What are EPCs? A guide for first-time buyers

October 14, 2021 Icon 5 mins read
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Photo by Ashes Sitoula on Unsplash

Energy performance certificates, or EPCs, are one of the most overlooked parts of buying a house. However, they can be very important. Just what are they, and what does yours mean for your home?

EPCs: An overview

The Government introduced EPCs in 2007, as part of the Home Information Packs scheme. The Government intended the scheme to give homebuyers comprehensive information about a new home before they considered buying it.

This included a certificate measuring the energy performance of properties, known as an energy performance certificate.

While David Cameron’s government repealed the requirement for Home Information Packs, EPCs remain an important part of buying a new home.

The Government requires EPCs for all properties before sellers bring them to market, so your estate agent should let you look at it on request.

How does it work?

An EPC rates a property’s energy efficiency from A-G, colour-coded from green to red. You may have seen something similar when out shopping for new appliances.

The average EPC rating is band D, which is towards the lower end of the scale, but many properties have the potential to improve.

The seller gets an accredited assessor to look at their home and its energy efficiency. Assessors calculate this by looking at the amount of energy being used per m2, and the amount in tonnes per year of CO2 produced by the property’s energy consumption.

An A-rated house is extremely energy efficient and its fuel bills are the lowest. Conversely, a G-rated house is extremely energy inefficient, and its fuel bills are the highest.

The assessor will provide the homeowner with recommendations to improve the home’s energy efficiency. This might include recommending things like insulation in the walls and double glazing in the windows to keep the heat in during winter and out during summer, as well as things like solar panels, combi boilers and energy-saving light bulbs.

The seller may choose to undertake these modifications before going to market, then ask for a reassessment, but they don’t have to.

The EPC and you

The EPC shows the house as-is, when it comes to market. This is important, as it means that you know from day one what your energy bills will look like. Moreover, it gives you an idea of repairs you can do to improve the home’s efficiency, lowering your energy costs.

However, houses with particularly low energy ratings are likely to be a lot more expensive to fix up, meaning you’ll have to weigh up whether it’s worth going through with the purchase.

Talk to the seller

Sometimes, as part of negotiations, you can talk to the seller about making these improvements to the home, before you buy. This will likely raise the asking price, but it could be cheaper for you in the long run. It is certainly worth speaking to your conveyancer or property solicitor about arranging this, if energy inefficiency is a concern for you.

Bringing up the EPC even one letter grade could save you a lot of money, and it’s better for the environment. In the long run.

Making the changes yourself

If you’d rather treat the house as a “fixer-upper”, you can buy as-is and make the changes on your own. This will make it easier for you should you ever decide to sell. (The most energy-efficient homes tend to be more expensive by nature.)

However, do bear in mind that with some arrangements – such as shared ownership – you may not make major modifications to the property without consulting your housing association first. In those cases, you may have to simply accept the property as it comes.

What happens if you want to sell?

EPCs last ten years, so if it has been less than ten years since the home’s EPC was made, you can simply use that one if you want to sell. However, if you have made major structural changes to the home or the old EPC has expired, you ought to get a new EPC. An improved EPC can mean getting a better price for your home when you decide to sell it.

Remember: The Government requires EPCs by law, and you cannot sell a home without an EPC.

How do I find an accredited assessor?

You can find a search engine of all accredited energy assessors on the Government’s website. Simply type in your postcode and you’ll be given a list of contacts.

Alternatively, you can use Google, but always be sure to ask for proof of accreditation.

Buying an unusual home with a low EPC rating

Finally, some older homes, such as homes with thatched roofs, are often given low EPC ratings. There is very little you can do to change this without making significant alterations to the structure. In this case, you will have to be wary of your energy usage and work around the issue. However, if you are looking at unusual homes, you will need to be wary of this anyway.

Happy house hunting!

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Robert Edwards

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