Land Data issued a press release last Thursday supporting the swift decision by the coalition to suspend Home Information Packs but went on to ask for "official authoritative searches to be made compulsory in all covneyancing transactions."
Jan Boothroyd, Land Data Chief Executive, said that "Home Information Packs almost immediately became synonymous with price and the reduction in price was mirrored by a reduction in the quality of property searches contained within the pack."
She went on to say "Ultimately this exposed consumers to incomplete and out of date information, often insufficient for the needs of a buyer. This in turn led to the buyer’s conveyancer ordering searches for the property again and the unsatisfactory situation where the seller and the buyer were both paying for searches."
With the removal of HIPS Land Data argue that there is an opportunity to look at new initiatives to improve the home buying process.
Ronnie Park, the founder and Managing Director of the large personal search business One Search Direct responded by saying that whilst a handful of local authorities provide consumers with comprehensive search information on a property there are many local authorities where their service "fluctuate wildly in price, accuracy and crucially the time taken for these searches to be returned". He went on to indicate that some councils take 40 days to return official local authority searches.
He went on to point out that the insurance offered by local authorities against their own mistakes in collating the data "will not cover the consumer in the way a comprehensive insurance cover does with a private search."
"While the Home Information Pack (HIP) was in place, local authorities looked after 5% of searches, with mixed results; If ther are responsible for 100% of the property information, how can we reasonably expect them to improve?"
In 2005 the OFT reported that local authorities presented a clear conflict of interest by looking after the raw data and the supply of property search information.
With HIPs and HIP providers no longer needing searches it is clear that conveyancers will determine whether official or personal searches will be used predominantly in future.