Heating options provide fuel for thought

In the bleak mid-winter, Richard Hatch, partner and head of residential at Carter Jonas, who is based in its Cambridge office, considers a time when running costs might count when it comes to house buying.

Richard Hatch of Carter Jonas

This year, the rising cost of fuel has figured as highly on the political agenda as it has in household budgets.  Earlier this year we were being urged to get to grips with our tariffs in order to reduce our energy bills and then, late last month (November), the Government called on energy suppliers to simplify and reduce the number of tariffs available to residential customers.

But when it comes to the factors involved in a house purchase, running costs rarely figure with buyers in the decision making process.

When showing prospective buyers around a property, it is unusual for an estate agent to be asked about the property’s energy efficiency and running costs.  For those buyers who do enquire, the information features neither as a deal-breaker nor a deal-maker.

This is surprising on one level that it doesn’t feature more prominently in the minds of potential buyers because an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) has been part of the essential paperwork for the sale of a house since 2007.

The EPC gives the property a breakdown of estimated energy use, carbon dioxide emissions and fuel costs based on assumptions about how the house will be lived in.

Set against a standardised model, the property is rated on a scale of A to G – ‘A’ being the highest level of performance  – for energy efficiency and annual carbon dioxide emission.

While EPCs are present in marketing literature for all properties, it does tend to be developers of brand new homes who focus more on the energy efficiency of their properties as a selling point.

Yet there is a fuel source which is commented upon when it comes to showing potential buyers around a property and it’s one which is not so prevalent in the brand new homes sector. And that’s the presence of a ‘real fire’ whether that is an open fire source, inglenook fireplace or a wood burning stove – the latter becoming more prevalent in properties in recent years.. 

In many homes, owners have chosen to make a feature of their wood burners in reception rooms to supplement the main heating system in the house. As well as the comforting glow of watching logs burn, the primary reason for the increase in popularity of wood burning stoves is the rising and volatile cost of fuel – whether it be mains gas, electricity or, as is more common in more rural properties, oil or bottled-gas.

Whether it is an open fireplace or a woodburning stove, when potential buyers are viewing a property, the presence of a ‘real fire’ source is always a talking point, especially in this, the darkest time of the year.

Yet it will be cold, hard cash and the rising cost of energy bills which will be the real drivers towards a time when running costs might count in making the decision whether or not to buy one particular property over another.

Only time and the rising cost of fuel will tell.

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