Property sellers faving new bills

FINAL touches are being put to a housing bill that could see property sellers forking out extra money – possibly up to £1,000 more – to market their homes.

FINAL touches are being put to a housing bill that could see property sellers forking out extra money – possibly up to £1,000 more – to market their homes.

The Home Information Pack (HIP) has been dubbed by estate agents as the "least popular piece of legislation since Mrs Thatcher's Poll Tax" but it could be hitting the housing market as soon as 2006.

The HIP is part of a reformation of property selling being consulted by parliament under the guise of making it easier for property buyers and sellers alike.

At the moment the onus of land searches and surveys are on the buyer but if the bill gets the go-ahead it will fall on the seller.

And while estate agents in general welcome some changes to their trade, they are viewing the new rules with scepticism and with the belief it will take away the spontaneity that often comes with a decision to move house.

Gary Smith, of Smiths Estate Agents in Ipswich and the new chairman of the Suffolk branch of the National Association of Estate Agents said as the government puts the final touches to the HIP proposals, they must take into consideration the complications that could arise from it.

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"We have to remember that an Englishman's home is his castle and the current proposals for change will without doubt affect an individual's ability to market their property at short notice.

"It will affect all sales either through agents or privately, there will be no exceptions other than brand new houses which are not included in the act," he said.

Part of a seller's pack, HIP was first introduced in the Homes Bill in December 2000. That bill was unable to be completed before Parliament was dissolved and now the second consultation paper is looking at the detailed contents of the HIP.

By the end of this month a decision to make it law will have been made – and vendors who do not comply face civil sanctions of a fine of between £150 to £200.

As well as HIP, the Lord Chancellor's Department has also brought in the Land Registration Act 2002.

This will modernise the land registration system and prepare the way for electronic conveyancing which will in turn complement the HIP set up.

However, Mr Smith said although there will be benefits, they will be small compared to the extra work and cost involved to vendors.

If the bill gets the go-ahead in its present state anyone putting their home on the market will have to include in the HIP the following documents:

n terms of sale

n evidence of title

n replies to standard preliminary enquiries made on behalf of buyers

n copies of any planning, listed building and building regulations consents and approvals

n any guarantees for work carried out on the property

n replies to local searches

n a home condition report, based on a professional survey of the property including an energy efficiency assessment.

Mr Smith said: "There is no room for including any estimates of cost for doing the repairs to properties and this could be detrimental to vulnerable elderly people who are selling. It could affect the price a prospective buyer could offer leaving them wide open to being ripped off.

"There is also going to be a delay in putting properties on the market. Officially it will mean until the HIP is completed, agents would be breaking the law to offer that house for sale.

"This could add three weeks to the marketing time of the property. It also means that if a family see a house they would love to buy they are being held up in putting theirs on the market.

"It is not good news, especially as part of the HIP content will only have a shelf life of around three months. If a sale falls through the process needs to be gone through again, causing more delay and some extra expense," he added.

Mr Smith said he and other Ipswich members of the NAEA have explained their concerns to the town's MP Chris Mole and he urges constituents to follow suit and ask him for their support.

"Mr Mole gave us a very fair hearing and left us with the impression that the points we raised would be aired at the appropriate levels in the government.

"We do believe that common sense will prevail on this legislation but if it doesn't it could become one of the least popular pieces of legislation since Margaret Thatcher's Poll Tax," he added.

Mr Smith is urging all home owners to contact their MP asking him to put their case forward before it is too late.

n If the housing Bill becomes law early next year the HIP would be introduced from 2006. According to the office of the deputy prime minister some estate agents are offering HIP on a voluntary basis before they become law.