Friday, 18 January 2008

My House isn't Energy Efficient – But why should I care?

I've worked in a solicitor's office for over six years now and during that time I've been very involved with the money side of conveyancing. I receive the money into our bank account when people sell and then use it to pay off their mortgages, put towards their new house and transfer the balance to them. Similarly, when someone buys a house, it's my job to collect together the deposit, mortgage and any other funds that are needed and then send them off to the current owner of the property (well, his solicitor actually).

However, it's been over 8 years since Mrs Nobbs and I purchased our current house – and even then we weren't all that stressed by it or involved in the finer details of house hunting, because we bought the house we were renting from out landlord. It was all very smooth.

But we've decided we've out grown this two-up two-down semi, and we've put it on the market. I'll be honest with you, the valuation's we've had for the property, which is in a very nice area, shocked me—it's so much money. It's going on at an asking price of £164950, which is close to $330000. If anyone's interested, e-mail me and I'll give you details of the agents so you can arrange a viewing. ;-)

Seriously, lets ignore my pathetic attempt to tempt one of you to buy – the business of selling houses in the UK has changed over the last year thanks to the introduction of the HIP. The Home Information Pack. And what a waste of time they are.

When the HIP was first put forward, it seemed like a good idea. Pass the burden of the transaction on to the seller from the buyer by getting the seller to commission a survey and put in hand searches. This way the buyer knows exactly what they are making an offer for before they spend any money – a great help for first time buyers in particular. Trouble is, the HIP has been watered down. The Survey (or Home Condition Report) is no longer a requirement and the searches are so useless that most good lawyers will advise the buyer to have their own done. In fact, some banks won't even accept the HIP searches and insist on new ones commissioned by the buyer. So what use is the HIP? Well, environmental groups think it's a good idea, so that all right then. You see, now it's all about the EPC. The Energy Performance Certificate.

The EPC tells the buyer how energy efficient the property is and how much planet killing carbon dioxide it gives out. (I refuse to refer to 'carbon emissions' – that makes it sound like my house is pumping out diamond dust or clouds of graphite. It's carbon dioxide - if the media is going to blind us with pseudo-science, they could at least refer to things correctly.)

Anyway – yesterday, my house was inspected and received it's EPC – a rather colourful document which politely told me that my house is rubbish, and no matter how many low-energy bulbs I buy, it'll still be rubbish and really I should knock it down and build a wooden hut. (except that a wooden hut might catch fire and pump out lots of carbon dioxide...)

Low energy bulbs – here's a stupid thing. If I change all the nasty tungsten bulbs for low-energy bulbs (which contain mercury and a highly poisonous if broken, but we'll ignore that, shall we?), then the house's energy rating will improve. But what's stopping me from taking all my new and expensive bulbs with me when I move house? My 'AA' rated washing machine doesn't count towards the energy rating cause I'll take it with me – so why should the bulbs? I digress.

My question is, will this 'certificate', which does look very nice with lots of pretty colours and graphs, stop anyone from buying my house? Will anybody love my house, think about putting in an offer and then change their minds because it's only an “E” rated property? Will anybody even bother to look at the damn thing which has cost me one hundred of my hard earned pounds? Apparently, less than one in twenty buyers are asking to see the HIP. In some places, it's less than one in a hundred.

It seems that the government has once again dropped the ball – and the sooner they drop these stupid HIPs, the better.

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