HIPs for 4-bed Houses

Update on Home Information Packs - What Qualifies as a 4 Bedroom House?

 Home Information Packs (HIPs) will be required for 4 bedroom houses after 1st August 2007. The question is - can you avoid HIPs for a bit longer by pretending you don't have 4 bedrooms?

Are home information packs required yet?

The idea behind HIPs is that you provide upfront information and an energy performance certificate before selling your house, supposedly speeding up the selling process and reducing the risk of a sale falling through. However, the new rules are confusing and generally unpopular, and various problems in the scheme mean the requirement for HIPs has been delayed.

As of July 2007, the latest on HIPs is that they will be required if you put your 4 bedroom property on the market after 1st August. This is apparently due to there not being enough trained energy assessors to meet demand if it was applied to all houses.

However, there are rumours that the HIP scheme could be extended to smaller houses very quickly, as the number of qualified assessors is increasing rapidly. The whole scheme remains very uncertain though, and the future of HIPs is, in reality, very unclear.

What qualifies as a 4 bedroom house?

The number of people rushing to sell their 4 bedroom homes before August shows that people are keen to avoid sorting out a HIP. This could be because of the extra hassle involved, the cost (around £500) or the general confusion and criticism surrounding the HIP scheme.

It turns out there is another way round it - you can describe your 4 bedroom house as ‘3 bedrooms plus study'. The general consensus is that there is no legal definition of a bedroom in this case, and you can describe the rooms in your house any way you like. As the rule refers to properties marketed as 4 bedroom, those marketed as ‘3 bedrooms plus study' will not need a HIP.

Are there problems with marketing a 4-bed house as 3-bed plus study?

Bedroom number is the normal way of describing the size of a house in the UK, rather than using square footage. Therefore, people normally count any reasonably-sized room as a bedroom to add value to their house. It may confuse buyers if people start describing their house in a different way.

Your house may not show up during searches for ‘4 bedroom houses', and some claim the practice will not show you in a particularly good light to the buyer, especially if they are a fan of the HIPs scheme.

However, once a potential buyer has viewed the house it will be obvious to them how big it is, and the general view is that you will still receive the asking price even if you market your house ‘down'. However, if you reach fewer potential buyers because of marketing your house this way, you could still lose out by more than the cost of a HIP.

There will be fines if you fail to provide a HIP, but no one is clear yet on exactly how much you will be fined.

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