All people selling property in England and Wales will have to supply a Home Information Pack from 1 June.
These packs contain basic details about the property as well as an energy performance certificate.
The idea of the packs is to reduce the number of house sales which fall through. Two experts argue whether the packs are up for the task in hand.
MIKE OCKENDEN, Director General
Association of Home Information Pack Providers (AHIPP)
It is now less than two months until everyone looking to sell their home in England and Wales will need to get a Home Information Pack (HIP) before they can put their property on the market.
While the journey hasn't been smooth, HIPs are set to transform the house buying and selling process for all involved.
They will reduce the high number of transactions that fall though each year, costing in the region of £1 million a day.
Providing information upfront
HIPs will provide a lot of the information that you'd usually acquire at various times throughout the process of buying a property - local searches, title deeds, sale statements - before a property is marketed.
As a result, any buyer looking to make an offer on a property is a lot better informed and is far less likely to pull out.
Too many transactions today fail because buyers find something out about a property late in the day that causes them to change their mind.
The other benefit of obtaining information up front is that it will speed up the process.
Many transactions fail simply because they take too long to complete.
Because we buy and sell homes in 'chains', it only takes one seller or buyer to pull out and the whole chain collapses.
The introduction of packs will also see the launch of an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).
This is a new document that will assess the energy efficiency of your home, giving it an energy rating similar to those we are used to seeing on a fridge and a washing machine.
The EPC will be specific to each property and provide recommendations on the simple and inexpensive things that sellers or buyers can do to improve the energy efficiency of their home.
27% of carbon emissions in this country come from our homes and EPCs offer a golden opportunity to make a meaningful and positive impact on climate change.
The stress factor
Moving home is notoriously one of the most stressful experiences we go through in our lifetime.
Much of this is caused by the current process which is slow, costly and very frustrating.
Because stress is often taken into the workplace, productivity is affected and this carries a huge cost to the economy.
It does not have to be like this - HIPs will serve to reduce the stress factor by streamlining the process and speeding it up.
The missing piece
When the government first laid down the HIP regulations, every HIP had to include a Home Condition Report (HCR) which would inform potential buyers about the condition of the property.
In July last year the government made this voluntary rather than compulsory, saying that they intended to encourage a strong take up of HCRs on a voluntary basis.
While HIPs in their present from will do a good job for consumers, they would do an even better job with an HCR in every pack.
AHIPP and its members will continue to press the government to once again make HCRs mandatory so that every seller and buyer can experience the full benefits of HIPs.
A call to action
HIPs have attracted a lot of controversy of late and there has been much coverage and speculation about HIPs in the media.
The government laid down the revised regulations for HIPs on Thursday 29th March, and there can now be no going back or change to the live date of 1st June 2007.
It is time for all industries that serve the home buying and selling public to step up to the mark and ensure that they are prepared to make the introduction of HIPs smooth, seamless and effective for the long suffering consumer.
TREVOR KENT, former president of the National Association of Estate Agents
It was way back in 1997 when Labour, in answer to a manifesto pledge, first promulgated the idea of changing the law and practice of house-selling in England and Wales (later to include Scotland).
At the time I told the then housing minister, Nick Rainsford, that both the concept and the method of implementation were totally flawed.
I've repeated this to the five successive ministers who have inherited the poisoned chalice of Home Information Packs in turn.
What are Home Information Packs anyway?
Well may you ask - if you are a seller they are an unnecessary expense and a fourteen day ban on marketing your home.
If you are a buyer, they are collections of totally useless information about the house you might be considering offering on.
Both your solicitor and mortgage lender will tell you, when you show them the pack, "it's no use to us".
From June 1, the law will make it an offence to market your home on the day you decide you want to.
Before a board can go up, an advert be placed or even a mention made of your home in the pub; you the seller must first buy your Home Information Pack - average cost £600.
Instead of same-day marketing, which home-owners have expected since the year dot, you will now be fined £200 (possibly a day) if you put that board up without your HIP in place.
A 'Domestic Energy Assessor' will first have to poke around your home from basement to loft and produce an "Energy Performance Certificate" to put in your pack.
Then someone will have to drop Land Registry and local authority searches into it, a sale statement goes in too.
Not to mention an index, plus details of the lease and management accounts if yours is not a freehold - maybe 150 pages in all.
And all this before you can even start marketing - by law!
If your HIP provider cannot get all the stuff together for your pack in 14 days, then on the fifteenth the government will generously permit you to start marketing your own castle - but not before that fortnight is up.
Of course you can start showing buyers round earlier if your HIP is back quickly.
But with only 25% of the estimated number of energy inspectors needed likely to be qualified by June 1, you'll be lucky to shorten the 14 day "no marketing" edict.
So worried were the professional bodies who have overseen the sale and purchase of property, in some cases for centuries, that they recently wrote collectively to the Prime Minister and Gordon Brown.
They expressed their fears over what was to befall buyers and sellers in the name of "energy saving", but silence was the reply.
Hardly surprising, of course, when you consider the final chapter of this ten year saga - the government will be creating a database of every HIP (2m a year) for future purposes unknown.
It's an ill wind!
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