Page last updated at 14:08 GMT, Tuesday, 31 July 2007 15:08 UK

Q&A: Home information packs

Viewing a house
Home Information Packs have been delayed
Home Information Packs (Hips) are being introduced into England and Wales from 1 August for all properties with four-bedrooms or more.

The whole idea of the packs has been controversial from the outset.

Some warn that it will add an unnecessary layer of expense and bureaucracy to the house selling process - but others argue that it brings much-needed transparency.

BBC News explains what the packs will mean for homeowners and the housing market.

I want to sell my house and was told that I will need a Home Information Pack. What are they?

The packs are to contain information that will be useful to any potential buyer.

Copies of title deeds, any recent planning permission or building consent given on the property, a local area search and an energy performance certificate will all be in the pack.

Under the rules, everyone marketing a property with four or more bedrooms has to commission a Hip.

Ultimately, the government wants all homes put up for sale in England and Wales to have a Hip.

Scotland is set to get its own version of Hips in 2008.

PACKS WILL INCLUDE
Evidence of title
Copies of planning, listed building or building regulations consents
A local search
Guarantees for any work on the property
An energy performance certificate.

Energy performance certificates - what are they?

The idea of the certificate is that, at a glance, would-be buyers will be able to see the property's energy efficiency - a bit like when they buy a fridge.

The homeowner will also be presented with some tips on how the energy efficiency of their home can be improved.

Energy performance certificates kill two birds with one stone - providing information for homebuyers and ensuring the UK complies with an EU directive which comes into force in 2009.

However, the cost of having a property's energy performance assessed has been estimated at anything from 100 to 150.

Thousands are in training to become energy performance assessors, as the jargon has it, to inspect properties new to the market and issue certificates.

But only about 2,000 have so far been accredited.

Why are the packs being introduced?

Hips have been in the offing for a decade.

The Labour government went into the 1997 general election promising to introduce Hips, with the express intention of reducing the number of property sales which fall through.

The idea is simple: the more information that is presented to the buyer upfront, the slimmer the chance of a nasty surprise scuppering the sale further down the line.

I remember that originally Hips were meant to contain a structural survey - has that plan been dropped?

Yes.

Last year the government announced that Hips would, for the time being, not have to include a structural survey.

Many thought that dropping the requirement to have a survey would mean that the whole Hip project would be shelved.

However, the government has pressed on with Hips.

How will I organise getting a pack?

Some estate agents will offer to act as go-between for pack providers.

Alternatively, homeowners maybe able to approach pack providers direct.

I have read that these packs could cost up to 1,000 - is this true?

This is probably a bit of an overestimate - but you can probably expect to pay 400-700 for a Hip.

Potential buyers will not have to contribute to the cost of a Hip.

Houses
Will the packs make the buying and selling process easier?

However, they may want to get their own local authority searches done and mortgage companies will still insist on a proper valuation.

I am buying a property. How much store should I set on the information in the pack?

The information will be useful but it may soon be out of date. Your solicitor may well advise that you get your own searches done.

Your mortgage provider may also want fresh property searches.

In other words, they may well disregard Hips.



video and audio news
Yvette Cooper defends Home Information Packs



SEE ALSO
Home information packs under fire
01 May 07 |  Business
Home seller's pack trial starts
06 Nov 06 |  England
'Abolish home packs' say lenders
27 Oct 06 |  Business
'U-turn' claim over house packs
18 Jul 06 |  UK Politics

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