Have solicitors been won over to home reports to any extent, with the benefit of the first year's experience?

Some have, but it appears that they are in the monirity. Comment published this week has still split along similar lines to a year ago. The surveyor profession thinks they have been a great thing (of course, home reports may well have kept them in business through the property slump this past year); but somehow a large majority of solicitors still see things rather differently.

Comments by solicitors to the Society, forwarded to me to inform a feature in this month's Journal, took an adverse view by a ration of about 4:1; and a straw poll at last Saturday's the High Street Conference suggested a majority against, a smaller proportion neutral as to their effect and only a few who think they have been positively helpful. People I have spoken to directly have given a similar neutral-to-negative picture.

What has struck me, however, and it makes the overall picture harder to assess, is the degree of divergence of comment as to what happens in practice. Some solicitors report few problems with lenders; others a high proportion. Similarly the percentage of clients who want a second opinion on something they see as coming from the seller and therefore not to be entirely trusted. Judging by the sources of the comments, they cannot be explained simply as regional variations.

One point however strikes me as potentially undermining of the whole process: the practice (how widespread I know not, but liable to grow with public awareness) of instructing a "beauty parade" of desktop valuations from different surveyors and then commissioning the home report on the basis of the best figure offered. Then again, if anyone instructing a home report is aware that one surveyor as opposed to another tends to provide a more optimistic figure, that will be the one they are likely to go with.

This would not matter so much if the variations were within a fairly narrow band, but this is not necessarily the case (a range of 25% has been mentioned). Yet in concept the home report is an independent view that can be relied on equally by seller and purchaser.

Unless prospective purchasers can have reasonable confidence that a surveyor's valuation would be in line with that of professional colleagues, and is free from influence by the seller, they may well feel that they have no alternative but to commission their own valuation and the home report will not achieve its objective. (It seems also that the extent to which purchasers rely on the condition report varies witht he reliance they place on value.)

If the home report is to achieve what was promised for it, more will have to be done to underpin the integrity of the process.