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Hips change and OFT targets estate agents

Government announces changes to home packs

The government is making changes to home information packs (Hips) so that they include more information and homebuyers see them earlier.

At the same time, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has announced a review of estate agents and the fees they charge.

A Hip is a guide to a property that sellers must offer potential buyers when they market their home. Since December 2007, all sellers in England and Wales have had to provide a Hip, whether they were selling a flat or a house. 

In Scotland, the packs are called home reports and, unlike in England and Wales, they include a survey. 

Hips to change

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) says that from 6 April 2009, Hips will change in the following way.

  • Hips will include a property information questionnaire, showing flood risk, gas and electricity safety, any service charges, along with any structural damage and parking arrangements
  • Hips will also include leasehold information, where relevant
  • Hips will have to be in place from the first day the property is on the market. Previously sellers had 28 days.

There will also be two new working groups to look at making further changes to Hips. Which? will be part of both. One will look at having information about the condition of a property – such as a survey – in a Hip. The other will look at making changes to property searches to ensure they are accurate and consumer-friendly. 

Home buying and selling

In another shake-up of the home-selling market, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has said it will examine the quality of estate agents and the prices they charge, as part of a review of the home buying and selling market.

Which? head of campaigns Louise Hanson said: ‘This could be great news for consumers and an important step towards reforming a market that we’ve had serious concerns about for years. The OFT market study should identify ways of making the process of buying and selling a home cheaper, quicker or easier.

‘We have long said that Hips are of limited value to consumers in their current form. The changes are welcome but there is still so much work to do to improve the home buying and selling process and to raise standards.’


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