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AHIPP to lobby Conservatives at the Conservative Party Conference

publication date: Sep 28, 2009
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AHIPPIt’s been a busy month so far for the AHIPP team as we’ve been preparing for the Conservative Party Conference.

The conference will allow us to speak to politicians and really help to clear up any confusion surrounding HIPs. It is well documented that some Conservative members, Grant Shapps to name but one, are unfortunately still unaware of the positive impact HIPs have had on the home buying and selling process. Some have stated that a buyer’s solicitor will ‘rarely accept’ the HIP search carried out by the seller but this is simply misleading; the majority of conveyancers will use the search in the pack, provided it is not out of date. They will insist that the search has been produced by the local authority or a search code subscriber in order to speed up the process.

We will point to statistics from Connells who have tracked over 14,000 transactions which demonstrated this. In putting these points, we hope to explain that given that searches can be added up to 28 days after the pack is ordered, waiting for them wouldn’t hold up the listing of a property anyway, despite claims to the contrary. Towards the end of August, Grant Shapps updated his blog with a number of incorrect claims regarding HIPs.

We wanted to make clear to him that industry has taken the lead to make packs deliver benefits to the home buying and selling process. Exchange Ready Packs are slashing the time to exchange of contracts. We have seen that these processes have reduced stress for consumers and save them money – surely Mr Shapps doesn’t want to a further backwards step in reforming the process of buying and selling at a time when the property market is just starting to show signs of recovery?

AHIPP Conservative Party ConferenceWe hope to address the recent report published by Which? on HIPs. Although the report itself raised some important issues, the main focus seems to have been on the pricing issue and we need to put the results into its correct context. The cost of a pack is still a key factor and rightly so, but it is hard to think of any product or service that isn’t cheaper if bought online rather than on the high street. Even taking this into account, comparing the two directly
is misleading. The majority of delegates know that estate agents are regulated by law and thus punishable by fine or worse if the HIPs they offer fail to meet certain legal criteria. But not many have linked this to the responsibility that accompanies HIPs.

If an estate agent is presented with a HIP purchased from an independent source, they may charge extra fees for carrying out additional checks to cover their responsibilities. This is entirely reasonable given that these agents could face fines if the packs fail to meet requirements.

On this point of additional costs, whilst Which? called for consumers to shop around for HIPs, it is also the consumer’s responsibility to check exactly what it is they will be receiving from independent providers. We know that some providers tie in conveyancing services to the HIP so the discount may not be as appealing as at first glance. The only way for customers to avoid hidden costs or unnecessary additional expense is for them to purchase their HIP from providers who comply with the HIP code – it makes sense for the customer and for estate agents!

The green angle is of course also high on the political agenda. Research has shown that Energy Performance Certificates have encouraged consumers making changes to ensure their home is more energy efficient, resulting in demonstrable carbon emissions reductions. Yet the Conservatives have stated that they want to move EPCs to the end of the home buying and selling process. This could have a potentially disastrous effect on the progress that has already been made. I am not alone in this thought: a ‘snapshot survey’ of 22 industry stakeholders, only one of which has a vested interest in the provision of HIPs, showed that 77 per cent of stakeholders (17) felt that moving the EPC to the end of the process would be a retrograde step. This would be similar to buying a car and only seeing its mileage after the purchase.

The Conservative conference will allow us to engage with politicians and give them the hard facts, showing that now is the time to move forward by adapting and improving what already is in place before the opportunity to build on these potential developments is lost.

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