Yvette Cooper said HIPs need not include a Home Condition Report
The government has come under fire this week after its surprise announcement that it will delay the introduction of a crucial part of Home Information Packs when they come into effect next year.
The Housing Minister Yvette Cooper said on Tuesday that the new survey at the heart of
the packs, called the Home Condition Report, needs further testing and will not come into force in June 2007 as originally planned.
The other elements of the pack - including searches and the new Energy Performance Certificate - will still have to be provided by those selling their home in England and Wales from that date.
We asked for your comments, a selection of which we have published below.
This debate is now closed.
Trainee home inspectors deserve some sympathy but realistically, House condition reports are dead in the water. Who would ever trust a government sufficiently in future to spend money training when they next appear to decide on a date for HCRs to be made compulsory? At the same time, despite all the avowals here of what a great idea HIPs are, nobody has sufficient faith in their efficacy to believe that they can succeed on a voluntary basis. Good ideas should be able to succeed without compulsion and HIPs were never a good idea. There is no doubt that the initial costs involved with their repeatable elements, would have caused a glut of 'beat the deadline' properties entering the market before next June, paralleled by a first time buyer/buy to let strike until the apparent 'freebies' were on offer and a market downturn would have ensued with all the uncertainty. No matter how much information HIPs might or might not have contained, an archaic legal system that gives every appearance of being designed 'subject to contract' to avoid contractual commitment for ridiculously long periods is the real problem.
In 1997, whilst still a chief executive (now retired) of a local building society, I submitted a detailed response to the consultation papers then published by the Government. It is interesting to hear that 9 years on, the same disadvantages are still being put forward but the Government plods on! At least Nick Raynsford - then the Minister - knew something about housing, Yvette Cooper now, how many in between! I dread to think how much money has been wasted getting to where we are today! Where are we is also a relevant question!
I thought of studying for a HIPS qualification last year but am glad I didn't. Listening to the minister's interview today, I was astonished that there can have been so little joined up thinking since the scheme was announced. House surveys themselves seem to be so couched in provisos and get out clauses that I am surprised anybody takes them seriously. I have submitted many Building Control and Planning applications and seen the chaos with which they are dealt by local government and the thought of another layer of regulation so ineptly administered beggars belief. But whose head is on the block?
The u-turn regarding HCRs within HIPs was inevitable. Market dynamics are not dreamt up over night but take hundreds of years to develop. 'Caveat Emptor' is the only way of protecting all parties. It was obvious that lenders were never going to accept third party reports on condition and why should they, in which case HCRs and HIPs generally provide no benefit whatsoever. Furthermore, any sensible person buying a property would commission their own report by a qualified chartered surveyor who is responsible and reports only to them and who has indemnity insurance for this purpose.
Searches being included in a HIP at the time of a house being marketed is laughable. When markets cool, as this one is, marketing times lengthen and searches become out of date. What a complete waste of time and money.
Put simply, the purchaser should be responsible for making their own enquiries at their own cost and using their own chosen professionals at the time of purchase. It is the most effective and expedient method - and the government trying to add yet further bureaucracy to a system that already works is the hallmark of this backward, meddling and completely incompetent 'nanny-state' Labour administration. I genuinely feel sympathy for all those who have invested significant money in attempting to become home inspectors especially as it is likely that HIPs will be scrapped altogether. However, we already have home inspectors, they are properly qualified chartered surveyors - already trained with years of experience - what a surprise!
I am a surveyor currently training for the Diploma In Home Inspection. I was misled by the Government to believe that the HCR element of the packs would be mandatory from 1 June 2007. My training has centered around this date and I hoped to qualify by January next year.
I am extremely disappointed and angry that the government has turned its back on potential home inspectors. The course has so far cost me £5,000.
For a first time buyer like myself HIPs would save me a lot of money as I have already spent a great deal of money on searches and surveys only to end up with no property. On each occasion after receiving the surveyors and subsequent experts reports I pulled out of both properties as the vendor and I could not reach a mutual ground when trying to renegotiate the price given the findings and cost of putting right the problems highlighted in the surveys. With HIPs these problems would be apparent before I put an offer in so that there would be no room for negotiation, therefore saving both time and money. Whilst there are things that could be done better, the majority of people with negative views are those who are worried about the impact on their pockets and not those of the buyers or sellers. Indeed a large number of vendors become buyers so it balances out.
Another point to be made here is that everyone is scaremongering saying that people would have to pay up front which just isn't the case. Furthermore, there are companies who are able to deliver HIPs even if it was implemented tomorrow. As you can tell I work in the industry but before comments come back saying that we have a vested interest too I would like to point out that we are a search company and whether or not HIPs happen every house that is sold has to have searches, so it does not affect us as it does other sectors.
I have never witnessed incompetence on such a scale before by a Govt, removing the essential element out of the HIP. The HCR is about 23 pages long as opposed to double sided A4 reports which are produced now by so called professionals. Home inspectors are from professional backgrounds such as building surveying not fly-by-nights, they have developed because of Govt guidelines and now the Govt is slamming the door into the faces of those who saw how modernisation was reforming a system which is incredibly inefficient. There are a lot of people out there who would like the current system to remain - inefficiencies for one person are profit for another. I hope they they add a few more million on to the money already invested so current Home Inspectors can claim back off them.
HIPs are not effective in helping the sale of houses. In fact it seems to be another way to extract money from us yet again without addressing the problem most people fear! Why cannot we follow some other EU countries and ensure that once an agreement has been made between seller and buyer, a deposit is paid and kept by either solicitor or estate agent. This deposit is not returned if buyer pulls out and if seller pulls out they pay double the deposit to the disappointed buyer - simple and effective in stopping either side pulling out for frivolous reasons. If there is a problem with survey or searches that cannot be sorted then the deposit would be returned to buyer without penalty. This is where the HIP could be useful in that the seller would know before they place property on market that there was a major problem and could then carry out remedial work required. People would have to be really sure that they wanted to sell or buy the property before entering into any agreement.
I welcomed your informative programme about HIPS. I doubt if purchasers or vendors will benefit from HIPS. I have no professional vested interest as an Estate Agent, Solicitor or Surveyor. The government's u-turn which removed HCRs was to be expected. Insuring hastily trained inspectors against a certificate including home defects was a mine field.
HIPs will not address any problems associated with gazumping. It duplicates professional fees. Yvette Cooper mentioned 'vested interest' in every sentence but she forgets that HIPs will add yet another professional to the list of Estate Agents, Surveyors and Solicitors. HIPs are confusing and will add additional paperwork to an already difficult house purchase process. HIPs will give undeserved reassurance. Purchasers should be encouraged routinely to purchase a full structural survey. If a full survey was routine, vendors would be forced to disclose defects earlier. Few houses sell quickly and the cost of selling will escalate. Vendors will be forced to pay over and over again to upgrade their certificates every three months. I object to the government targeting house owners to pay for and aid its environmental policy.
To conclude, HIPS is badly thought out and threatens to undermine a good English system of professional protection to the purchaser. Sorry to those who have HIPS training. HIPS is an ill conceived idea conceived over orange juice at breakfast and not fit for consumption. It should carry a government health warning.
No-one would consider buying a second hand car without a current test certificate, yet we happily make the biggest investment of our lives without similar certification. If the motor industry can be subdued, why not that unruly beast the building industry? The HCR does not go far enough. Those who framed the terms of reference were scared of actually offering advice because of the litigation if that advice proved to be wrong; it will tell you that your roof is leaking, but not how to stop it; it will tell you there is a damp patch on your ceiling, but not where the damp is coming from. At least a mechanic will tell you that the reason your car won't stop is that the brake pads are worn!
I am appalled that the Sellers Home Information Pack was ever invented. What sort of person wishing to sell anything should wish to highlight possible discrepancies in the product and pay a fee to some third party for the privilege? In the end these transactions are down to you and me - ie I have property, you want a property and the price is x, take or leave it, sold as seen. If the banker does not like it, then don`t lend on it, and so be it. It laughable - the whole economy will be in log jam with knock on effects into the high street which will be catastrophic for the economy. It's a con and for intellectuals to discuss, and for real people to get taken to the cleaners by. Forget and abandon this rubbish now....hip hip hurray!
The chance to improve the system of home buying in England has gone, maybe for ever. Nobody can claim the proposed system was perfect but it would have been the start of getting rid off the waste and unnecessary delays. The people who criticised competencies of Home Inspectors are mainly those who DO benefit from the current system and have been lobbying government for a u-turn. Home Inspector training is based on best practice and surveys produced would be high quality. I am surprised to read that the government talks about voluntary aspects of Home Condition Report. Who is going to suggest it to a potential seller - , A solicitor or an Estate agent? Again, it is the innocent and law abiding citizens in this country who end up paying for government mistakes.
What can one do about a buyer, who, on the very day the solicitor is due to exchange the contracts, suddenly offers £200,000 less on a £1.2m house? The house has been totally refurbished in 2004 with up-to-date energy systems and insulation to comply with current legislation so there were no problems when their surveyor inspected the house. We could not accept this much reduced offer, have now lost the house we wanted and the person selling that house to us has lost her new home too. They waited 6 weeks before making this offer during which time our estate agent did not show our house to any new prospective purchasers. It is now the beginning of the summer holidays so we are taking our house off the market till the New Year. Meanwhile we have incurred considerable costs in surveyors' fees for the house we have now lost and the work the solicitor has done. I showed the buyers round my house myself twice - they seemed to be honourable people, but obviously they are not. We have had no explanation from them so I presume they were just trying in on with us to see if we were desperate. How despicable.
I dislike the whole idea of HIPs. Once again, the state is trying to control every aspect of our lives. It seems to me that it adds an extra expense for the seller while, if I were a buyer, still leaves me wanting to make my own enquiries. The only good point is that they have left the home survey out Another point of concern is that there may be subsequent problems with the house which were not known to the seller - are we going to get into lengthy legal arguments as to what the seller should have known etc?
All this will simply makes a long and stressful process even more so and my instinct is simply to stay where I am and not move home at all (unless I can do so before next June).
I really pity anyone training to be a Home Inspector - if/when home surveys are introduced they will be about as popular as Revenue Officers.
Paul, Leigh on Sea
I am training to be a Home Inspector. I have to date spent an enormous amount of time, effort and a significant amount of money (£7k) to do this under a government sponsored initiative. They have been planning this for years and have taken time to persuade people like me to take up the call for this new way forward for the housing market. Having persuaded us to invest our money and time they have unceremoniously dumped us as soon as the political path started to get a little uncomfortable. This Government must be the most untrustworthy bunch of politicians that we have had tolerate for a very long time. I am not even going to ask the question about compensation because I know exactly what Mr Brown will say.
Ray, East Sussex
Well I had a job lined up as a conveyancer for a firm which has invested heavily in HIPss and following the Government's u-turn on Tuesday I received a call on Wednesday advising me that my contract has been withdrawn due to the fact they were relying on this company to increase their capacity. Obviously I handed in my notice at my current firm and am now desperately trying to find another firm to offer me a job for the beginning of August.
I am not in the least bit surprised the government changed their mind. They are continually modifying and changing their decisions. Unlike the trainee home inspectors, I am lucky enough to know I will find another job but I would seriously suggest taking the government to court for their course fees.
Thank heavens the government has postponed the introduction of the Home Condition Report; it is only a small step now to shelve the idea and lets hope they make it soon. The concept was flawed from the outset; a survey has a limited life and to rely on it in six or nine months time is foolhardy. I find it hard to believe that the Government cannot see this, or perhaps they can and there is a hidden agenda.
I am a Chartered Surveyor and Estate Agent and one of those written off as having a vested interest by Yvette Cooper. What sheer arrogance! Professionals have been telling government for years that their proposals will not work, not because of some selfish motive or intention to take advantage of consumers, but because they clearly do not understand the house buying process which is an interaction between estate agent, surveyor, lender and solicitor. Better communications between these four, particularly in the early stages, would pay handsome dividends, as will the introduction of electronic conveyancing.
Finally, you played an interview with Geoff Hoon when he pointed out how HIPs would save us all from Gazumping and Gazundering. They very quickly realised that it would do nothing of the sort and should have pulled the rug immediately.
Buying a house is a big deal. A full structural survey from a qualified Surveyor is what you need to do. A Surveyor knows a heap more than if a damp course is required - that's why they carry indemnity insurance and remain knowledgable of the latest law related to property (more than most Solicitors). A good surveyor will also know the ground conditions and historical problems in an area and know the tricks some might get away with inside the home.
This is why I employ another Surveyor to look at a house I might purchase even though I'm a Surveyor myself. HIP inspectors - good though many of them are (ex Builders etc) simply do not have the breadth of structural, environmental and legal training required to give a cast-iron opinion. That's why they have not sorted a proper cast-iron governance body and consumer protection. Surveyors can be sued, just like Solicitors - and that's why they are well trained and do a professional job. House purchase needed more than just new HIP packs - it really needed a complete review of the legal process of bid, buy and pay together with all the searching, surveying and registry mularky.
I feel the government has yet again spent our hard earned money on endless useless indecisive paperwork. We need an initial contract which is signed by both vendor and buyer as soon as the vendor agrees to sell to someone. This needs to be binding and have a 10% deposit included. This deposit ought only to be returnable if something is found to be substantially wrong with the building. An initial house condition report in the HIP would help to keep this binding as it would only be refundable upon this report being proved to be wrong and to be hiding some fault in the house not declared. It also needs a completion date.
This means chains ought to disappear as people would have to sell before offering for a house, or to have a bridging loan. The system used in Scotland seems excellent - closed bids, including completion dates and a handshake is a binding contract.
DR J KING
Listening to this broadcast about HIPs I have heard no mention of a full structural survey. Is this included in a HIP? I don't believe it is. Anybody who buys a house without a Full Structural Survey must be mad. To invest hundreds of thousands of pounds without checking that the house is sound, especially in this climate with warnings about subsidence and settlement due to the heat is nothing short of pure folly. The government should be castigated for leading people to believe that HIPS are some sort of panacea. A hazard warning should be included with each pack!
I have my property on the market. I thought I was lucky in getting a buyer quite quickly after the property had been on the market for 3 weeks. She had the property surveyed, I found a property myself and had this surveyed. However, the day after my survey was completed, my buyer withdrew from the process.
At it stands at the moment, my details are still going out but no further buyer. As I understand the new process some of the information runs out after 3 or 6 months. Therefore under this new process I would have to renew each 3 or 6 months, adding more expenditure to keep my documents up to date which would add extra charges for selling.
I would hate to sell in a slow market, let alone an average or above average, adding extra costs, stress and remembering when to up date which bit of the HIP to update.
This has been used as a political club by the Conservatives. Such is the nature of politics in this country. HIPs including a Home Condition Report will make the whole home buying process transparent. The consumers are not being helped by removing the HCR.
In Denmark, although not mandatory, HCRs are seen as necessary to achieve the best possible price for your property. The introduction of HIPs did not cause the end of the world there as is predicted by the Conservatives here. Unless you had knowledge of cars would you buy a car without an MOT? Take the politics out of this and maybe people would be able to see the benefits.
HIPS are a terrible idea. The Government has not thought this through. If they push forward with frontloading all the work on the sellers, people will decide against selling because of the cost and hassle involved. Not only that if you were buying would you rely on information provided by the seller? Thought not. This is not going to speed up the conveyancing process. The market will come to a grinding halt.
I have spent the last 12 months undertaking assessment for registration as Home Inspector. As this was a Government initiative, I was reassured that I could safely invest my time and money. As a professional builder of nearly forty years experience, my financial investment of around £6000 is half of what some trainee Home Inspectors have paid out, many against career development loans and increased mortgages.
A HIP without the HCR is incomplete and hence a waste of consumer's money. If there was a predicted shortfall of trained inspectors for next June, then the COMPLETE HIP should have been delayed for say six months. The Government's suggestion of a voluntary take up is, at best, 'misleading'. If only 20% of purchasers presently commision surveys, there will be few, if any, sellers prepared to voluntary pay for a HCR.
The Government should set a date immediately for compulsory HCRs; otherwise training and assessment will fall apart. To suggest that Home Inspectors will have any meaningful or sustainable income undertaking Energy Assessment surveys is misleading. At the time of writing, Government officials are unable to confirm even that this work will be done exclusively by Home Inspectors.
I believe all prospective Home Inspectors deserve firm clarity on a date for compulsory HCRs. If the Government is unwilling or unable to do so, then they have an obligation to reimburse training fees, as HCRs will not get of the ground.
I am one of many so called 'Experienced Practitioners' who, because of the Government undertaking of mandatory Home Inspections for the HIP, have signed to study the BRE course to become a certified Home Inspector. The Government have now killed off the Home Inspection but we who have started the diploma course have each paid more then £2000 to join the course for what now promises to be a valueless qualification. My contemporaries, the course tutors and others involved need to know how to claim reimbursement for the fees we have paid. The Minister talks about the Home inspectors undertaking the Energy Performance Certification which as an isolated element is of little interest to people who have spent many years in the professional areas of the building industry such as architecture, building surveying, engineering etc. The Home Inspection is unlikely to be a viable business proposition without the mandatory aspect as originally intended. Very few house owners are likely to commission such reports on a private basis unless properties become difficult to sell in which case a Home Survey Certificate might be a useful sales tool but it is very unlikely for the foreseeable future that there will be any serious slump in housing sales.
Piers, West Sussex
The HIP is nothing more than additional red tape and unnecessary expense. When will they stop making life more complex than it need be? The home condition report is not done by real surveyors, but by specially trained people recruited from outside the surveying industry, and most likely with no previous experience of performing a proper survey. When I next buy a house, I will want an independent, real survey performed by a qualified surveyor, who is reportable to me, therefore I would not care at all about the content of a home condition report.
I would also disregard the local searches in the HIP unless they were less than four weeks old as out of date information is useless information. As for the home efficiency report, I am more than capable of checking for lost insulation, cavity wall insulation, double glazing, hot water lagging, heating system type, etc myself.
Nigel, Bishops Stortford
I think they were a good idea. But they seem to have had all sorts of additional bits added for other reasons. The energy pack for instance, fine in principle but another new unknown feature that really needs developing over time rather than being forced on everyone. There seem to me to be a lot of similar attachments. We should start by getting the survey side of it accepted by all parties (not necessarily easy) before loading everything else into it.
So HIPs are in disarray. What a surprise! But apparently the Energy Efficiency component is still in the package. This is also very questionable, for several reasons. Some of the housing stock in UK is very old. It is impossible to make these buildings match up to current energy efficiency standards. The energy efficiency standards themselves are incomplete. As a heating engineer, I can show you a collection of heating components arranged into an 'efficient' system and then precisely the same components in an 'inefficient' configuration. How will the Home Inspectors tell the difference, given their very superficial training? What's the problem with certified gas and electricity bills as a realistic measure of actual performance? People planning to sell their houses could easily see the impact of poor efficiency on actual bills and would then have an incentive to improve overall energy performance of the house.
John, South Croydon
As a trainee home inspector I want a date for the mandatory introduction of home condition reports to be included in HIPs. Without this myself and fellow home inspectors are going to lose faith. Like many other prospective home inspectors, I have invested a great deal of hard earned money - to date £10,000 - plus time and considerable effort juggling a full-time job and family life for this new career. Last week I gave up my job to give my full attention to becoming a home inspector. Then the government withdrew their commitment by not giving a date for mandatory introduction of HCR, therefore I am now left with an uncertain future. I have to consider the extra cost ahead with weekend seminars, accommodation, books and so on. I am now thinking of taking another job. Without a mandatory date what other choice to I really have?
I do not think it is wrong for them to delay, if there are not enough qualified home inspectors, but surely there never will be if support is not given now.
I wholeheartedly believe in this new legislation. The home information pack will deliver clear and precise information in understandable language at the onset of the home buying process, protecting the biggest purchase of our lives. The full HIP including the HCR is the way forward and is exactly what the housing market needs.
I have been training to become a home inspector and have made a substantial personal investment. I did this because the government have repeatedly reaffirmed their commitment to the scheme. The actions of DCLG are shameful and demonstrate why people distrust politicians. They have caved in to pressure from the uninformed and those with a vested interest, and in doing so have left a shambolic piece of legislation that will only serve to slow down the house selling process and add cost for no worthwhile return. When someone is looking to spend £200,000+ on a house (involving £2,000 of stamp duty, legal costs and probably a big mortgage), is it really of any significant interest to them to learn from the Energy Performance Certificate that they can save £30 a year on heating bills by insulating the loft?
No. What people really need to know when buying a house (especially first time buyers, who are going to be especially hardest hit by the government backdown) is whether the house they are looking to buy is structurally sound, if there are any significant defects, and what the overall condition is like. I, like the many other people training to be home inspectors, will be amply qualified to tell them those essential facts and to do what the Home Information Pack was intended to do, and that is to increase consumer knowledge and awareness.
The implementation of home sellers packs to come into force in June 2007 has ensured I and all members of my family who have in the past supported Labour will never vote for Labour again. They have taken away my choice to use surveyors or not amongst other things.
The government's decision to delay the introduction of the Home Condition Report was flawed by pressure and influences coming from the Conservatives and Liberal MPs, and a quote by Michael Grove sums up how this decision must have been arrived at, "If one puts rubbish in as one's assumption, (to the debate) one is likely to get rubbish out as one's conclusion".
Vic, Milton Keynes
For the past 2 months, I have been studying to become a home inspector after paying almost £8,000 after the government-led recruitment drive guaranteed that HIPs (including HCRs) would become compulsory on 1st June 2007. This week I was left speechless to be informed through the national press that there have been substantial changes.
The whole purpose of the HCR was to bring the property market into the 21st Century and give buyers more confidence and weed out the dishonesty and lying that takes place everyday by introducing a mandatory report compiled by a professional home inspector. This has been in the process for over two years and it has been dropped quicker than a hot stick as soon as a concerted effort was made to spin negative press by the Conservatives backed by any individual/organisation set to be brought to rights by the new legislation. It was all for the good of buyers and sellers in the long run but lack of backbone by the government has allowed it to be put to waste.
When I take into account my own personal position in that I am a Home Inspector in training I am completely disgusted. What is the value of this qualification now and what redress do I have for the wasted course fees of circa £8,000 plus loss of earnings for the time spent studying for this qualification? I have been completely misled
As a Home Inspector in training, I appreciated the obvious benefits of presenting information at the start of a property transaction. The government created the profession of Home Inspector and the mandatory requirement for the Home Condition Report and HIP. They actively sought 5,000 to 7,000 individuals to train up to become Home Inspectors (currently approaching 5,000 in training, many more were in the pipeline). As an experienced practitioner I invested a considerable amount of time and money (£5,000) to meet this call. I along with all other Home Inspectors feel very let down by the government's decision to remove the mandatory HCR from the HIP. The HCR would undoubtedly be of enormous benefit to the consumer and the property market.
Darren - ProSurv Home Inspections
My last house sale experience, in 2002, angered me. The present system of house conveyancing in England and Wales is fraught with potential problems and loopholes and earns the institutionalised vested interests too much money. These are the estate agents and solicitors who are currently over-charging buyers and sellers. As far as I am aware our conveyancing system has not been updated since the Law of Property Act (1925) was passed. If this is true it is astonishing that more than three quarters of a century has passed since the procedure for buying and selling most people's single biggest asset has been updated. In this time many millions of transactions must have been completed involving who knows how many billions of pounds!
Once again the government has backed down in the face of big business. This measure would have helped ordinary people but that is less important that protecting profits. Without a HCR a HIP is useless and an unnecessary expense. We should now ditch the whole thing and forget about it
I'm a Tory, an Estate Agent and a trainee Home Inspector! Good mix eh? I believe HIPs are a good idea, and HCRs are an essential part of them and should be mandatory. If there's a problem with numbers, (which I don't believe) why not phase them in, in stamp duty bands? The biggest problem is that the majority of the public, the press and MPs don't have a clue about their content, or their purpose!! The latter was only too evident in Parliament on Wednesday.
As a result of the government's promise of a new career, I personally have invested a total of in excess of £12k to date plus a great amount of my own time at the sacrifice of both my personal life and my business to no avail. I feel totally let down. I have sacrificed holidays and personal pleasure. No compensation is offered and I am so far committed that I feel that I must continue with the hope that there might be a job at the end of it. I personally know of three people on the course who have committed all their savings/remortgaged property/spent redundancy for what appears to be a no hoper. My faith in politicians has never been strong and this has gone a long way to endorse the situation. With regard to a shortage in Home Inspectors, there were enough in training to meet the demand. The idea was to speed up the buying/selling process by having a full condition report hence avoiding unnecessary wastage of potential purchasers' monies, this has not been achieved
C Morris, Croydon
The Home Condition Report would have made the decision whether to buy a property or not much easier and provided far more information than a mere mortgage valuation, whilst reducing costs for first time buyers and having little effect on costs for those trading on, as the survey costs incurred by the seller are saved on the next purchase. The government has missed a great opportunity to bring clarity to house transactions and to stimulate a general improvement in housing stock
The government has missed a golden opportunity to offer every house purchaser the protection of a detailed report on the condition of the property they are purchasing. Unfortunately, most purchasers will now have to continue to rely on the brief inspection carried out by a mortgage valuer under the misconception that this is a survey.
The Home Information Pack was never going to deliver the benefits that the government thought it would. Your programme clearly demonstrated that. If government had listened earlier to the people who really know how the property market works they could have saved vast sums of money and delivered a far more beneficial and cost-effective range of solutions. The public should be greatly relieved that the H.I.P. is effectively R.I.P.
Nick Salmon, FNAEA, Splinta (Sellers Pack Law Is Not The Answer)
There are many people /groups/companies with vested interests in keeping the system as it is presently. There are some items that the public are not being made aware of. All surveyors trained/qualified to carry out HIPs surveys would be specifically trained to carry out surveys of residential properties. RICS surveyors on the other hand may have little or no housing experience e.g. someone in telecommunication or agriculture surveying may have only looked at a residential property in training but as a RICS surveyor would presently be able to carry out a residential survey.
There are advantages in having a survey carried out prior to a house going on the market: if a major defect is identified prior to a property going on sale the owner has the option of carrying our remedial works or can inform the buyer early on and make financial alterations to the price. The present system does not assist either the purchaser or the seller, both of which may have a shock if severe worm infestation or structural damage is found. The new system would allow for quicker solutions to be found.
As a trainee Home Inspector I have borrowed £8,000 to cover the cost of my training. I have devoted already several weeks of work in training for the diploma. I trusted the government to do as it said it would. I will not make an adequate living doing only energy reports, which are covered in just about one week of the training we will do over 12-18 months. There are over 4,000 Home Inspectors in training and RICS were successfully negotiating a speedier process for experienced surveyors to qualify as Home Inspectors. There would have been no shortage in July next year. The government needs to set a date for the introduction of HCRs or refund the money we have wasted on our training.
The aim appears to be to address the issues of fall out from the house buying and selling transaction, and to address "gazumping" and "gazundering". Unfortunately, I can't see how either of these fundamental worries have been alleviated in the slightest by the government intervention so far. The government has added a great deal of froth whilst offering little substance.
Your legal interviewee pointed out the shortcomings in the pack, the lack of a valuation, life of searches and surveys and, more especially, the numbers of reasons for a sale to fall through.
The essential requirement to reduce or eliminate the breakdown in chains of transactions is to make an accepted offer binding unless unforeseen circumstances occur. By establishing a seller pack containing an agreed valuation and lender acceptable house condition, and making this a contractual obligation, the majority of "get-out" opportunities are removed. I think the government has lost the plot.
The 4,000 who have spent £10K or so, are going to be pretty "miffed" with returns being around £100 (Energy Surveys etc) or not obligatory, rather than an expectation of £300 to £400 (as advised by the department), with an enforced obligation for a vendor to provide. The fees expended should be refunded in full.
Steve, Bury St Edmunds
Please spare a thought for all the home inspectors who have just wasted thousands of pounds of their own money, getting trained for what? This government need to put in place a compensation package for the estimated 4,440 people, trained or in training, who have forked out something like £10,000 each. What a shambles!
The following will speed up house sales/purchase and could be implemented at a stroke:
1 - Adopt the Scottish system which will stop gazumping.
2 - Establish a fast track conveyancing system - the days of solicitors dragging matters out to justify their costs must be consigned to history!
3 - Searches should be immediately available on line.
Say Hip Hip Hooray to the end of the silly (Prescott inspired - who else!) HIPs
As the minister said, there are vested interests out there (lenders, solicitors, agents) who want to retain the status quo. What Yvette Cooper failed to say was that some of the major lenders and estate agents were strong backers of the HIP reforms.
Now the HCR has been cast aside. The result? A pack that will contain little of interest to most buyers and, for freeholds at least, that information (title and local search info) can commonly be obtained within five working days. And the cost - it will still be around £400-500 including the mandatory energy report. Not very good value for money in my opinion!
The only ray of hope for a useful pack is that the mandatory Energy Report will require a visit by a licensed home inspector. This is likely to cost £200 in any case, so the additional £100 or so for a full Condition Report may be taken up by a proportion of sellers as this could (and was planned) to be carried out at the same time. I'm not holding my breath though!
Ed, Newton Abbot
Besides the conventional side of the housing market, no one seems to have considered the impact on the wider building services industry. The Home Information Pack (HIP) was a huge driver for a lot of people in the heating, plumbing and electrical trades to get interested in competent persons schemes, which have been introduced under the new building regulations from April 2006. With no Home Condition Report (HCR) in the HIP, what will be the driver?
It was a good argument for why these schemes are needed. Losing the momentum of the HCR in the HIP is a huge loss, and it will hurt the domestic sector much more than commercial. The government are not doing joined up government as they promised!
Mike, Energy Division, Commtech
I have been persuaded to train as a Home Inspector following, and only following, this government's initiative to bring in HIPs on the firm understanding that this would involve a compulsory HCR. I, and others, never trust a politician.
HIPs are just another form of tax on homebuyers/sellers. They should not be made compulsory. If I want to sell my house and you want to buy it without paying this tax then we should be able to do so. This seems to be aimed at urban housing and once again those of us in the countryside get the backwash. I am sure the estate agents will not be reducing their fees.
I am one of the many thousands of people who believed in the Labour government's plan to reform and improve the sorry state of the housing market in this country. I enrolled on a New Entrants course to qualify as a Home Inspector and have spent the past eight months working hard and studying to gain my diploma. People may not realise but the amount of time and effort needed in training for this qualification is immense. We're essentially undertaking a HND / Foundation Degree level of qualification in a very short space of time and at considerable expense and sacrifice.
My course cost £8,000. Many more have paid up to £10,000. Most of us have had to fund these course costs ourselves. And for what?
The government has backed down under pressure from those with a vested interest in keeping the current system as it is. In not so many words they have essentially scrapped The Home Condition Report thus leaving many thousands of people like myself feeling disappointed and severely let down. They should be ashamed of themselves
I am in the middle of training to become a Home Inspector. I have been a builder for 25 years and have invested a lot of time and money (£8,000 fees), in studies. I undertook this as the government required Home Inspectors to implement their new conveyancing plans and to implement European Directives regarding energy audits. Thousands of people have also invested time and money as have the Hips providers, training groups, universities, assessment centres and countless estate agents and property companies - £250m has now been wasted by sheer incompetence. The problem for the government now is how to provide enough inspectors if and when the HCRs become compulsory. Why would anyone take up training now and why should the various educational schemes continue? The whole process seems indicative of an administration in decline.
Certain newspapers, clearly for political reasons, have misrepresented the cost and value of the HIP. It has been described as an expensive "box-ticking" exercise of minimal value to house buyers - but cost predictions have been exaggerated whilst the depth and detail of the report has been consistently understated. Scare stories of dramatic damaging effects on the property sales market have been invented to support the case. The fact is that this is one of the few good ideas to have come out of John Prescott's ODPM, and bowing to the lobby of certain minority interest groups demonstrates the weakness of Kelly and Cooper.
I think the government's U turn is very disappointing - they should have the courage of their convictions and proceed. Buying a house without a Home Condition Report allows estate agents and sellers to continue to get away with misrepresenting the level of defect in a property relying on sellers to 'discover' faults after they've paid for a survey or valuation. If you've ever pulled out of buying a house because your survey showed something not on the estate agents details or covered up by the seller you'll know what an expensive business this is!
The need for 7,000 Home Inspectors is also overstated as it takes into account those who will do other survey work or work part time - the actual full-time equivalent need is around 3,500 - the reported shortfall is a red hearing and any settling in the number of houses on the market would have allowed a smooth change.
This is another example of Tony and his ministers not employing joined up thinking - my father always said: make sure your brain is in gear before opening your mouth - perhaps the government should take his advice and properly consider policy before encouraging people to spend their hard earned money on schemes that then do not happen. I hope that as David Cameron said Tony is soon looking for his own HIP and wish him luck with finding his retirement home!
Like lenders' surveys, (which the borrower is forced to pay for, despite lenders washing their hands of surveyors' reports when they turn out to have missed something vital), Home Condition Reports will state the obvious, often be incomplete or inaccurate and suggest work be done that isn't needed. For example, it has been common practice for surveyors (often limited in their knowledge and restricted in practical terms in what they can examine) to say a house needed a damp proof course installing. A local contractor then gets well-paid work from this arrangement - all rather dodgy! I have renovated my own house. How can a surveyor know the details of what's under the floor or inside the walls? And why should I pay someone less competent than I am in producing a report?
The government has behaved disgracefully in regard to the implementation of The Home Information Packs. The statement by Ms Cooper on the 18 July effectively 'torpedoes' any possibility of the Home Inspection Report being accepted by 'the market'. This is after the government has been actively encouraging people to train as Home Inspectors.
The statement of 18 July is disingenuous in a number of points. In particular it emphasises the importance of the Home Energy Certificate and plays down the relevance of the Home Inspection Report. This was not the case in any of the statements issued by the government before 18 July. It is stated that the option of making Home inspection Reports 'remains on the table'. Before 18 July the HIR was and always had been a central part of the HIP and was mandatory.
HIPS, again was a John Prescott idea, it's the cart before the horse. Most problems I hear from friends and clients, its the legal system that needs sorting out. Conveyancers and solicitors need to sharpen up and act on behalf of the client, not when they feel its good for them.
Also with HIPS it will not stop gazumping, we need to have a system similar to the Scottish way and adopt to fit the housing market here. The government could see the HIPS as taking a very simple process and turning into a cash cow, for which they will also benefit, for proof just look at increases in stamp duty, hike in stealth taxes and council tax bills, and the chancellor's aborted attempt at changing trusts, to stop people mitigating tax.
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