Is it possible for Energy Assessors add value to the EPC?
It is only a couple of weeks since we were at the Property Professional Show in Birmingham and I last wrote a blog post, but some how it feels like much longer than that. For a start I have had a holiday – and while I would love to share with you the beauty of the Alhambra in Granada, southern Spain, this blog was not created for me to post my holiday snaps. What I will share with you though are two observations which are energy related.
The first is that large wind turbines are not noisy. There were several installations in the hills around Granada, and from a winding mountain road I was able to get almost level with a couple of the giants. It was a blustery day and they were going round sedately. It wasn’t total silence – there was the odd creak - but certainly not enough to worry about and, if asked, I would describe them as ‘quiet’. So, if there is a nimby near you, you might want to pass that information on.
The second observation is that in both the hotel and even the humblest bars in local towns, the lights in the toilets worked on a sensor – only switching on when you enter the space. In fact, in the hotel, this rule also applied to the corridors in which the bedrooms were located. I don’t know if this is regulation-driven (which is what I suspect because, as I say, it applied to all types of establishment, both the hotel as well as smaller bars and restaurants) or financially-driven. If I find out I will let you know, but an interesting take on managing energy usage.
Home Information Packs: RIP
The other reason it feels much longer than a couple of weeks is that HIPs are now more! True to his word (now there’s a novelty among politicians) Grant Shapps plunged the knife in as soon as he could – RIP HIPs!
At the PP show there was an award at the dinner for ‘Best HIP Provider’ (and a belated congratulations to HIP2Go - now ipacks2go - though the trophy might look a bit forlorn in the glass cabinet now) but only a couple of weeks on, here we are in a HIP-less environment.
The first thing to note is that, so far, EPC levels are holding up. I know that in theory this should not be a surprise and that they should not be affected because the EPC was not scrapped, but I did wonder if on the demise of HIPs there would be a tendency towards non-compliance by agents, similar to the dismal levels we are still seeing in the commercial sector. But so far so good.
Another thing I have spotted is that a couple of the panels have put their heads over the parapet and blatantly offered agents the opportunity to replace revenue lost to them with the removal of HIPs by putting a mark up on EPCs. This confirms what I suspected – that many agents, despite their vehement opposition to HIPs initially (and apologies to the few agents who were supportive of HIPs), had realised that in fact they offered an additional, albeit relatively humble, revenue stream. And in an industry driven by the need to bring properties to market it would be interesting to know what effect HIPs had on cash flow – especially in a sticky market, where commission for the sale is some considerable way down the line.
I do know of two agents who admitted to me only a couple of weeks before HIPs were cancelled that if it had not been for the humble HIP they would have gone out of business. (I think the moral of this may be ‘be careful what you wish for’).
The third thing is that the idea of the Property Listing Professional is beginning to grab attention. We have run two pilots for Home Inspectors and are in the process of streamlining some of the content and ramping the activity up. We have had enquiries from a number of larger organisations with business models that can only work if they have people who can collect sales and lettings data as well as the information for the EPC. This indicates, to me at least, that Estate Agency may be ready for change.
Energy Assessors providing additional services
And this brings me neatly back to one of the opportunities I identified in my last post – that the DEA can add additional services in an industry that needs information because, after all, both listing a property and conveyancing are about collecting information. DEAs are first and foremost collectors of data. Yes, the data they collect is important, and can be quite sophisticated (heat loss perimeters are not the most readily recognisable things) and I certainly don’t mean to sound patronising. But if you are in the business of collecting data for an EPC then you are a data collector – and, at the risk of repeating myself, there is an opportunity. The Home Inspector collects data too, both when doing an EPC and when they are acting beyond the EPC. In that instance the HI is collecting a more sophisticated data set and interpreting it. That is what sets them apart.
So the question is, what data could the DEA collect that would help either the seller, the landlord, the potential buyer or the potential tenant over and above the data needed to list the property. What information could be collected with the EPC that adds value to the process of selling or renting?
And while we ponder that one, for I don’t have an immediate simply solution, we must not take our eye off the ball (a football metaphor is so appropriate!) with the other bizarre issues facing the DEA which I referred to last time - namely that the customer:
- Doesn’t see what they pay for. The vast majority of the public don’t see the EPC - they see is the A-G graph and that is what they think the EPC is!
- Doesn’t understand it if they do see it.
- Doesn’t really care. Sellers are leaving after all, and most private landlords don’t care don’t pay the bills.
- Cannot act upon it if they do care. Tenants are not overly keen to improve their landlord's property and landlords aren’t, as a rule of thumb, keen for them to do it for fear of DIY disasters.
I think we all have a duty to address these issues pretty quickly or we will find that the only thing driving the EPC in the domestic market will be the agent looking for a quick buck from the mark up he can make, and without a serious compliance regime behind it, we might find that it is actually consumers who will begin to challenge compliance.
Controversial I know, but that is the case in the commercial world. If HIP providers had made a concerted effort to add value to the HIP by going beyond the minimum legal requirements, and agents had made an effort to explain HIPs to consumers, then Grant’s axe may have not been so quick to fall.
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