Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Home information pack scams

Home inspectors could make up to 250 million pounds a year on producing packs that never get used, causing huge waste for home owners trying to sell their homes, according to the Law Society. The prediction comes as leading professionals continue to call for a delay in introducing the controversial home selling scheme, which is due to start in June.

Paul Marsh, the vice-president of the Law Society, said that buyers would be forced to ask for a fresh Home Information Pack (HIP) when a property had been on the market for more than six months, leading to nearly half a million packs being pulped every year. With each one costing at least 500 pounds, the total bill would hit 250 million pounds.

He said: "Not only is it the money it is the performance of inspectors getting in their 4x4s driving around and producing all the sheets of paper. This is supposed to be eco-friendly." Nearly two million homes are put on the market every year, with a quarter going unsold after a year, it is estimated.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has also raised concerns about the system and has called for the Government to re-examine how the proposed home inspectors are trained. Senior chartered surveyors with decades' of experience have to undertake a 27-day course to learn how to undertake the inspections, which involves checking the energy efficiency of each house.

With little time before the packs become compulsory, only 100 qualified chartered surveyors have started their training. Jeremy Leaf, the housing spokesman for the RICS, said: "The fact that their skills are not being sufficiently recognised is a deterrent to many." Other organisations are credited with being able to certify inspectors and Ruth Kelly, the minister responsible for introducing the scheme, insists that there will be 3,000 qualified inspectors by June.

A spokesman at her department said yesterday that the Law Society was scaremongering. "Some HIPs providers will offer HIPs for free - others have said they will offer them on a no-sale no-fee basis - so it's possible for buyers to not make a sale without losing out. At the moment if a sale fails the buyer is often left with wasted costs."

Mr Marsh disputed that failed sales would fall after the introduction of the scheme. "Sales fall through for a whole host of reasons," he said. "Tell me why a report into energy-efficient light bulbs will make any difference."

The Government guidelines suggest that a HIP could remain valid for well over a year. On its official website it says: "Some documents can be no be more than three months old when marketing starts, but there is no obligation to update packs as long as the property remains on the market."

However, most experts believe that the packs will have to be updated at least every six months.

Mr Leaf said: "If you are moving to an area you are not familiar with, you - as a buyer - might well want to get a fresh search done after three months."

A spokesman for the Council of Mortgage Lenders agreed. "Searches more than six months old will have to be re-commissioned; and searches are the only significant component left in the pack," he said. HIPs were meant to speed up home-buying and make it cheaper for first-time buyers by shifting the cost from buyer to seller.

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