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Hips for all


There's now officially nowhere to hide as the government's controversial Home Information Pack (HIP) scheme was rolled out to include all houses up for sale. Up until Friday it wasn't compulsory for one and two bedroom properties. HIPs started in August last year, covering properties of four bedrooms and above. In September the scheme was extended to cover three bedroom homes and now the packs, which contain legal documents and an energy rating certificate, must be produced for all homes. The delay in the roll out of the scheme was due to a lack of trained assessors.

Government sources say that HIPs are currently taking 7-10 days to produce and are costing sellers around £300-350. It argues that packs are needed to cut delays in home buying and promote energy efficiency, but they have met with fierce competition. Critics say that they are of little benefit to consumers and have damaged the property market, with vendors simply passing on the cost to the buyer or just not bothering to place the property on the market at all. The main area of criticism is the fact that the government have stopped short of making a survey, or "home condition report", compulsory in the pack, after numerous objections. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) have reacted to this by stating that without a home condition report the HIPs were "a waste of time and consumer's money". 

Predictably, sellers of smaller houses rushed to get their properties on the market before the deadline, with the number of such houses on the market bucking the usual seasonal trend by soaring a full 39%. Warren Bright, chief executive of propertyfinder.com, said: "It beggars belief that the government would disrupt the housing market by forcing through its discredited HIPs programme at this time". The government, on the other hand, defended the scheme by stating that the full roll out will cut costs for hard-pressed first time buyers. Jeff Smith, chief executive of HIP Payment Services said that the packs would "ensure a level playing field for all those buying and selling a home-transferring the cost from buyer to seller while benefiting our most vulnerable homebuyer". The jury remains out.