One of the first steps taken by David Cameron’s new coalition government was the announcement scrapping home information packs, which will be suspended from midnight tonight (21 May) pending primary legislation to ditch them for good.
A crowd-pleasing move guaranteed to win brownie points with the public, the Department for Communities and Local Government set up a high-profile, though somewhat bizarre, media briefing.
Communities secretary, the former Tory party chairman Eric Pickles, made the announcement to the massed ranks of the press on a noisy pavement outside an estate agency in Battersea, with TV presenter Kirsty Alsopp on hand to give him a supportive slap on the back.
Introduced in 2007, the packs where intended to speed up the home-buying process, increasing transparency and reducing the number of sales that fell through.
Though the idea may have been laudable, the end result was so watered down, that the packs’ usefulness was negligible, with most sellers viewing them as a waste of money, and most buyers seeing them as irrelevant.
The only winners, who will now obviously be out of their jobs, were the plethora of pack providers who have grown up over the last three years.
Pickles said the move to abolish the packs had been taken swiftly to prevent any further slump in an already fragile housing market. He asserted that it would encourage sellers back to the market and help the market and the economy recovery.
But HIPs are not the main factor preventing faster recovery of the housing market – the big issue is the willingness, or rather reluctance, of lenders to lend.
Neither Pickles, nor his sidekick, housing minister Grant Shapps, had anything to say in regard to lending. Pickles’ only plea was that home sellers go down to the local hardware store to buy paint and other household products to boost the economy.
Nor did they have anything to offer in relation to other positive reforms to improve the home-buying and selling process. Perhaps here, the government missed an opportunity – and one that gives solicitors the chance to take the lead and offer some realistic alternatives.