Home Information Packs (Hips) will now be compulsory for all properties being sold in England and Wales from December 14. From August all four bedroom properties for sale were required to have a Hip, and all properties with three or more bedrooms going onto the market have required one since September. Now any property must legally have a pack before it is sold. For the moment, the Government has left an exemption in place whereby the vendor can begin marketing their house as for sale as soon as they have ordered the HIP, even though they don’t yet have it in their hands (average time is a week to ten days), but this is due to come to an end on June 1 next year, from which date the vendor will need to be in possession of the HIP before they can begin to market their property.

Housing Minister Yvette Cooper said Hips for smaller houses would help first-time buyers by providing them with more information, but others disagree. The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA)has already said it believes that Hips are being ignored, as buyers commission in their own surveys at further expense, and also that HIPs delay the buying and selling process while the vendor waits to receive their HIP before taking their property to the market.

The Association has also said that the introduction has taken more property off the market since the summer, and exacerbated the slowdown in the property market as a whole.

Ms Cooper said an independent report commissioned from consultancy Europe Economics had found no impact on transactions or prices, except a short-term delay in new listings while a seller commissioned the pack. It said the report had concluded the impact was short lived , and found strong arguments for carrying on with the planned roll out.

However Michael White, a property lawyer from London-based Dawsons Solicitors questioned the Government’s motives: ”With homeowners set to feel the effects of the credit crunch, extending home information packs is the last thing the property market needs.

‘Yvette Cooper says that the extension of the scheme to include one and two bedroom properties will help first time buyers. If the government really wanted to help people get a foot on the property ladder they ought to first look at scrapping stamp duty land tax for first time buyers.’