According to a Which? report published last week, some Estate agents charge 50 per cent more to compile Home Information Packs (HIPs) than a specialist provider, and that sellers pay around £300 more than if they had shopped around.

The editor of Which? Money, James Daley, said “Our research shows that the most expensive high street agents charge over twice as much as the cheapest online HIP providers. There is evidence that some Estate agents require sellers to use a nominated HIP provider in return for taking a hefty commission.”

Helen Bunch (MARLA), director of Spencer Knight with 15 years experience, is quick to distinguish Spencer Knight from the issue “It certainly makes interesting reading, but we took the view that HIPs are an important legal document, and so should be treated like one.

We therefore recommend all our clients to use Jackson Barrett & Gass Solicitors. Our clients simply pay the price that Jackson Barrett & Gass pay to obtain the relevant parts, and neither of us tries to profit from HIPs.”

Jackson Barrett & Gass have been preparing their own HIPs since October 2007 when they were first introduced, and follow the original idea of providing extra information and a quality full local search, something that is rare with other providers.

Sean Barrow, a solicitor with 30 years experience, said “The problem with HIPs is that at the end of the day they are legal document. That isn’t to say that only legal people should create them, but that they are used in the legal process.

Time and time again, we see HIPs containing the bare minimum of information. Sadly, this is the key to most providers’ profit, but is actually at the detriment to the client.”

The 6th April 2009 was a significant date, which meant vendors cannot put up those “For Sale” signs until all of the key documents for their HIP are in place (although they will still be given 28-days grace for a few items including property searches).

The packs were also made bigger, with the inclusion of a Property Information Questionnaire (PIQ). This requires information on the risk of flooding, gas and electricity safety, service charges, parking arrangements and details of any structural damage.

Sean said “In our view, the changes did not go far enough. We include everything from planning permissions to grants of Probate in our packs, not to mention the standard seller protocol forms. The aim is to reduce enquiries from the purchaser’s solicitor and thus save time.

The inclusion of a full local search is also important in saving time and money for the purchaser. Few recognise the waste of time and money when it comes to ‘personal’ searches as most mortgage lenders won’t allow them to be used.”

Jonathan Singh, a Sales Director with 15 years experience, also of Spencer Knight is also keen to promote the benefits of the extra information “The local search has really helped buyers, and we have seen a faster progress to exchange of contracts in transactions involving the HIPs we provide. The number of enquiries is also significantly lower, which also assists everyone involved.

We have also seen its potential to ‘flush out’ non-serious buyers as they have no excuse not to proceed quickly with purchases.”