Monday, May 24, 2010

Bonfire Of Vanities - Monday

‘So that’s it then?’ Questions negotiator S at the morning meeting. ‘No more Home Information packs ever?’
She can be sweetly naïve at times, but with her compensatory assets nobody will complain - until everything starts to droop.
‘Never say never.’ I respond. The phrase is meant to sound sage and worldly-wise - it certainly did in my head - but just comes out pompous.

‘You said Hips wouldn’t last.’ Contributes assistant manager T. ‘Predicted they would fail.’
I also predicted they would be scrapped before the pointless legislation was enacted. Got that wrong. Hoped the parade of housing ministers, who changed more often that trainee F rotates his socks, would see sense and junk the unwanted and un-read documentation, in-line with the advice from those in the industry. Wrong again.

‘Nobody ever asked me to see a pack.’ Announces F. He’s right. All the clumsy documentation did was hold-up the process; add another layer of bureaucracy and screw-up first day marketing of homes. It’s just about the only time those who actually work in the business, agreed with that Kirsty whats-her-face off the television.

‘Doomed to failure.’ I announce portentously, like that old Scotsman from that Dad Army programme I used to watch as a kid.
‘You should have written to an MP or something,’ Pontificates F a little vacantly. ‘Warned them it wouldn’t work.’ He clearly doesn’t read my Blog – probably just as well. I lobbied in my own toothless way; others took the more direct route. But despite the proposal faltering, and being watered-down more often than gin in a Soho strip joint, the last housing minister holding the poisonous parcel when the music stopped, pushed the button anyway.

‘I’m not very happy about this.’ Drones the bean counter boss when he comes on the line mid-morning. ‘It’s a valuable earning channel being denied us.’ Being a number-cruncher and not an estate agent, the arse of an accountant never did understand what motivates sellers. How the difficult decision to market your home - to sometimes just test the water, or hope to secure that one property you’d move for - would be scuppered by several hundred quid’s worth of pointless paperwork up-front.

‘Apparently we could make up the shortfall by selling pet insurance.’ I announce to the team derisively, after I’ve hung-up. Mortgage man M nods in avaricious agreement, a dribble of something greasy sliding down his chin. Then in comes the sartorially adrift - since he stopped wearing suits - downtrodden guy. The one who used to sell homes.

‘Well that’s me screwed.’ He announces morosely, causing lettings trollop B to look up briefly, then return to her computer screen when she realises it’s one of the few men she doesn’t want to shag. The fact is, I warned him not to re-train as a Home Inspector (after I’d toyed with it briefly as an escape route, myself) but he went ahead and put his faith in a failing government, intent on legislating for every single eventuality just because the public couldn’t be trusted. Went ahead and spent several thousand pounds with a spurious training agency with some incomprehensible E-learning package they are probably now flogging, with a quick programme revision, to the NHS.

‘It’s just EPCs for me now, I suppose.’ Predicts the man dejectedly. ‘I can’t make enough to live-off from them.’ The Energy Performance Certificates he produces, with their colourful washing machine-style efficiency bandings are remaining, to toe the European Union line, but they have about as much bearing on a buying decision as the colour of my tie - or the sincerity of my smile.

‘I’ve been badly let down.’ Concludes the ex-agent as he slumps out of the office and despite myself I remind him there’s no hurry for his paperwork any longer, as we have 28 days to append it to our details now. Callously I’m cheered briefly by his discomfort, if only because it could so easily have been me.

‘I’ve been badly let down.’ Echoes the next voice I hear, as an owner who listed his home recently, realises he’s coughed for a bundle of documents that are only good for fire lighting.
‘I blame you lot.’ He adds as a wounding sign-off.

Everybody does.


Anonymous said...

I recollect asking an agent for an information pack, and being somewhat frightened off by the hostile reception my request got. Perhaps there's chicken-and-egg to your noone-ever-asks?

I fear house-hunting will get a whole lot worse, with the removal of that small deterrent to time-wasters dabbling with putting their house on the market. The cost of the HIP helped improve the likelihood of any given vendor being serious about wanting to sell.

Or am I talking out of my uninformed a**e? Can you perhaps address my specific points from an insider's perspective?

secret agent said...

Over to the other agents who read?
Some do!

Anonymous said...

Flat I rented last October, I specifically asked for the EPC. It seemed quite good; top floor flat, roof assumed insulated, walls assumed insulated. No energy-saving light bulbs, so I changed those, and single-pane windows, very poor. Which indeed they were.

Then winter came round and the EPC turned out to be totally worthless. Damp patches appeared through the painted-over damp patches in the ceiling below the flat roof, which had allegedly been fixed. I had to shut off one bedroom and put a towel along the gap below the door because it was like a fridge to walk into. With the heating on all day with the thermostat at 21C my clothing indoors - 3 pairs of socks, footless tights, jeans, vest, top, two fleeces. All day every day. Three duvets on the bed at night.

If that's the level of competence exhibited generally then the whole exercise is a complete waste of time and money. 'ow much for the training - 'ow much? You're 'aving a laugh, mate!


The Sussex Idler said...

I used to get the odd request. We just banged off a PDF file big deal.

I think bahumbug is right when they say we may see the return of the selling time waster - you can't have it all! The big problem with HIPs though, was that they never made a buyer any more serious or indeed never forced either party to act with integrity during the transaction.

I have given this whole subject considerable though and believe the only way forward is to introduce Capital Punishment for vendors that back out at the last minute. Surely we'd all vote for this small change in the law?

Anonymous said...

Even the EPC is a little bit of a check-off list. Double glazing, tick (no check of its age, efficiency or general condition), loft insulation, tick (no matter that the thickness can't be checked due to the loft being boarded out). Energy-saving bulbs, tick. That one's like the tyres at a car's MoT, you could change them all straight after the inspection.

Anonymous said...

The Sussex Idler said...

I have given this whole subject considerable though and believe the only way forward is to introduce Capital Punishment for vendors that back out at the last minute. Surely we'd all vote for this small change in the law?

Surely Corporal Punishment would be more amusing?

secret agent said...

Corporal or capital punishment seem to work, given some of the laughable laws passed recently. Either way it should be a public event as a salutary lesson for all the time-wasters out there.

Bahumbug - EPCs are here to stay, just don't expect to learn anything from them you couldn't deduce with your eyes and a modicum of intellect.


The Sussex Idler said...


FrontierPsychiatrist said...

People trying to sell their house (for some unique reason referred to as 'vendors') will try and get away with whatever they can.

How about scrapping car MOT's? Hey, if there is a problem it's the buyers fault for not checking.

The Sussex Idler said...

Hi Psychiatrist,

I always thought vendor came from vendre. To sell.

The m.o.t is related to minimum safety standards for the car. It's not necessarily a resale aid.


The Idler

Anonymous said...

When I'm looking for a new rental on rightmove I discount anything with a crap EPC. They might not give that much useful info but if the EPC says the energy rating is crap it almost certainly is.

So at least one person is using them, and you wouldn't know because I simply don't contact you about properties with a bad EPC

Anonymous said...

I think I must be only person in the UK who liked HIPs. It told me that one property was leasehold and not freehold - a fact of which the agent claimed to be unaware, "We state on our particulars that you have to check that yourself." Yes - presumably after I've paid for the full structural survey.

They had to tell you if there are any rights of way over the property - if they lied you could sue them.

The Land Registry documents came with the pack, so you didn't have to cough up every time you wanted to check the list of covenants - our current house has it laid out in black and white that you can have no more than 2 family pets (so if you wanted two guinea pigs and a budgie, you were sunk). And you knew how much they'd paid for it, and when.

Then you could look at the extension over the garage in the picture and look to see if they had planning permission. If they hadn't bothered with that, then building regs approval was probably absent also.

Some HIPs saved me, the vendor and the agent the trouble of going round an unsuitable house. At least one managed to knock out of contention a property which would have gone anyway - but only after I'd paid the solicitor to find out the stuff in the HIP.

I know that the numbers of buyers who looked at this stuff was approximately the same as the number of people who read the label on a "natural goodness" cereal bar. But for those who did the HIP was a mine of useful information.

Mind you, one which required the vendor to have a certain level of survey done first would have been even better - once everyone had got over the shock of realising just how dilapidated most houses are.