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This week in Mortgages

The controversy over home information packs will just not go away and the news that property website Rightmove has dumped its Hips proposition has added ammunition to those that believe Hips will not happen at all.

The Government and other Hip providers are trying to put a brave face on the current debacle by insisting that Hips are still alive and well, despite the shock news last week that home condition reports will be voluntary once Hips come into force next June.

The Association of Home Information Pack Providers issued a press release this week stating its belief that could still be made mandatory if the voluntary take-up proves unsuccessful, after receiving such assurances from the Government.

Yet this is the same Government that in April assured the Awarding Body for the Built Environment, which oversees the training of home inspectors, that HCRs would be mandatory from the inception of Hips.

It is not the first time the credibility of Government announcements or promises have come into doubt, whether that be for loans from donors or the reasons for going to war in Iraq, so it is not surprising Westminster failed to deliver on its promise to ABBE.

That begs the question of whether AHIPPS should be trusting the Department for Communities and Local Government in this matter, as well.

In fact, the recriminations of the recent U-turn are likely to start biting at the heels of those in power shortly. Many home inspectors want their money back for the, on average, £7,000 they each invested in training for what many believe to now be a worthless qualification. Those Hip providers realistic enough to realise the system is in turmoil at the moment, such as Easier2Move, have also said they would be part of any action to seek redress for the millions of pounds invested by the industry were such a consortium to form.

However, the chances of any compensation claim succeeding appear slim, especially after the example of the U-turn on residential property in Sipps at the end of last year, which did not signal a compensation rush.

Away from Hips, and Merrill Lynch added Freedom Lending to its growing list of interest in the UK mortgage market, that also includes Mortgage PLC and Edeus.

The acquisition is hardly surprising in a market where the big investment houses are now really starting to show their appetite for the sector, following hot on the heels of Close Brothers’ launch into the market and Lehman Brothers’ extended push.

Finally, Bank of Scotland this week revealed plans to introduce its own retention scheme for brokers from next year. It has not detailed its exact plans but expects them to be similar to sister brands Halifax’s and BM Solutions’ plans to pay full proc fees on retention business and to offer the same products to new and existing customers.

With HBOS taking such a lead in the retention game, other than Accord and Woolwich which have also launched similar initiatives, it begs the question of where the rest of the market is, with its biggest rival so far ahead of the chasing pack.

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