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Last Updated: Monday, 10 September 2007, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
Hips starting for three-bed homes
For Sales signs
The launch of HIPs has coincided with a slowdown in sales
People selling three-bedroom homes in England and Wales must now use Home Information Packs (Hips).

The controversial measure was first introduced for four-bedroom homes at the beginning of August.

The packs, which include energy performance certificates (EPCs) for the homes, are designed to speed up the house buying process.

However, Hips have been opposed by many estate agents and surveyors who claim they complicate matters.

The government delayed the introduction of Hips because there were not enough trained inspectors.

Other changes to the original plans include the dropping of a compulsory home condition report.

The energy certificate is compulsory, however, and is intended to grade houses and flats - in the same way as fridges - to show how much energy they use. It also indicates how much money might be saved by measures such as better insulation and more efficient boilers.

Slowdown?

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) claims that sellers of four-bedroom properties have been shunning the housing market.

The number of properties requiring a Hip coming onto the market in August more than halved in certain areas across the country compared with the same month last year, the institution said.

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

"Our members are saying that compared with August 2006, instructions to sell four or more bedroom houses is down by about 60%," said Jeremy Leaf of Rics.

Whether or not this has been due to the advent of Hips was disputed by Tim Barton of estate agents Dreweatt-Neate.

"The market has been steady as it usually is during July and August and I don't think that the implementation of the Hips has made any significant difference," he said.

"Whether people want to move or not is determined by so many other more important factors," he added.

Supporters of Hips say that in the past month, their introduction has gone smoothly.

"Much to the despair of the anti-Hip lobby, here we are welcoming Hips for over 60% of housing stock," said Dominic Toller of the Hip provider LMS.

A DCLG spokesman said the claims from Rics were ridiculous.

"Interest rates, house prices, and stock market uncertainty continue to be the most significant factors in determining market behaviour," he said.

Controversy

Since they were first proposed 10 years ago, the final introduction of Hips has been slow and tortuous.

It has involved various regional trials and the abandonment last year of the home condition report, once touted as its central feature.

There have been delays which have threatened the prospective livelihoods of people who trained to become either home condition inspectors or domestic energy assessors.

Last month, the Law Society again told lawyers to warn their clients about Hips that contain personal searches of local authority information, rather than official searches provided by the local authorities themselves.

It said personal searches, carried out by Hip providers or even house sellers themselves, carried a higher risk of containing erroneous information.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Home Information Packs mandatory for smaller houses



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