Log on to give fuel for thought

With the onset of the winter months and rising energy costs, Stuart Harris head of residential in the Cambridge office of national property consultancy Carter Jonas, considers a time when running costs might count to purchasers.

Stuart Harris of Carter Jonas

Stuart Harris of Carter Jonas

The rising cost of fuel is figuring as highly on the political agenda as it has in household budgets. We are always being urged to get to grips with our tariffs in order to reduce our energy bills or switch suppliers or price-fix with our current ones.

But when it comes to the factors involved in a house purchase, my experience is that running costs rarely figure with buyers in the decision making process – even in older, period properties – whether that’s in the town or the country.

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.

It is surprising 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. 

Earlier this year, it became compulsory for estate agents to indicate the energy rating of the property for sale in all written promotion and advertising material – with some exceptions for properties with ListedBuilding designations.  It’s also required when promoting properties to let too.

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 the main 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 wood burning 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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