What should buyers pay attention to when assessing the efficieny of a home?

Property Reporter
19th May 2022
Question 901
"Spiralling energy costs and mounting concerns surrounding the environment are changing both the way we buy property and view our own."

Spiralling energy costs and mounting concerns surrounding the environment are changing both the way we buy property and view our own.

James Greenwood of Stacks Property Search, says: “While buyers are increasingly concerned about the energy efficiency of properties they view, there's a massive shortage of accessible intelligence available to them, and they need to know how to assess what the issues are surrounding a new home, and what the financial implications are likely to be.

“When EPCs came in, they were completely ignored. Now they represent the only received information a buyer has available about a property's efficiency, and they are basically inadequate. But they are at least a starting point.”

So what should buyers be paying attention to when it comes to assessing the efficiency of a home?

Stacks Property Search offers the following advice:

Craig Fuller of Stacks Property Search, says: “Remember, the EPC system is inadequate; it's possible to change all the light bulbs to LEDs and gain a whole grade.

“Talk to the vendors, ask to see utility bills, and ask them what they've done in terms of the fabric – for example, the wiring, plumbing, insulation, boiler and any renewables.

“Ensure your structural survey has energy needs/requirements/ideas as part of the remit; select a surveyor who is conversant in this. If the property is already fitted with energy-saving and creating devices, then you should potentially use a specialist surveyor to ensure everything functions as claimed.

“Look at an old property that hasn't been modified in terms of potential – how easy will it be to insulate windows and walls, or to install solar panels, or air/ground source heat pump? Be particularly aware of properties that are Listed, or in Conservation Areas, where you may encounter restrictions in terms of what you are and aren't permitted to do.

“If you're buying an old property that hasn't had any of the necessary work done, it's work that will need to be carried out, and it should be budgeted for. Some properties are easier than others to retrofit; specialist companies can advise you on what can and can't be done, and likely costs.”

Is new better than old?

James advises: “An old house that needs renovation is a good option because you can retro-fit while you renovate, starting at the bare bones. An old house that's in great aesthetic condition but is badly insulated is an expensive proposition; it will need to be stripped back before it can be fully future-proofed.

“A fully retro-fitted period property in a great plot will attract a premium.”

Craig adds: “A new house that has been designed properly with great insulation, solar panels, air-source heat pump, and a great EPC is fantastic. But don't assume that all new houses meet these criteria. A new home that still needs lots of work done is the worst of both worlds. Buy one at your peril.”

So is there any good news?

James comments: “Rather like the electric car situation, we expect products to improve when it comes to retro-fitting property. Things will almost certainly get cheaper and easier as the industry develops, and more people will offer the work so it should get more competitive and accessible.

“Specialists can be tricky to find at the moment, but it won't be long before it's much easier to get a retro-fit recommendation, estimate and the work done. We are currently in relatively un-seeded ground.

“Work doesn't all need to be done immediately, so homeowners who have property that needs to be brought up to new standards can look at getting the work done over a period of years and budget accordingly.

He concludes: “But all property buyers should have insulation and renewables on their checklist when they are buying. It may be possible to use it as a bargaining tool. And look at keeping some budget back to spend on necessary works. This isn't an issue that's going to go away!”

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