Home Information Packs will be compulsory from 1 June 2007, the government has announced.
The new packs should reveal the condition of a house to buyers
Buyers will be provided with a survey, land registry details and answers from both the sellers and local authority to standard questions.
The packs are expected to cost about £700 plus VAT.
It is supposed to make home buying quicker and cheaper, but the packs have been criticised by many in the industry.
The Conservative Party has said it would scrap the scheme.
We asked for your opinions on HIPs. Thankyou for your comments, a selection of which are below. This debate is now closed.
Can Gordon Brown guarantee he won't u-turn on HIPs like he did SIPPs at the eleventh hour after so much money invested? Don't forget these HIPs are subject to VAT and only valid for three months, another nice income for Mr Brown. It certainly won't help to adjust house prices from their present 40% over-inflated cost.
It's a waste of time and money. The scheme will serve only to increase costs. It won't help the buyer. No-one will trust the sellers' pack.
We are preparing our house now for moving. We expect the cost of moving house to be at least £10,000. This legislation would be the final straw which would make us stay where we are. We are pensioners and thought we should move from a house to a bungalow with a smaller garden. We dread the trauma involved in the move. This new regulation would be too much with all the present expense.
JP Tovee, Norfolk
This is clearly yet another scheme creating jobs for people who would otherwise be unemployable. A laudable aim perhaps, but at what cost?
Whatever views you have on HIPs, they are on the way and will have a profound effect on the property market.
The reluctance of opportunist sellers to put their properties on the market will reduce the number of properties for sale. But it may be offset by a decrease in the level of cancelled sales.
It is up to me as an estate agent to be ready for this change and assist both buyers and sellers through these new procedures without damaging the market and my business.
Ron Kennor, estate agent
The pack is exactly what the murky house-buying industry needs to clean it up. How many more BBC undercover investigations do we need to prove that there is absolutely no transparency, and far too much dishonesty out there?
I would not trust the paper they are written on and would certainly require my own survey before purchase. One can buy anything for money, including bogus surveys.
Ian Donaldson, Saffron Walden
There is no reason why matters should not proceed like the Scottish system. Make the purchase conditional on a mortgage, survey and selling your own property. Job done. Better still, let the lawyers charge 10% like they do in Europe and get a proper job done.
Bryn Howell-Pryce, Goring on Thames
The principle of the idea sounds OK, but I have to query whether lenders would accept a document commissioned by the seller when lending a mortgage? If not, then they'll insist on their own surveys, as they do now, so the overall costs of the selling process will go up.
Dave Parker, Huddersfield
I believe there is a need to ensure a firm contract is made with associated cancellation penalties. A 10% deposit is fair, this would certainly make sellers think twice about pulling out for a few extra grand.
David Hunt, Cambridge
Kate said "Surveyors usually belong to RICS and hence are professionals." Unfortunately belonging to a professional body is not an indication of competence or honesty. To my cost I have found it can be something to hide behind.
Peter Davies, Chepstow
The government needs to make people understand that the home condition report is not done on behalf of the seller. It will be a completely objective report which all parties can rely on. It can only be a good idea. It will be like buying a used car with the benefit of a full service history.
The gentleman from SPLINTA conveniently ignores the fact that whilst only 4% of house sales fall through, new home buyers only realise they have problems with recently purchased properties some weeks after the contracts have been signed, sealed and settled.
I am an electrical contractor working with a national company and can supply you with enough real life tales of disaster to fill several programmes. I find it shameful that in this country a second hand car often comes with better and more comprehensive information pack than when you buy a house.
Christopher Pearce, electrical contractor
Who is liable if the seller's report is negligent? This is a poorly-conceived scheme which does nothing for buyers. More bureaucracy, more waste. Will it never end?
Michael White, Orpington
This is a costly work creation scheme, with a 17.5% VAT rake-off, which is no more than an entry fee for putting a house on sale. If estate agents provide the service within their sales commission then it may provide some minor benefit for a small proportion of buyers and sellers. But one only has to watch the plethora of house sales programmes on TV to realise it's presentation, not paperwork, that sells houses.
Kevin Geary, Radstock
House prices will clearly go up as home owners decide against selling due to the pack's cost, thus making it impossible for first-time buyers to buy a property. It defeats the one reason why the government is bringing the packs in.
Ryan Letts, Croydon
I am a retired surveyor with 50 years of experience. The packages will cost agents many thousands of pounds which many owners will refuse to reimburse. Purchasers' solicitors will not accept the surveys, and purchasers cannot sue the owners' surveyors for negligence. A complete farce which will not work. Delays are caused by building societies and solicitors. Politicians have no idea of the real world.
The only reason to oppose this measure is if you do not wish your version of the truth to be legally liable. Many people buy short term, do a paint job and expect a 10% price increase in a handful of months. Current prices are mad, with vast differences. New homes are expensive, of poor quality, and far from local services. This action will protect the rights of the consumer.
More rubbish ideas from ignorant politicians who simply don't want to introduce sensible systems like in South Africa, where the buyer will be financially penalized if they pull out, and the seller is committed to various duties such as structural, and electrical surveys, beetle infestation treatment and so on. It is all legally binding.
David Brown, Barnet
Once again people are mis-informed. HIPs can only be a good thing. They will bring transparency to the market and stop sales from falling through, causing heartache and unaffordable costs to those least able to afford. When people buy a car they think nothing of commissioning an engineer's report, but when they are advised to obtain a survey for the biggest purchase of their lives all manner of negativity breaks out. Bring on the packs I say.
Harry Jassel, Walsall
It is absolutely refreshing to hear about the Home Information Packs. A similar system is quite popular in America. The new HIP actually works out cheaper considering all the information it contains. This is far better than the present system whereby valuation, sometimes homebuyer's survey, solicitor and local searches are paid for separately. Not forgetting the costs of starting the whole process again because the first transaction falls through.
The worth of the process is wholly dependent on legal remedy against the surveyor should the information prove to be incomplete or inaccurate. A home owner cannot be expected to know whether the electrics are safe or the floor joists are ravaged by wet rot.
William Mortimer, London
People are also underestimating the time benefit of having the searches already done. Even if you feel the need to have a second survey done you should still be able to exchange in a matter of days rather than weeks.
Buyers should not be compelled to waste money on this. Neither the report nor out-of-date searches will be relied on by the mortgage lenders. Commercial interest will prevail and the market is set to be dominated by big businesses and large providers. This is presumably what the government wants, not interested in preserving local economies, small estate agents and small high street solicitors' practices.
And if the process is speeded up too much, buyers may well make mistakes and errors of judgments when being pressed to exchange contracts.
Oliver Tuckley, Lewes
I totally agree with the Home Information Packs. Now the government needs to step in to regulate estate agents and change the way we sell and buy houses. It's a traumatic time and some of the worry needs to be taken away.
As a mortgage broker, I think it is an excellent idea as I see first-hand how much money people waste looking for a new home. I'm just sorry it is not being introduced in Scotland as yet. Estate agents are only complaining because they are already witnessing business being lost to online property listings. The HIP will be available online and so the role of the estate agent could be forced out of the whole home buying process. What a shame!
Mark Clancy, Glasgow
It would be far better if there was a system of putting down some kind of holding deposit at the point at which the sale was agreed, so that the costs of solicitors' fees would be covered if the buyer or seller chose to pull out. It is not clear how long the sellers' information pack would remain valid before having to be renewed at even more expense.
Nicky Blanning, Cambridge
The home condition report included in the HIP will have been carried out by a fully qualified home inspector who has a legal and professional duty to report accurately on the condition of the house without any bias whatsoever towards the seller, a potential buyer or a mortgage lender. As a condition of his licence, he will have to have professional indemnity insurance to cover any negligence. Misinformed opinion regarding the status of these reports is nothing less than scaremongering.
Most sellers are buyers too. The small cost involved when they sell will be recouped by the saving when they buy. At present legal costs and a survey can cost from £800 upwards, so HIP at £650 looks quite reasonable! It's about the only good bit of legislation that this government has brought in for some time!
Hugh Stewart-Smith, London
A couple of years ago, I had to have my house surveyed for a remortgage. They made four mistakes on it, including the address and number of rooms! Would you trust buying my house knowing that? I wouldn't, yet it would satisfy the government's new rules. Personally, I wouldn't trust any of this.
Des Howlett, Reading
The first legislation should have been for logbooks for all new houses to include detailed plans with layouts of all wiring, plumbing, drains and so on. Any changes to these would require the logbook to be updated by the tradesman carrying out the work, or by the owner, if it is a DIY job.
Surveyors must take responsibility for their work. They should, for a reduced fee, do a repeat inspection of any part of the house that might have suffered damage or passed its expiry date before exchange of contracts.
In France, it is normal for one "notaire" to act for both the buyer and the seller of a property. He acts (in theory) not for either party but for the law. It seems to work, so why shouldn't surveyors have a similar brief?
Delia Haldane, Godalming
At long last the government has recognised the need for this legislation and I applaud its courage in implementing it. There will be no real losers with Home Information Packs, only winners. The biggest winner will of course be the first-time buyer. HIPs will create a more transparent and smoother system than at present and in a few years will be accepted by all.
Maurice Wolstenholme, Rotherham
My experience of having had surveys done is that the report always includes let-out comments or clauses inserted by surveyors to limit their responsibility for elements of their survey. If these appear in the information packs they could be seriously reduced in usefulness to a buyer.
Graham Humphrys, Swansea
These packs are an excellent idea and I cannot believe the short-sighted views of those that oppose change. This is a fair way to ensure that buyers do not lose money, and sellers are no worse off as the system evens itself out when they buy a new house. An excellent idea where everyone wins.
People must realise the home inspection survey is independent. The home inspector has a responsibility to the seller and the buyer. Do you really think after spending thousands getting trained - not to mention the time involved - a home inspector is going to risk getting their license revoked. The home inspection process will be regulated¿ are estate agents?
If I were selling a house, I would add the price of the pack to the selling price. So I see little benefit and think it will only serve to increase house prices and put yet more money into the pockets of middle men.
Rupert Stanley, Welwyn
There is no other system in Europe, probably the world, that is so complex, time consuming and costly than that in England & Wales. A genuine desire to improve the process would have resulted in an introduction of a system similar to that in France and Scotland when a 10% deposit is paid on offer, and the contract is binding from that point. The balance is generally paid & the sale complete within 6 weeks.
Bev Kenward, Kent
This is a huge waste of money. It would certainly cause me to hesitate before putting my house on the market unless I had to sell in a hurry.
There will almost certainly be a reduction in the number of properties for sale. Since estate agents have to make a living, it means some will go out of business and others will raise their charges to compensate. It will not save all buyers from carrying out their own survey. The only guarantee is that it will cost sellers more to sell their house. Who persuaded the government that this was such a bright idea?
John Booth, Letchworth
I am a chartered surveyor and have recently achieved the diploma to be a home inspector. I think the HIP is a good idea. I have surveyed numerous houses and discovered problems that the buyer was unaware of. With a HIP they would know about these problems before putting an offer in on the property. I have asked many sellers whose houses I have been surveying and without exception they have all said they thought the HIP was a good idea. My main concern is that many prospective home inspectors have no surveying experience and even though they may gain there diploma they will not have enough experience to survey anything other than the most straightforward type of property.
It is a crazy system which has not been thought out properly. As the law is 'buyer beware' when buying a house, how is it going to benefit the buyer who will still have to cover themselves by the exact same procedures as before? If there was a change in legislation that made the home pack have a real validity in law then maybe it would have a value for both the buyer and the seller. As it stands it is a worthless, costly exercise that neither side benefits from.
As a professional landlord and property developer, I certainly won't trust home inspection reports: home surveys are already largely useless because surveyors cover their backs and say "take advice from a specialist roofer/damp-proof firm/whatever", in which case why bother with the survey? The packs will be more of the same.
Tony, Kingston upon Thames
I am a potential first time buyer and at the moment there is no way i could or would enter the market. You have no idea what you are buying until an offer has been accepted. These Packs sound like they will bring transparency into a market place which is at the moment run by and for people with vested interests. If anything these reforms of the housing market should go further.
Any prudent buyer will still want to rely on their own survey. Imagine trying to deal with a surveyor or building engineer who isn't actually working for you - how are you going to get any straight answers?
More cost to the seller, who will inevitably add the cost of any repairs needed in the survey to the price he wants for the house. Plus the pack will presumably go out of date if house not sold quick, which will put sellers off if they have to obtain second searches.
J White, West Midlands
It is an excellent idea. Despite what the vested interests say, it will lower costs overall. The only objections arise from those with their fingers in the pie and sellers with something to hide.
The reason why house buying and selling takes a long time is because for many people it will be the biggest transaction of their lives. When there is a chain, everybody usually has to agree to move on the same date. Agreeing that is not easy, as it will depend on personal matters. A seller's pack will not change that.
Ash Alam, Oldham
More interference from a tired Labour government which clearly doesn't have more important issues to address. No doubt the chancellor is pleased though, another back door revenue earner. It's a scandal but who does anything about it? The French would soon let their government know their feelings. We don't.
When you buy something as expensive as a house, there is no chance on earth of my believing the vendor. Being in "the trade" I know that it won't take long for people to understand who does the "best" surveys for sellers (ie glosses over the bad points). Therefore just like we do now, myself and pretty much everyone else with half a brain will pay for a proper independent survey. It is yet more regulation for the sake of it, the only winners being the people preparing the packs and surveyors. The general public loses out yet again.
Andrew Smith, Bury St Edmunds
The home inspector is completely independent of the seller. The job done under the law of the land. Do you trust an MOT on a car done by the garage from which you are buying it? Of course. And what reason would an inspector have for reporting inaccurately? If he or she were negligent there is a comeback and if they were naughty they would very soon get found out and lose their livelihood. Also, all the legal costs within the pack are not extra costs. The seller paying them will simply mean that they need to be serious about selling, which has got to be a good thing.
Richard Large, Devon
The introduction of these is a good idea. I cannot see why they wouldn't be. The only people complaining are the ones with a vested interest. For the majority they make sense. Why should buyers have to pay? And the arguments cited for sellers forget that most people selling are also buying. The money wasted on failed surveys and fees when house deals fall through is criminal. SPLINTA is well named, it's a small annoying item that should be removed as soon as possible!
Surveyors usually belong to RICS and hence are professionals. It's rubbish to say that buyers won't trust a survey commissioned by a seller. Talking with foreign colleagues they are amazed at the unfairness of the current outdated system.
If the packs improve the information available to buyers at the beginning of their house purchase decisions, then that can only be a good thing.
I don't understand all the negative comments. Surely a legislated pack saves money for buyers? If you are interested you can have access to it. A buyer will not have to have a survey done for each property they are interested in, and surveyors and lenders will not make so much money by duplicating surveys on the same property for different potential buyers. Only those with a vested interest could possibly be upset by this.
I'm moving house now. The current system is slow, old-fashioned, expensive and only benefits the lawyers who simply sit back and let you do all the work yourself. The packs sound good to me, a step towards a log book system that should make buying a house like buying a car.
When I pay for something, I pick what I want. The seller's pack I'd select when selling is very different from the one I want when buying.
Lucy Steinert, London
I think it is a good idea. If I am selling my house and the buyer pays for a survey there is nothing to stop me from selling to a higher bidder.
If the survey under the new system says the house is ok and it turns out not be then the seller should be liable for the costs and/or the surveyor.
Tom Hall, Yorkshire
The negative views expressed by many are mis-informed. This is largely due to the effective, long-running campaign by London-based luxury estate agents, recently backed by the new opportunistic Conservative Party leadership.
Newspapers - and dare I say the BBC - love a negative story. Yet very few of these negative stories have any real substance.
Buying a house under the new system will be far less stressful and costly for buyers whilst sellers will clearly be motivated.
No doubt there will be loads more negative views expressed, but none stand up to scrutiny!
Ed Chamberlain, Newton Abbot
What is the financial and emotional cost of a collapsed chain? Moving house is recognised one of the most expensive and stressful things you can do.
At the moment, if a potential problem arises, the buyer can pull out, affecting the whole chain.
It is hoped the house buying process will become less stressful and less expensive. Also, only people who are really interested in selling will go to the trouble.
Some sellers test the market and are not really interested in selling. They are time-wasters and heart-breakers. Estate agents should be pleased.
Ed Farmer, Home Inspector trainee
Just another stealth tax from a government which has no understanding of the real wishes and concerns of the electorate.
Mike Head, Banbury
A waste of time as it will be added to the cost of the property, will easily go out-of-date and the lenders will want to use their own people so that will have to be paid for as well.
Martin Lees, Hertford
HIPS are just another nail in the coffin of house builders brought on by the ODPM. Why does a man like John Prescott go out of his way to bring in these ludicrous ideas?
It's taken house building some 20 years to find itself at the top of the political agenda. Its importance in the social and economic arena is key to creating jobs, housing people and creating a prosperous economy.
Does he want a lasting legacy of bringing the economy into recession by bashing the house builders?
Carl Haley, David McLean Homes
Who is going to trust a survey commissioned by the seller? Building societies and banks probably won't. This is just another earner for those who already take a cut from us moving home. As if it's not bad enough paying exorbitant amounts of stamp duty. Another nanny state law to bring yet more tax in through the back door.
Local authority and title search results could be useful to buyers and hurry things up a bit. I wouldn't rely on a surveyor's report paid for by someone else.
What's needed is compensation paid out where firm promises made by buyers or sellers in a chain are broken.
Andrew Dundas, Ilkley
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.