Opportunities from the Property Professional Show

19/May/2010
Hilary Grayson

I have just spent two days at the Property Professional show in Birmingham, where it was great to meet lots of members and speak to people interested in joining our schemes.

I am still bemused by some other scheme’s take on the industry. I thought this was an important profession with a serious role to play addressing the duel problems of climate change and energy supply, and it's insulting to see that in the 21st Century people still feel it necessary to dress young women in inappropriate clothing in order to ‘make a point’. Call me old fashioned, but I just don’t think that hot pants and high heeled boots is appropriate attire for a professional environment.

Talking to people over the course of the two days I realised that I have one fundamental shortcoming – I do not possess the ability to see into the future. Oh, for a crystal ball and to see where we would all be in a week, a month and six months time. But this is not a power I have yet mastered – though not for want of trying. I have read and re-read Harry Potter but still cannot master those spells! I think it might be something to do with the ingredients – they are not readily available at the village store.

Click for a larger view.

See more photos from the Property Professional Show on our Flickr photostream

Adding value to the EPC

For my sins, I had to give a presentation. I gave it 4 times and I managed to overrun for 3 of those. People who know me know I can get quite passionate! Consequently, my throat is feeling a bit rough as I type this. My remit was ‘Adding Value to the EPC’.

Undertaking this sort of exercise is a good discipline – it makes you pause and take stock. In preparation I took a step back and gave some serious consideration to the issues facing the Domestic Energy Assessor.

My starting point was to consider the parties involved. I came to the rapid conclusion that there are a large number of players in the process, often with very conflicting ambitions and requirements. Even homeowners can be sellers or buyers and each group tends to have very different personal drivers.

The relation ship between parties in the EPC/HIP process

Click for a larger view.

If you spend too long thinking about all of these parties there could be a tendency to get quite depressed. But there are some positives to grasp.

Emphasising the positives

First of all, DEAs are working with a proven asset rating system (SAP and RDSAP). I admit that RDSAP in particular can be a bit crude; not everyone is happy with the idea of standardised occupancy for example, and home owners can get quite worked up when their own fuel bills do not match the indicative costs on the EPC. But it is a tool for comparing 'apples and pears' – a 1930s semi with a modern detached house for example.

The second thing to recall is that EPCs are rooted in European legislation. It is not clear in my mind quite what the new regime thinks of Europe (but then I cannot get over the image on the news last night of Nick Clegg sandwiched between David Cameron and Teresa May). As the new government beds in we will understand more how EPBD stands.

The third thing to remember is that DEAs are in an enviable position. They are in at the beginning of the process. The DEA is usually the second person to visit the property after the seller or landlord has put the property on the market.

And the DEA is (or at least should be!) an energy expert with transferable skills!

These things are all very positive, but, and it is a very big but, there is a problem! I spent the weekend before the Birmingham show racking my brains about this, and I think that the DEA is unique in that he/she has customers who:

  • Don’t see what they pay for - I don’t think the vast majority of the public see the EPC. I know that our research says that they do (our ‘Seizing the Opportunity’ report) – but I just don’t believe it.  I think what they see is the A-G graph and that is what they think the EPC is!
  • Don’t understand it if they do see it – if all they are seeing is the A-G graph and no information on the measures on how to make the energy rating better, what hope is there that they will understand it?
  • Don’t care – Well, sellers don’t care, they are leaving after all, and I also don’t believe that most private landlords don’t care either since they don’t pay the bills. I suppose I might grudgingly admit that a few buyers might care, but I think that the main driver for them is location, location, location – and what they pay for the property. I also admit that some tenants might care, but more in the context of what it costs to heat the property rather than the energy rating.
  • Or if they do care, cannot act on it – I am thinking of tenants here. If the landlord won’t fix the hole in the roof, what chance is there that he/she will lag the loft!

This is all a bit gloomy, but before you chuck in the towel, stop for a moment. Think of the opportunities. They do exist!

The opportunities we have

In summary I believe that the following opportunities are available (though I admit that not all are easily accessed).

  • Climate change and Energy shortages – these are strategic issues for UK plc – particularly Energy shortages
  • Renewable technologies and Feed In Tariffs (visit our Sun Switch website for more information on FITs)
  • The DEA can add additional services and works in an industry that needs information (after all, conveyancing is about collecting information)
  • There are increased pressures on estate agents

I will come back to these opportunities in later blog posts, but for now, I will finish with a major change that goes live with the upgrade to NES one today. If DEAs are to gain proper recognition and the EPC is to be recognised for the useful document that it is, then we need to make a start by getting it under the nose of the customer! They need to see it, not just the A-G graph, but the whole EPC! And they need to understand it.

This is where our new ‘wrapper’ comes in. At the push of a button (in IT terms anyway) you can now embed the whole EPC into a professional report document, which includes information about what the EPC is and what it isn’t. What you do with that professional report is then up to you. You could print it out and give copies to the agent and the homeowner, you could email it to the homeowner and agent. But don’t do nothing. Make an effort to get the EPC under the customers nose, because only if we work together to raise the profile of the EPC do we stand any chance of building upon the opportunities that are emerging.

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

 

what is to be done about folk producing EPC's for £25-30 which is really very very cheap and not giving customer service required due to time pressures
As its my feeling if you work for such a small amout (consider lodgement and fuel cost have to be takenout) you would have to produce quite a few per day to make it cost effective, I would therefore contend you do not have time to explain things to the customer.
People can say the "customer" is the seller and does not want to know BUT i would say most sellers are also going to be buyers so you can tell them what to look out for
It is once again a worrying time as to know exactly what will happen
I have trained as an Asbestos surveyor but would also like to train up to an HI as i feel i could get lots of stock condition work with my current customers have you any IDEAs how
I have trained myself so would feel confident of passing the ABBE HI exam its the upgrade of the NOS and the 10 HCRs to be produced 2 under supervision that would cause me a problem any ideas?? Hillery

 

EPCs for £30 and less are certainly a big part of the problem, but it's a chicken and egg situation - which came first, the low quality, or the low price? I suspect that low prices forced some DEAs to deliver poor quality, not that poor quality led to low prices. Of course, DEAs would prefer to be paid enough to allow them to spend sufficient time on each assessment to provide a quality service: both in terms of EPC quality, and in giving real customer service to the client.

Mind you, it doesn't follow that increased prices always deliver higher quality - higher prices may just lead to higher profits - but that's capitalism for you.

Certainly, we're not going to get a minimum price for an EPC in a sale/let transaction, as the arguments that these transactions should be governed by market forces are too strong.

I do wonder, though, if minimum pricing for an energy audit might be possible, as part of a government sponsored home energy advice scheme? On a similar basis to prescription charges, or set charges for dental treatment?

Hilary, how about a campaign for a National Home Health Service? One that would deliver, in the 21st century, something akin to the changes in our personal health that we enjoyed last century from the NHS?

 

To be effective the EPC needs to be acted upon by the new home owner. We will have to wait and see how the post-HIP regulations position the EPC. Ideally they should provide contact with the buyer rather than the seller so that the DEA has the opportunity to give face to face expalination to the person who is most likely to put the recommendations into practise.
The data collected for the EPC could be used by efficiency improvement contractors as the basis for quotations. Referral fees from these contractors would provide the DEA with additional income.
There is one registration scheme that is already providing this kind of support to their members - worth taking seriously even if they do dress their show stand staff in hot pants.

 

I thought we weren't allowed to take referral fees?

 

I am finding more and more clients are interested in the EPC and what their rating is. They are also prepared to listen when you explain the aspects of the EPC. What is needed now is more government emphasis on the process to get the general public a lot more aware of the need and value of energy efficiency. The Green Deal is promising a lot, but I would like to know what measures are in place to stop the vultures preying on the DEA's and the new Energy Advisors as well as the public.

John

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