Norfolks online estate agents. Est. 2007

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22 November 2007

Home information packs (Hips) will be required for all properties being sold in England and Wales from 14 December, the government has announced.

Since September, all properties with three or more bedrooms have required a Hip before they can be sold.

The packs have proved controversial, with many critics claiming that they have made it more difficult and expensive to sell property.

The government insists the packs are bringing benefits to consumers.

The average cost of a Hip is between £300 and £350.

Green rating

Housing Minister Yvette Cooper said the roll-out of Hips would help first-time buyers by providing them with more information.

Energy performance certificates (EPCs) will give homes an efficiency rating of A - G.

Buyers whose homes score badly will receive extra help from the new Green Homes Service announced this week by the prime minister.

"Hips and EPCs are already helping consumers to save hundreds of pounds off their fuel bills and are cutting search costs too," said Ms Cooper.

"All home buyers will be able to benefit from energy efficiency advice, with those receiving low green ratings of 'F' and 'G' especially targeted for support and grants," she added.

The decision to extend Hips to all properties follows an independent review carried out by Europe Economics.

This found "no evidence of any impact on transactions or prices" beyond a "predicted" and "marginal" short-term impact on new listings.

Leasehold problems

The report also concluded that any delay to the planned roll-out due to "changing housing market conditions" would cause "greater market difficulties and uncertainties".

But the government acknowledges the owners of leasehold properties have faced difficulties.

In some cases it has been difficult to obtain leasehold documents quickly, and "disproportionate charges" have on occasion been requested.

At the moment sellers must commission a Hip before they can put their property on the market, but have a 28-day window for it to be finalised.

The government has now said it will extend for six months the current exemption which lets leasehold documents be provided after the 28-day deadline.

It will also delay the introduction of new rules meaning a property cannot be put on the market until the Hip has been completed.

This change had been due to take effect on 1 January 2008, but will now not apply until 1 June 2008.

'Between a rock and a hard place'

The government's decision to extend Hips has been criticised by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics).

Rics and the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) believe the introduction of Hips has already reduced the number of larger properties on the market.

Rics housing spokesman Jeremy Leaf argues widening the scope of the scheme will have a negative effect on those people trying to get onto the property ladder.

"Rolling Hips out to one and two-bed properties could find first-time buyers caught between a rock and a hard place as accessibility to the market would go off the scale," he said.

"If the Housing Minister genuinely wants to improve the plight of first-time buyers, she should not continue with this flawed policy," he added.

But the extension has been welcomed by the Association of Hip Providers (AHIPP).

"The independent research by Europe Economics dispels suggestions by RICS and NAEA that Hips are having a detrimental impact on the market place," said AHIPP deputy director general Paul Broadhead.

"Hips are here to stay. We can now build upon this foundation and really revolutionise the market for the benefit of the consumer and the industry," he added.

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