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Consultation on the Home Report

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Introduction

Home Report

1. The Home Report was introduced in Scotland on 1 December 2008. The policy came about because of concern about the unacceptably high levels of disrepair in the private housing stock in Scotland. This was studied in detail by the Housing Improvement Task Force[1] which thought that better information for homeowners was essential to bring about change. The Task Force decided that the most effective approach was to introduce that information as part of the buying and selling process, when owners are most interested in issues about house condition and the cost of home ownership.

2. After two years of research and consultation one of the Task Force's key recommendations in 2003[2] was the introduction of the Single Survey to give sellers and buyers better information about the condition and valuation of a house. When information about energy efficiency and general information about the property was added, this package of documents became known as the Home Report. Prior to the introduction of the Home Report, over 90% of homebuyers relied only on a mortgage valuation report which contained little or no information on property condition.

3. It means that the majority[3] of houses for sale in Scotland must have a Home Report. There are some exceptions to this including new build properties, holiday accommodation and unsafe properties (discussed further in Section 2).

4. The Home Report includes:

  • a Single Survey which contains an assessment by a surveyor of the condition of the home, a valuation and an accessibility audit for people with particular needs;
  • an Energy Report which includes an assessment by a surveyor of the energy efficiency of the home and its environmental impact, and recommends ways to improve these; and
  • a Property Questionnaire which is completed by the seller of the home. It contains additional information about the home, such as council tax banding and factoring costs, that will be useful to buyers.

5. Examples of these documents can be found in Annex B and further information about the documents can be found in the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 (Prescribed Documents) Regulations 2008.

Home Report Reviews

6. Before the introduction of the Home Report a commitment was made by the then Minister for Communities and Sport, Stewart Maxwell, in January 2008 to carry out an interim review of the Home Report after the first year of operation and a full policy review after five years of operation.

Interim Review

7. An Interim Review of the Home Report, based on the first year of operation, was carried out between December 2009 and May 2010. An external research organisation undertook interviews and focus groups with industry professionals and house buyers and sellers, a postal survey of buyers and sellers, and an analysis of the housing market in Scotland.

8. The final report was published on 1 October 2010 and made a number of recommendations for improvements to the Home Report's implementation, and briefly touched on the extent to which the Home Report was meeting its objectives. The recommendations and findings can be found at - http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2010/09/27113029/0

9. The Scottish Government worked with key stakeholders to develop proposals to address the recommendations. The proposals included changes to the content and layout of the Single Survey and the Property Questionnaire and the production of guidance on the Home Report process. We will to look at these proposals as part of the five year review.

Five Year Policy Review

10. The five year policy review is expected to conclude by the end of 2014 and will have two stages:

  • A public consultation which will begin on 5 December 2013 until 27 February 2014.
  • A research study which will begin in late Spring/early Summer 2014 and report later in the year.

11. This consultation is the first stage of the five year policy review. The report on the analysis of consultation responses will be published in April 2014. The consultation has been designed to gather the views and experiences of stakeholders[4] and individuals on Home Reports and how they work in the current market.

12. The second stage of the five year review will involve a research study. The research study will consider and build on the Interim Review and the findings from this consultation to evaluate how the Home Report has performed over its five years of operation. It will also contain a market analysis to provide a comprehensive review of Home Reports.

Summary of the consultation document

13. The aim of this consultation is to seek views and experiences of people who have used the Home Report, and of those that are involved in the house buying and selling system including buyers, sellers and industry professionals.

14. The consultation is in three sections, which seek views on:

Section 1 - whether the Home Report is meeting its objectives and if these objectives are still the right ones.

Section 2 - how the Home Report operates in the current market, by exploring topics raised by stakeholders and the general public since the introduction of the Home Report, including costs, commissioning, production, marketing, timescales, access, enforcement, access to mortgage finance, redress and exceptions.

Section 3 - the content, layout and usefulness of the Home Report documents.