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Home Information Packs

Volume 493: debated on Tuesday 2 June 2009

9. What her latest assessment is of the effect of home information packs on the housing market; and if she will make a statement. (277607)

Independent research into the impact of home information packs was undertaken by Europe Economics. The implementation of HIPs is being kept under review and an evaluation of the HIPs programme is currently planned for 2010 by updating “The HIPs Baseline Research Report”.

In another survey, 89 per cent. of professionals said that HIPs would not benefit buyers. In the age of rhetoric and of trusting professionals, why should we believe what the Government say, not the professionals?

I dispute what the hon. Gentleman says. Professionals are telling us that information is vital, and giving buyers information about probably the biggest purchase in their lives benefits the whole home buying and selling process. Roger Wilson of Connells, one of the country’s largest estate agents, has said:

“Knowledge is key when it comes to building confidence for any big purchase and prospective home buyers need to do their research and gather as much information as possible. The new PIQ, EPC and other elements of the Home Information Pack mean buyers will have more information about a home from the very first day it goes on the market.”

Professionals are actually welcoming the HIP.

Professionals such as LMS in my constituency are proud of the work that they do in providing HIPs to many people. Will my hon. Friend take this opportunity to say how he intends to continue his drive, after the review, to relieve the downward pressure on conveyancing by moving towards a system of electronic conveyancing?

My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. Electronic conveyancing can speed up the process hugely. We remain committed to ensuring that we can simplify and streamline the home buying and selling process. Some £1 million a week is wasted in abortive home purchases and sales, and that can cause heartache to the people involved and disruption to the economy, so we remain committed to HIPs. We want to provide information up front to allow buyers to make an informed choice.

Further to the Minister’s response to my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend, East (James Duddridge), will he guarantee that the review will include consultation with estate agents up and down the country to assess the level of demand from house buyers for home information packs and to assess the number of packs that have been produced but never used, and the cost involved? If the demand is extremely low, as I predict it will be, will he at least make them voluntary and not a statutory requirement?

No, we have no plans to make them a voluntary requirement. The hon. Lady touches on an important point. Sometimes, buyers and sellers—particularly buyers—do not get to see the HIP. That is not in anybody’s interests. One key idea that we are trying to push forward, along with the industry, is that estate agents and others involved in the home buying and selling process should ensure that home buyers see the HIP. As I said in a previous answer, information is key. This is the biggest purchase that someone will make and it is important that home buyers get to see the home information pack and make informed choices accordingly.