wastes everyone’s time because missing documents have to requested/purchased, and often, personal searches replaced.

Most HIP providers are more interested in putting fancy logos on their documents than ensuring the pack information is correct.”

Only one week before, the Conservative Party stated it may abandon its pledge to scrap HIPs if elected. However, they have suggested major changes, mainly the change to an ‘exchange ready pack’ which would include title, pre-contact enquiries, planning permissions and guarantees, and require a conveyance to be instructed before a house is marketed.

Sean said “The Tories idea is nothing new, as this encompasses most of the original HIP ideas. We just need somebody to start enforcing some discipline and standards on the area.

The only way suppliers make money out of HIPs is to prepare them using non-professionals and by putting as little information in them as legally possible.

We purposefully made a stand on this from the start. We view HIPs as part of the Conveyancing process and hence don’t charge for putting them together. Clients just pay for the mandatory items.

We also add extra documents earlier on in the process such as planning permissions, guarantees and court proceedings, thus ensuring the seller and purchaser have all the information required from the outset.

Unlike any other provider we have seen, our HIPs contain full local searches and not the inferior personal searches.”

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This article appeared in Wilmslow Express Homesearch 30/10/08