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Last Updated: Friday, 14 December 2007, 00:02 GMT
Hips extended to all properties
Converted cupboard for sale as a bedsit in London
Even the smallest property now needs a Hip
All one- and two-bedroom properties put up for sale in England and Wales now need a Home Information Pack (Hip).

The rule, which came into force at midnight, extends the new selling process, which was applied first to larger properties during the summer.

Hips are supposed to improve the sale of homes by cutting purchasers' costs and by giving buyers an energy rating for the property.

Critics says the packs are a waste of money and are holding back sales.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) said spreading Hips to smaller properties would drive even more first-time buyers from the market.

"Our research shows they knock speculative sellers from the market," said a Rics spokesman.

"Twenty per cent of people put their homes on the market with no initial intention of selling, but then half of them change their minds when they get a good offer.

"Hips will put an end to that and shrink the market," he argued.

Information

The packs cost between 300 and 350 each and are paid for by the seller.

PACK CONTENTS
Must include:
An energy performance certificate
Sale statement
Evidence of title
Standard local searches
Can also include:
Home condition report
Copies of planning, listed building or building regulations consents
Other searches
Guarantees for any work on the property

They are usually provided by estate agents and are supposed to provide would-be buyers with important information at the start of the buying process.

As well as sale details, proof of ownership and standard information from the local authority, a key feature of the packs is the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).

Grading houses from A to G for their energy efficiency, rather in the manner of a fridge, the certificate should give buyers advice about reducing carbon emissions from their homes and cutting their fuel bills.

Mike Ockenden, director general of the Association of Home Information Pack Providers (Ahipp), said there was still some way to go to make Hips fully effective.

"For Hips to fully inform potential buyers about properties they are viewing, it is vital that the home condition report is made a mandatory part of the pack and that many of the searches which provide information on flooding, ground movement and contamination are included," he said.

Assessors

When the first Hips were introduced earlier this year, there were claims that not enough qualified energy assessors had been trained.

Are they improving the buying and selling process? It's just not happening as they've been so watered down
Peter Bolton-King, NAEA

But Hugh Dunsmore-Hardy, of the National Association of Residential Home Inspectors (NARHI), says there are now more than 5,000 of them.

"There are more than enough qualified energy assessors," he said.

"In fact, if the gloomy predictions for the housing market next year are accurate, then there may not be enough work to go round," he added.

Last year the government changed a key feature of Hips, by deciding that home condition reports should not be a compulsory feature.

As a result, many estate agents believe the packs are failing to improve the conveyancing process.

"It's very difficult to disentangle the precise effect of Hips," said Peter Bolton-King of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA).

"Are they improving the buying and selling process? It's just not happening as they've been so watered down," he said.

It has not been decided when properties already on the market will need to have a Hip as well.

"Properties that are exempt because they were already on the market when the duties began to apply to them will remain exempt as long as they remain on the market," said the Communities and Local Government department (DCLG).


Your comments:

I was forced to get a HIP whan I sold my house, it was never mentioned once during the sale. When I bought a new house I was sent the HIP, I have never opened it as I was having an independent survey anyway. It has worked as a job creation scheme and as a government tax oportunity but as anything else it is obsoleted by the survey that we all have to pay for anyway.
Andrew, Northampton

I will need to sell my flat after being made redundant over a year ago but I cant afford to pay for a HIP so i'm now stuck in Limbo to the point where I could end up being repossessed and lose out all the equity i have built up over 20 years......all because I was made redundant! Mortgage help from the DWP doesnt kick in for over 9 months after you first make a claim, unlike housing benefit for people renting.
Michael, London

My house is on the market. I have had to commission a HIP at a cost of 400. None of the viewers have looked at it or ar remotely interested. So why have I paid for this? It serves no useful purpose at all. No buyer in their right mind will look at these.
Stewart Geddes, Billericay

I've just sold my 3 bed flat so a HIP was required. Complete waste of time and money, we exchanged a few weeks ago and neither buyer or seller have seen the report. More importantly, neither of us care whether we ever see it. Another example of a poorly thought through and executed policy pushed through by a government obsessed with new initiatives that cost the general public without delivering any value.
James Bratzler, London, UK


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