ASK THE EXPERT

Q. Can you tell me a bit more about this new Property Information Questionnaire?
A. From 6th April, all Home Information Packs must contain a Property Information Questionnaire, or PIQ, completed by the seller, and covering a whole range of issues which the Government believes buyers are interested in, or should be concerned about. These include everything from parking arrangements and rights of access to the condition of the electrical wiring and details of any structural changes. For leasehold properties, there are a whole raft of extra questions concerning the details and conditions of the lease.
Most of the questions are simple tick-box exercises. However, depending on which box you tick, you may be asked to explain your answer. So, if you have had some structural work done, you will be asked whether you obtained planning and/or building regulation permission - and if not, you will be asked to explain why. In certain case, you will also be expected to provide supporting information, such as guarantees for things like electrical work or double glazing.
So, all in all, filling in a PIQ is far from being a 5-minute job.
This may well be worth it if, as the Government believes, better informed buyers mean fewer sales falling through. However, PIQs are unlikely to help fulfil another aim of HIPs – which is to speed up the whole house-buying process. Since the questionnaires have been designed with the general public in mind, they are far too basic and general to be of any real value in the actual conveyancing process. Indeed, the Government itself, in the preamble to the PIQ, states that the questionnaire “does not replace official documents or legal information,” and advises sellers to confirm any information with their solicitor or conveyancer.
What this means in practice is that the old Property Information and Fixtures and Fittings forms, beloved by generations of solicitors, will still have to be filled in as well!
Some of the more professional estate agents recognise this, and already provide an enhanced service that includes help with these forms. And it can get real results. For example, agents belonging to team, who go one step further in offering a “Homefile Prepared” service, have reported fewer fall-throughs and an average time saving on transactions of 10 days.

Now that is something worth bearing in mind!