The Law Commission has revealed that although it rejects reviving Home Information Packs (HIPs) – which were described by Kirstie Allsopp (pictured) during the noughties as ‘absurd’ – action is needed to improve how and when information is revealed during the initial stages of a house sale. We asked three industry figures with different perspectives to comment.
Jeremy Leaf, estate agent and former RICS residential chairman
“As someone who signed off the judicial review on behalf of RICS when HIPs were last suggested as the means to improving the market, this is something I have kept close watch on ever since. Sadly, many of the issues which were relevant then haven’t gone away and still need to be addressed.
“The fact remains the home-moving process is over-long, over-stressful, over-complicated and over-costly but fortunately since then, technology has improved and made the process more transparent and efficient. Transparency and certainty are the most important elements of the process, and it is vital that these are enhanced.
“But some issues still haven’t been addressed, particularly with regard to disclosure and defining when it is reasonable for buyers and sellers to withdraw. For example, if there is a poor survey, defective title, or a genuine change in circumstance such as loss of job or financial change.
‘The other significant area of doubt is in the leasehold process, ensuring that managing agents and leaseholders provide information to prospective purchasers and their representatives in a timely and cost effective way.”
Andrew Lloyd, MD at Search Acumen
“It’s no surprise that the Law Commission has ruled out the return of HIPs. While they were developed with the right intention of reducing gazumping, the huge delays involved in putting together such packs caused immeasurable frustrations for all involved in the property transaction process, drastically limiting their effectiveness.
“Instead, the industry needs a concerted push to ensure that the elements involved in the packs – from title deeds to local authority searches – are made more readily accessible and available to property professionals. We have long been committed to the transformation of traditional searches, advocating for a digital first approach that puts the property data crucial to a transaction at lawyers’ fingertips.
“During the past 18 months the realities of operating during lockdowns and a global pandemic, where contact isn’t possible, has shone a light on how much better the process can be if technological change is embraced. This has led many firms to rapidly accelerate the improvement of their technological processes as well as the development and adoption of digital platforms and AI.
“Digital ways of working have created vast efficiencies within key processes and has made a big impact on searches. Rather than waiting for paper-based search results, which were even more delayed during the pandemic due to the closure of Local Authorities, lawyers have been able to take instant snapshots properties and the surrounding areas.
“This has enabled them to spot any risks upfront and instantly relay these to the clients. Many Local Authorities are also adopting broader digitisation and this should be encouraged to speed the process up.”
Matt Gilpin, Founder and CEO at Sprift
“Greater collaboration is now being widely deliberated across the industry. More than ever, the past year has put a spotlight on the conveyancer and estate agent relationship, particularly with the rush to transact ahead of the stamp duty holiday deadline. Providing buyers with more information upfront and creating a more seamless process between agent and conveyancer should ensure fewer fall-throughs and reduced transaction times.
“Sprift offers industry professionals the most comprehensive source of data on residential properties in the UK, with over 100 individual data points per property sourced from over 1bn records.
“This information – including everything from title plans, planning history, EPCs, photos, floorplans, conservation areas and flood risks, as well as the necessary legal/protocol forms – can be shared upfront instantly to all parties in a property transaction, via our online dashboard.
“By allowing our property data to be shared with all parties, right from the outset, everyone in the process can see the full set of information about a property – providing a trusted single source of data.
“This should be at property listing stage, rather than waiting until an offer has been agreed between the buyer and seller – sellers should engage a conveyancer at the time their property goes on the market, so that all the necessary documentation is in place when a sale is agreed.
“We believe this will both speed up transaction times and reduce errors or misunderstandings, helping to prevent any issues down the line – saving time and money.
“Crucially, this will only truly be effective when the professionals in the transaction (estate agent, conveyancer and mortgage broker) and the consumer (buyer and seller) have seen and agreed what is being bought/sold at the outset.”