[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 August 2007, 18:02 GMT 19:02 UK
HIP assessors waiting by the phone
Viewing a house
Will the packs make the buying and selling process easier?
The introduction of Home Information Packs (HIPs) in England and Wales is important not just for home sellers, but also for the 7,000 people who have been trained to assess them.

Some have abandoned long-established jobs for what they hope will be a lucrative career in a guaranteed profession.

But after training that lasts up to a year and costs as much as 11,000, not to mention two years of policy confusion, many now find themselves waiting by their phones to see if the gamble has paid off.

One of them is Olive Coleman, 50, a former IT worker in the financial services industry.

Self-employed

She is anxiously checking her e-mail inbox and waiting for the phone to ring, but has yet to receive a call.

Most assessors will either be self-employed, and like Mrs Coleman have to generate their own work, or will sign contracts with umbrella HIP providers who will mediate between assessors, estate agents and home sellers.

There was plenty of talk about the potential to make plenty of money, but there were no guarantees
Olive Coleman
Trained home assessor

Some will also work for estate agents, conveyancing firms or solicitors.

Mrs Coleman, from west London, first started training as a home inspector, which is more expensive than training as a domestic energy assessor (DEA).

But she began to focus more on DEA training after the government ruled home condition reports, which only home inspectors are qualified to provide, would not be a compulsory part of HIPs.

Waiting game

When the commissions do start to come in, she will visit peoples' homes to produce the energy performance certificates that will be included in HIPs for potential buyers.

The certificate takes into consideration everything from insulation to roof construction, to enable an energy efficiency score from A to G to be allocated - with A being the most efficient.

She says she went into the profession with her eyes open.

With HIPs, the rules kept changing, so nobody really knows where they stand, so it has become a grotesque example of what it should have been
Marc Lewis
Property developer

"There was plenty of talk about the potential to make plenty of money, but there were no guarantees," she said.

Nonetheless, there is only so long she will be able to wait.

"If the work doesn't come in, then I will really have to re-think whether I can stick with this," she said.

"I can afford to wait another month or so but there are an awful lot of people who gave up their jobs in June (when the packs were initially due to come in) and aren't in that position."

According to a spokesman from the Association of HIP Providers, it is uncertain what the going rate for a DEA will be, but he expects them to earn in the region of 25,000 per year.

This is substantially less then the predicted incomes touted on websites offering training.

Changing rules

Marc Lewis, 39, a property developer also from west London, is frustrated at the mixed messages that have faced assessors. He also is yet to receive his first instruction.

"There's been a very bad national campaign about the whole thing," he said.

"What the government did is put the law in place, but [said] 'we're not really going to give you any direction, we're going to let the market sort it all out'.

"With HIPs, the rules kept changing, so nobody really knows where they stand, so it has become a grotesque example of what it should have been."

It's a leap of faith. At the outset you have this picture in front of you, you commit yourself, and then the picture changes
Mike Mathews
Trained home assessor

Mr Lewis planned to jump headfirst into the new market, and had plans in place to run a team of 10 assessors. Now he is not so sure.

"We were certainly prepared to drop everything, but we have gone from a proactive company to a reactive company. A lot of people are sitting back and saying 'let's see what happens'."

One couple from Bristol, however, are just relieved that after all their training the HIPs have finally been introduced.

Mike Mathews said: "It's a leap of faith. At the outset you have this picture in front of you, you commit yourself, and then the picture changes, and there's this fear I think that it may all fizzle out."

His wife Alison agreed: "I think people who have gone through the training are thinking, we've paid out all this money, and it all looks uncertain."

It cost them 6,000 each to train, plus another 2,000 each on books and equipment.

But they are confident their investment will payout.

Mr Mathews said: "The market from our point of view will only grow. We're very optimistic."


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
An estate agent says the packs will cause chaos



SEE ALSO
Q&A: Home information packs
31 Jul 07 |  Business
D-day for home information packs
01 Aug 07 |  Business
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

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific