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Package of changes fuel controversy of HIPs

09 December 2008 / by Rachael Stiles
Housing minister Margaret Beckett announced yesterday that a new package of measures would be incorporated into Home Information Packs (HIPs) to make sure consumers receive the best information possible throughout the buying and selling process.

The changes to the controversial packs will see them be made available to buyers on the day the property goes on the market, intended to make the process easier for people looking to buy a property.

Currently, sellers can commission and pay for a HIP and start marketing their property for up to 28 days before the pack is available, so early bird buyers have arguably been missing out on important information which could affect their decision to make an offer. Once the changes come into affect on April 6 next year, sellers will have to provide HIPs on the first day the property is for sale.

A Property Information Questionnaire, a new section in the pack, will provide buyers with a summary of information about the property, making it more easily accessible and aiding them in their decision of whether to view, and ultimately buy, a property. The information gathered from the PIQ will include flood risk information, household energy safety, service charges, structural damage, and parking arrangements.

The Government has pledged to work closely with the property industry to ensure that consumers receive the necessary information about a property, and welcomed a study by the Office of Fair Trading into the process of buying and selling a house, looking at competition between service providers and to ensure that customers' interests are being met.

"Home Information Packs are potentially a vital aid to consumers who are seeking to purchase a home, and I am firmly committed to ensuring they work as well as possible." Margaret Beckett said. They "will make sure consumers are better protected, better informed and better assisted when buying a home."

Commenting on the Government's proposed changes to HIPS and the OFT's review of the buying and selling process, director of external affairs at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Gillian Charlesworth, said: "This is the sort of approach we have been calling for - joined up action by Government to address the need for decent standards in consumer property services and a willingness to look more broadly at how the process for buying and selling can be improved."

"We have said many times that the HIP has not brought about any benefit for consumers" she added, "and we are pleased that the Government has recognised how much more can be done if they work with responsible property professionals rather than allowing vested interests to dictate policy."

Keshav Thukaram from is less optimistic about the proposed changes, saying that having to make a HIP available on the first day the property is on sale is just "one more obstacle for sellers to put their properties onto the market actively."

But consumer watchdog Which? believes that this "could be great news for consumers and an important step towards reforming a market that we've had serious concerns about for years."

Learn more about HIPs for sellers

Learn more about HIPs for buyers

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