Hips need a shake-up, says Which?Which? finds buyers aren't getting home packs

20 March 2008

A row of terrace houses

All homes with 4 or more bedrooms will now need a HIP

A Which? investigation has found few signs that home information packs (Hips) are making it easier and cheaper to sell a property.

Since December, all homes put up for sale in England and Wales require a Hip, which includes searches and an energy performance certificate (EPC).

But we've found that the cost of a Hip can vary enormously and sometimes potential buyers can have great difficulty even getting their hands on one.

We sent out our researchers to act as prospective buyers in Eastbourne, Ipswich, Leicester and Rotherham.

Undercover research

Out of 23 estate agents, 11 had properties with Hip reports, but our researchers were given just two.

The agents who refused gave various excuses.

Two agents said the report was the private property of the owner and two others said that it was illegal to mail a copy – both reasons are untrue.

More surprising is that sellers have had trouble getting hold of a pack they have paid for.

Price variation

One Which? member was told it would cost £20 plus VAT for a hard copy of the report.

When she asked for an electronic copy, the agent told her she would have to come to his office and view it on the computer.

When we called estate agents in England and Wales to ask how much a Hip would cost, the quotes ranged from £234 to £529.

Some agents had a flat fee while others quoted on the type of property or whether it was leasehold or freehold.

Property searches

There are also doubts about how long the information in a Hip is valid for.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders says that any search within a Hip carried out more than six months earlier would have to be repeated, and the Law Society thinks it may need to be redone even sooner.

We will be showing our research to Housing Minister Caroline Flint. 

Which? spokesman Bob Tolliday said: ‘At the moment, it's hard to see how Hips have made the process of selling a house easier and less expensive. 

'If much of the information in a pack goes out of date after four to six months then that doesn't represent very good value at all.'