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HIPs trials reveal extent of HIPs farce

publication date: Mar 24, 2008
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author/source: Grant Shapps
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grant shappsShadow Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, reveals that even in trials the HIPs were failing. So why did the government continue with them?

Industry experts and consumers have long been telling the Government that HIPs don’t work, that they should be scrapped and, with the market looking vulnerable, this was the worst possible time to be introducing more bureaucracy.

Unfortunately, though unsurprisingly, the Government refused to listen. What is more surprising is that they didn’t wait for the results of their own trials before they charged ahead. These were meant to be authoritative studies, they cost £4million of taxpayers’ money and the results were supposed to be released last autumn. 

Instead last month they were hurriedly patched together and thrown out with more spin than a Shane Warne legbreak. The Government tried desperately to display the results positively, concentrating solely on the contents of the HIPs and people’s understanding… the rest they tried to ignore. 

The truth is that after sale, 8 out of 10 sellers did not think that the HIP had helped to sell their property. Over 70% of sellers did not think that HIPs made the selling process more efficient and 55% of buyers did not think that the HIP had speeded up the process. 

That’s pretty clear – buyers and sellers are united in their criticism of the Home Information Pack. They are telling the Government that the packs don’t speed up the process, that they don’t make it more efficient - that they don’t help homebuying and selling. Successive Housing Ministers have hidden behind an assumption that HIPs would help, we always knew they wouldn’t and now they have been forced to admit it too. 

It is worth remembering here that all the results in this trial result from HIPs that were given free to people who agreed to help with the research. It doesn’t take a lot of sense to realise that they would have been even worse if the sellers had to pay for the packs too. 

This won’t come as any comfort to those who have invested time and money, and in some cases their livelihoods, following the Government up the garden path. They were told that they could earn up to £70,000 a year and yet hundreds are struggling to make ends meet. I am constantly being approached by HIPs inspectors and DEAs who are angry and upset with the Government who have misled them and investors. 

A fundamental problem – even after continual warnings - is also highlighted by the trials. The HIPs themselves are flawed; the trials revealed that a significant majority of solicitors did not think they would accept personal searches – saying that their quality could not be trusted and that there was real concern over how quickly they became outdated.

The Conservative Party has always said that HIPs are a needless, useless waste of time and have a very firm position on scrapping HIPs. We believe that by stripping out the pointless bureaucracy and simply widening the scope of EPCs we will create more work for inspectors, improving environmental standards without endangering the housing market. 

We do recognise the need for the homebuying process to be speeded up; to become more efficient; to be made easier. We know that HIPs aren’t the solution and that is why we launched our policy review into homebuying, headed by Kirstie Allsopp and Owen Inskip. 

We have asked for contributions from across the industry and beyond and have had an incredible response. Anyone who wishes to pass on their ideas can visit www.homebuyingreview.com.

REEDS RAINS FRUSTRATED BY GOVERNMENT RESEARCH

Reeds Rains, one of the largest estate agents in the country, is frustrated by the research from the Department for Communities and Local Government, which claims satisfaction with HIPs. Mark Gilbertson, Legal Services Operations Director, said: “We are very frustrated by the research that has been released, especially as it is based on trials that happened a year ago. As an organisation we have worked hard since the legislation came in to make sure that we are able to provide HIPs to our customers within seven days. In fact we are able to provide an Energy Performance Certificate within three days, meaning they are available to buyers very quickly. Sellers may be satisfied but the aim of the packs was to provide information to buyers. The difficulty we are finding is that when we offer the packs to prospective buyers they just aren’t interested in the information.”