Is it possible for Energy Assessors add value to the EPC?

14/Jun/2010
Hilary Grayson

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.

Wind turbines in AlhambraThe 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.

The views expressed in this blog article are the personal views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of National Energy Services.  When submitting a comment, please be aware of the guidelines provided in our website terms and conditions.

Comments

 

I live in a very enlightened, environmentally aware town - Hebden Bridge - also named the great little town of small independent shops. So I thought it was the perfect place to ask the local estate agents (4 of them) to consider working with a local independent DEA and providing something a bit different. An EPC that the seller - and more important, the buyer - would actually read and might take notice of. My proposition was that together we would provide an extended report with additional information on stone 'difficult to treat' houses, internal insulation, renewable energy solutions etc. as appropriate, with reference to where they could find out more. I would do all the work and they would get commission. Were they interested? I could have been speaking another language. And I think this is the problem. I speak energy efficiency language and they speak property sales language! They seem to prefer to deal with ex-HIP providers, or EPC panels. I think they are just more comfortable dealing with what is basically a property-based company.

 

Thanks for this comment - on the one hand I am disappointed but on the other I am not surprised. I don't think the 'energy proposition' will initially light the agents fire, and when I designed V1 of the Domestic Property Energy Report I did not have them in mind. What I did have in mind was a more accessible document for the home owning public to raise awareness of the EPC with them. What the agent may appreciate is if we can find some way for this document to generate income for him (as up selling HIPs did.) We are looking at that. Meanwhile we are hearing very positive stories from other sources. I think this will be a bit of a slow burner - but still feel very postive about it. Don't despair just yet - three times across a persons desk before they take note! Hilary

 

Dear Hillary

You are not being patronising, you are being insulting, to DEAs.

I will reply in my official capacity next week after seeking our members views on your Blog.

Paul M Walker DipDEA, MIDEA.

Institute of Domestic Energy Assessors.

 

Well said Paul! If DEAs were just data collectors then we would just go to a house collect the data and then hand it to an 'energy assessor' to produce the EPC. We also would not have needed to shell out ££££'s on the course to become a DEA!

 

You should ask Mathew what DEAs think of NES 3rd party offers to fleece the public with, he reads the Home Inspector forum. NHERs reputation is taking a beating - stick with what you do best!!

 

Hi,whilst the Market is more open now for Energy Assessors to offer some advice on the reccmmendations report (indeed a good assessor in my view should be able to explian fully whats included in the EPC after all he/she is issuing it !!) I find the public only listen when you start talking savings on bills, basic to them... Energy Efficiency to us ,it's the whats in it for me factor if you mention how much could be saved by say as above comment "sensor lighting" even in very rough percentage terms they do lend you a definate ear awareness is the key here they warm to it very quickly human nature I suppose.

 

I'm not a DEA or HI. I just had an EPC done on my energy efficient Victorian cottage and was shocked by the low efficiency attributed to it because both the space and water are heated by an air source heat pump. Worse still, the estimated energy use on the front page was so far from reality that I have decided to contest the results and hence, the methodology. Why should homeowners be interested in EPCs??

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