Camilla Dell

Q.Dear Camilla, Hips were originally introduced to protect buyers, now that they have been abolished what protection do buyers have?

A. HOME Information Packs (Hips) were initially put in place to help buyers find out important information about the properties they were buying and to stop sales falling through once certain issues were discovered. Originally, the plan was to include a mini-survey or home condition report to help buyers identify structural problems or hidden problems such as subsidence.

However the Hips finally implemented by the government only included documents such as a sales statement, local searches and evidence of titles. This was due to the expense and mortgage companies still insisted on carrying out their own surveys. The most significant development was the energy performance certificate, which is still mandatory under EU law if you want to sell or rent a property in the UK.

One advantage to Hips was that they were expensive, which stopped a few speculative vendors from marketing their property to test the market. With the abolition of the Hips, buyers must now pay for what are known as “local searches”. These are to check with the local council about proposed planning regulations in the area surrounding the property and can take up to four weeks in some cases – previously the seller was required to do these checks as part of the Hips documentation.

In terms of protection, buyers will still need to ensure they use a qualified conveyancing solicitor who is responsible for legally transferring ownership of a property from the seller to the buyer. Conveyancing also includes the various searches and checks and any final tasks following the sale. Most solicitors will offer conveyancing but it is advisable to use a recognised firm. Your lender will also insist on a survey or homebuyers’ report to ensure the property is in good condition and a valuation to determine whether you are paying the correct price.

Q.Dear Camilla, prime central London is very appealing but the prices are too high for my budget. What would you suggest are good secondary locations in London and why?

A.PRIME central London includes areas such as South Kensington, Belgravia, Knightsbridge, Hyde Park, areas of Marylebone, and St John’s Wood. These are seen as the most desirable locations in which to buy a property and are particularly popular among foreign buyers.

However, there are still plenty of options for you close to these areas if prime locations are slightly out of your price range. For example, in South Kensington you would be looking at paying £1,000-£1,500 per square foot but if you head less than half a mile down the road to Earls Court, you will find properties for 10-15 per cent less. Equally, if Hampstead is slightly too much, head to Golders Green where the houses are around 20 per cent cheaper. Those who would like to live near Notting Hill or Holland Park could consider either Queen’s Park or Maida Vale.

These alternative areas need to offer the same amenities such as good transport links, trendy bars and restaurants, good schools and safe neighbourhoods. Also bear in mind how important a postcode is when property hunting. For example, Marylebone W1 is very expensive but cross the Marylebone Road into NW1, and the properties can be as much as 20 per cent cheaper. But you are still close to all the amenities that Marylebone has to offer such as the restaurants and boutiques on Marylebone High Street and Regents Park.

Camilla Dell is the managing partner at search and acquisition consultancy Black Brick. www.black-brick.com.