Sellers will have to compile information and complete a basic survey
In just 18 months, Home Information Packs will become compulsory for everyone selling a property in England and Wales, the government said in November.
The Home Information Pack will include a home condition report to be written by a "home inspector".
We asked for your comments on Home Information Packs, and whether you thought it would make the buying and selling process easier, or if you had concerns.
This debate is now closed. Here is a selection of your comments.
This measure is long overdue and obviously puts pay to the blatant rip-off implemented via the current system, whereby surveyors can carry out repeat surveys on the same property and charge the same as the initial inspection.
If the industry had policed itself more rigorously then maybe it wouldn't have come to this. This cash cow has to end. So obviously I am in favour.
Aled Morgan, Swansea
Yet again, further government interference in our lives. This will do nothing to speed up transactions. The old principle of caveat emptor - let buyer beware - is perfectly adequate. It is far better for the buyer to order a survey and satisfy himself all is in order. I hope this stupid idea lapses into chaos and collapses.
I have had a survey done on two different properties. I did not find the surveys helpful enough in clearly identifying what needed to be done.
Where work was needed, the surveyor stated a builder should be contacted to do quotes. I was badly let down by two builders on the first property, so how much help is the survey report if you cannot get hold of a reliable builder?
I believe survey reports should be more specific in detailing the work needed, so anyone can do a costing of labour and materials. You can ask the surveyor to do a costing for you but this involves an additional fee. So in my opinion it's quite clever of surveyors to keep their reports as simple as possible.
As to using a home inspector to compile a report on my home, I think this is probably a worse scenario than using properly qualified surveyor! What experience will a home inspector have of spotting sub-standard building work cleverly covered up? Anyone can put up wallpaper to hide serious faults in a wall or the ceiling!
When I lived in England I always thought that transferring more responsibility for the sale of the property to the seller was a good idea.
Why has the Government taken that premise and distorted it? Surely the system could just have been turned around: the seller contracts a fully qualified surveyor to conduct a full survey.
This would have a longer shelf life and be more useful to any purchasers than what is being offered by the government scheme. I see many problems ahead with inadequately qualified personnel providing poor quality standardised reports.
For most people buying a house is the most expensive commitment they will ever make. It's wrong that such an investment should be potentially so badly served by the system.
This will now add expense to both parties as buyers will still opt for their own survey in many cases. Government ineptitude at its worst.
Mike Houlan, Bad Bevensen
Another potential "scam" for the dishonest to earn cash on. I've had more constructive feedback from builders than I ever got from "qualified" surveyors. As for a three month report life, houses rarely do not deteriorate that quickly, and the report should be valid for a year.
Steve Dixey, Cleethorpes
The mix of comments indicates a widespread lack of knowledge of the Home Information Pack scheme and especially the Home Condition Report element. This is hardly surprising as there has not yet been any significant public awareness initiative or informed discussion.
There are some legitimate concerns about the implementation of the scheme, but they are generally not the ones that surface from either the public or professionals.
Apart from the understandable scepticism, the public is generally more in favour of the concept than are many property professionals, and I think this is why it has been necessary to legislate in the public interest.
Towards the end of 2006, there will be much more correct information available and people will be able to appreciate that this is a bold and appropriate re-jigging of the home transfer process.
Once the inevitable teething problems have been sorted out, it will take away a vast amount of the waste, frustration and heartache out of the process.
Richard Large, Devon Home Surveys
Purely and simply a money spinner for the Treasury. The government is not concerned that people get quality. It is cutting itself in on the deal. VAT is the reason, and this is the thin end of the wedge.
By all means streamline the process, but trying to magic away the risks in buying a property by means of a £600 compulsory incantation is misguided nanny state nonsense.
I think these packs will be a waste of time. I want a qualified survey not some part-qualified person to give their opinion. I can see for myself most defects. I need someone who can check the real condition of a house. Structure, rising damp, woodworm etc.
Eric Layer, Sittingbourne
As a construction professional, I find the Home Information Pack idea absurd, especially for older buildings. This will seriously affect the housing market at a time of a housing shortfall and an already expensive market.
Adam Henson, Construction Professional, Durham
As a retired estate agent, I have many years of experience of house survey reports and the heartache we all suffer when house moving.
Yes I have suffered too, but see nothing but bureaucratic meddling in Home Information Packs. The very name should ring alarm bells. I want a survey not an information pack. I also want a reliable report backed with indemnity insurance should the surveyor get his facts wrong. And I am prepared to pay if and when I want it.
The information pack provided by the seller is clearly going to render him liable for years into the future if and when his buyer finds something wrong and decides to claim. I would be very unhappy to think I might be held liable some years down the line.
As things stand I know I can walk away from my old house and get on with the worry of the next. The packs will turn the tennet "buyer beware" into a new one of "seller beware".
Graham Tapper, retired estate agent, Kenton
I don't think that HIPs will aid the buying/selling process at all, except to cost the seller even more money than it costs to now.
It is time to make buyers accountable as well. It is too easy for buyers to back out from agreements to buy without any consequence, especially with solicitors now offering no-completion-no-fee deals.
When I last tried to sell my house, my buyers agreed to pay the asking price then waited until I had found somewhere and offered me less.
Surely a better system could have been found to help both buyers and sellers? I like the process in France where when buyers make an offer they have to put down a 10% deposit.
I'll just have to make sure that I sell my house before these measures come into effect.
Angela Scott, Wilts
This is yet more Blair government interference with the freedom to sell what you own. "Buyer beware" still holds true and no nanny edict will change that. I'm afraid it's a charter for more pen-pushers and inspectors to join the list of those making their living on the backs of houseowners.
Would we trust a survey carried out by a professional, independent, qualified and accountable home inspector? Yes, and don't forget only one in five of us commission a survey at all when buying our houses. Presumably, the other 80% trust the word of the estate agent and the seller!
The additional cost of selling can be offset by the reduced cost of purchasing for most in the chain. Also sellers are likely to be able to defer the initial costs thanks to pack providers, solicitors or estate agents.
Aside from the HCR, the rest of the HIP content appears to be non-contentious. It will surely speed up the conveyancing process even if it delays the marketing of a property by a few days.
The HIP is a fantastic idea.
Steve Latter, Bournemouth
I would firstly take issue with the government interfering in a purely private contract between individuals. That accepted, it is necessary for the industry to streamline the house purchase process . The correct approach would have been to instruct the industry to set its own standards.
There is merit in providing legal preliminaries but if the condition survey is not a full survey and cannot be relied on for mortgage purposes, it does not take the buyer a step forward and speed the process. It simply becomes a fairly meaningless extra cost.
Mr SH Gamper, Swindon
The idea is a good one, however the reality will bring problems. How will people pay for the pack upfront when most people haven't got the cash funds for this?
Unfortunately the answer will come from the estate agents who are already rubbing their hands together in glee.
They will offer to pay for the packs but with strings attached. The seller will be forced to use the in-house conveyancing and mortgage services of the estate agents (an act of which they can not insist on at present).
This is really going to hurt the people who live hand-to-mouth who need the best advice with their finances, and who can least afford to shoulder the more expensive in-house charges.
In this day and age, as long as the client does not have to pay fees upfront they are willing to get ripped off!
Stefan Shotton, Plymouth
As a buyer, I do not feel that I would trust the information provided by the seller and would want to commission my own survey.
Isn't this scheme going to simply keep more surveyors in yet more expensive work with houses potentially having to be surveyed at least twice (if not more) during the process of selling/buying?
I can't help but think the whole job creation scheme (whoops sorry, I meant process) will take just as long but cost more. How can this possibly help first time buyers?
Lesley Blackburn, Northants
Consumers who believe there is benefit in this home condition report should consider that they too will need to have one done before they can market their own house.
If that inspection shows up, possibly even minor defects, their house is not likely to be the first one sold, unless they have the repairs/renewals completed beforehand.
The government is just about to open the flood gates to thousands of others ready to take your money to cure these "little problems"
The apparent short-term training of home inspectors, some of whom seem to suggest that it will be "easy money" for them, leads me to suspect that another great British public "rip off" is coming.
These relatively inexperienced inspectors will miss most of the cover-ups leaving the purchaser with a worthless piece of paper and a house that needs repair.
This appears to me to be another badly-conceived and ill-considered piece of legislation from the current nanny state.
The scheme is bonkers - wholly disconnected from reality - as is the Consumers' Association when it compares a house purchase to buying a fridge or a TV! Most houses are second-hand.
This scheme will inject up-front cost and bureaucracy and may not even give the buyer what they want. Poorly-thought-out Islington dinner table policy.
Simon Morgans, Harrogate
Everyone who's ever bought or sold knows we need to do something. And the Scottish system is no better than in England and Wales.
So let's start by applauding the government for at least trying to make an improvement. No, it's not perfect. The problem is the Home Condition Report, and who do we hear crying loudest? Surveyors. I wonder why!
As someone who has been employed in the industry for 32 years, I welcome the packs. I'm sure there'll be teething troubles, but with good will, we'll get through them.
Come on everybody, we can't tolerate the status quo, so let's at least give HIPS a chance.
Wake up people. Waste of money, inexperienced inspectors, bad legislation, compulsory. This is just another tax, nothing more, nothing less.
Steve, Ohio, USA
"People will be able to trust this qualification " said Housing Minister Baroness Andrews.
Is Baroness Andrews saying that qualified surveyors cannot be trusted? As someone who has taken professional exams to become properly qualified in my chosen profession I find this quite offensive. I studied for a total of four years.
If qualified professionals who are involved in the housing market, ie surveyors, estate agents, and so on, cannot be trusted then it means the government is not regulating those professions as it should be doing!
Nick Mears, Surbiton
I believe the Home Information Pack legislation will be detrimental to the consumer. It could dislocate the property market, and will fail to make any significant improvement to the present home buying process.
As the content of the Home Information Pack will have no shelf life, if a property does not sell within a short period, it will become out-of-date requiring further expense to update the documentation.
No prudent buyer will rely upon a survey more than three months old and is in any case unlikely to accept a survey that was commissioned by the seller.
As lenders have so far failed to endorse the Home Information Pack, there is no obligation on them to accept its content, so buyers will still have to pay for a valuation.
Consumers will be disappointed and angry to discover that the Home Information Pack will leave them facing many of the problems inherent in the property buying system, including gazumping, gazundering, chains and, most importantly, the fact that many transactions fail because people simply change their minds.
Whilst as an estate agent, I would welcome cost-effective change to improve the home buying process; the Home Information Pack is clearly not going to do this, so I feel the government should be called to shelve the implementation of this potentially disastrous measure.
Paul Forsey, estate agent
I am a chartered structural engineer and a chartered surveyor. I am also an approved inspector for Building Regulations.
I started the training session to become a home inspector. After a very good seminar on the Home Information Packs and the process, I was very disappointed in the government's proposals.
I have in the past done many home and structural surveys for various clients.
These new reports will not really be able to inform the buyer because they are produced by government-supplied software with standard phrases and wording.
They are not what I would consider to be a report produced by a professional. They will be far too standardised. Every house I have ever surveyed has been unique.
There is no way I would wish my name, as a construction professional of more than 40 years experience, to be associated with such a rubbish idea.
There should be a way that a seller can avoid having a home condition report done if they state they will commission a proper survey. But there seems to be no provision for this.
Home Information Packs, great idea! I've paid for a number of surveyors' reports and have never found them comprehensive.
I've always, with little effort, found something significant not mentioned by the surveyor by looking around the property myself.
It's interesting to read surveyors' objections to this idea. Truth is surveyors have enjoyed for too long this cushy little cash cow.
Now they are going to have to compete with the new breed of home inspector.
I spent five years qualifying as a chartered surveyor.
I too was appalled to hear that it may be possible to "qualify" as a home inspector possibly in one year on a part-time course.
Also, I understand the "inspector" will be legally liable to the vendor and purchaser.
Solicitors are going to have a field day following the avalanche of claims that will surely follow the introduction of this ill-advised legislation.
Luckily I retired three years ago after 33 years in the profession and boy am I glad to have got out in time.
In all the discussions I have heard no mention of the search it is necessary to include.
These can cost over £200 in the London area and only have a life of about three months. What if you don't sell your house in that time, do you have to shell out a further fee?
I also agree with all the comments regarding having valuations done by amateurs.
I do think the industry needs some reform but these packs seem to be making the matter worse rather than improving it.
Another point, what if you are selling your house because you can't afford to keep it? Where on earth do you get the £700 up front for the pack, or maybe nearer £1000 in urban areas?
V Copley, London
Will HIPs be necessary for properties that exchange hands by private arrangement?
It is not uncommon in the village where I live for people to ask for "first refusal" from owners of properties they would like to live in.
Consequently many properties change hands without ever appearing on the market.
I was appalled to hear that the number of inspectors required to carry out the surveys would be in the region of 7,000 and that only 1,700 had qualified so far.
What really worries me is that some of the people coming along to carry out this survey have no real building qualifications at all.
And apart from sitting behind a desk and learning about building procedures and specifications from books, their qualification - if that is what you can call it - is the ability to pass an exam!
Imagine someone who has been in the industry all their working life, answering a knock at the front door, confronted by a young man or woman who is going to tell the builder what sort of condition the house is in.
I think I would know what the builder would like to tell the "qualified" person what to do with his Home Information Pack!
Mike Lockett, Northwich
I can't understand how there will be a shortage of inspectors. On average, each home currently has more than one inspection/valuation carried out. In future there will be only one, albeit a poorer version. Surely there will be a surplus of inspectors/valuers?
Colin Hunt, Ryde, IoW
This is another interference in the individual citizen's affairs by the nanny state. It will add extra costs to the selling process and make the selling process slower and less flexible. To force me to spend money before I put my property on the market is outrageous. As you can probably tell I am opposed to this measure.
Mike Gentle, Durham
Chartered surveyors have spent five years at least qualifying, and some have spent every day of their working lives carrying out conditioned surveys on buildings, yet they are not considered sufficiently qualified by the government to produce these Home Information Packs.
They will also have to cough up the fees and complete the same course that others with no such knowledge can do.
Would you trust one of these packs when buying a house? Of course you wouldn't. You would still want your own independent survey. So, what a complete waste of money.
Paul Freeman, Bucks
The comments we publish are not necessarily the views of the BBC but will reflect the balance of views we have received. It is helpful if contributors state if they work for any organisation relevant to an issue discussed. Readers should form their own views on whether messages published represent undeclared interests, or views prompted by a common source.