What’s Happened in the Housing Market in January?

Home prices experience largest increase for January since 2020

A significant number of prospective homeowners have kick-started their 2024 relocation plans, with estate agents noting a bustling onset to the year. The most recent data on housing prices, offers a real-time glimpse into property market dynamics, indicating an increase in new listings compared to the initial week of January last year. Similarly, the demand from potential buyers has seen a rise from 2023 levels.

An additional encouraging indicator is the number of individuals initiating the process of securing a Mortgage in Principle to gauge their borrowing capacity from lenders. Since December 27th, Rightmove reports that it has recorded nine out of its ten busiest days for Mortgage in Principle activities, with January poised to become the most active month since the inception of this service in 2022.

January witnessed the most significant monthly surge in new seller asking prices since 2020

The average listing price for a home in Great Britain climbed by £4,571 (a 1.3% increase) to nearly £360,000 this month. Despite this growth, the figures remain below those of the same period last year, indicating a level of pragmatism among new sellers regarding price expectations amid the market’s ongoing recovery from the effects of historically elevated mortgage rates.

Notably, there are distinct regional differences in these trends across Great Britain. To view the most current average home prices in your area, see Rightmove.

Essential Insights for Home-Buyers in 2024

Forecasted Slight Decrease in Average Listing Prices by Year-End

The transition from a subdued December to a more active January typically leads to a rise in prices, making this month’s uptick anticipated. Moving forward, it is anticipated there will be a 1% decline in average new seller asking prices across the nation by year’s end. Given the sustained strong demand from buyers at appropriate price points, a more substantial decrease in prices in 2024 seems improbable.

Increased number of new property listings compared to the same period last year

There’s a 15% surge in the volume of homes entering the market for sale compared to the beginning of the previous year, spurred by an unprecedented spike in listings on Rightmove on Boxing Day. The most notable upturns in new listings have been observed in the North East and South West regions. Although this has expanded the options for buyers, the market isn’t oversaturated with listings, as the total inventory of properties for sale is merely 1% higher than the typical market figures of 2019.

Mortgage rates have been on a gradual decline

This presents a more stable environment for the mortgage sector compared to the same period last year. As January witnesses a seasonal surge in demand, lenders are increasingly vying for business, intensifying competition within the market.

The Present Property Landscape for Home-Sellers

An encouraging sign for 2024 is the 20% increase in sales agreements compared to the early days of last year, indicating that many sellers are setting appealing prices to attract buyers. This uptick is noteworthy, especially considering the hesitant market conditions at the start of last year due to the mini-budget repercussions and the rising mortgage rates, which led many to reevaluate their positions.

Additionally, buyer interest has seen a 5% rise in the first week of 2024 over the same timeframe last year, with London and the North East experiencing the most significant surge in inquiries. This heightened activity underscores the importance of competitive pricing for sellers aiming to secure a sale this year, as the influx of new listings surpasses the growth in buyer inquiries.

The current dynamics suggest a proactive stance among many looking to move in 2024, including those who might have put their plans on hold last year due to the fluctuating mortgage landscape.

The housing market in January indicates that 2024 should be a good year for property owners.

Improving Your EPC Rating Before Moving

EPC Bromley Energy Report

EPC Demand

The demand for EPCs is increasing with landlords continuing to commission domestic energy assessors for the certificates in order to gauge the energy performances of their property portfolios.

On 1 April 2020, the MEES regulations are extended to cover all domestic properties with existing leases. This means that leases covering properties which are rated E or below will be invalid, regardless of whether they have already been deemed as compliant.

How Landlords can use an Energy Report

An Energy Report gives landlords information which is in many ways similar to an EPC. Landlords need to know the energy rating of their properties if they want to comply with MEES regulations and the Energy Report provides a cheaper way to do this. It will give them information on the energy rating before and after energy improvement measures are installed.

The Energy Report is easy to follow with any unnecessary clutter featuring on an EPC removed.

What Information does the Report Provide?

The information is presented in a way which is concise, making it easy to understand. It is generated using RdSAP methodology with the same calculations used by an EPC.

The following details are provided by the report.

  • Energy Rating – The current and potential energy rating of the property is prominently shown on the first page.
  • Recommendations – On page two there is a table with recommended measures. Each measure is shown with its cumulative ratings change. All of the measures would need to be installed in order for the property to reach its full potential rating.
  • Estimated Costs of the Property – The running costs of heating the space, lighting the property and heating the hot water are shown within a table. The estimated costs after improvements are installed are also shown.
  • Estimates CO2 Emissions – The current and potential CO2 emissions of the property are shown on a simple scale.
  • About the Document – Who compiled the report and a disclaimer related to the information contained within.
  • Data Inputs – Displaying the inputted measures and the assumed values used to compile the report.

Click on the links for further information on MEES, Energy Reports, or to book a survey.

Energy Efficient Homes – Best & Worst Places in Britain

Energy Efficient

Everest, the company famed for double glazing, has recently compiled a survey of the best and worst areas in England and Wales in terms of energy efficient domestic properties.

They did this by analysing the Energy Performance Certificates of more than 15 million properties. Here are the results of that survey.

The Most Energy Efficient Places in England & Wales

Percentage shows how many properties are rated A or B overall.

  1. Tower Hamlets – London – 29.22%
  2. Greenwich – London – 19.92%
  3. City of London – London – 19.67%
  4. Dartford – Kent – 18.9%
  5. Hackney – London – 18.85%
  6. Uttlesford – Essex – 18.84%
  7. Basingstoke and Deane – Hampshire – 18.47%
  8. Cambridge – Cambridgeshire – 18.15%
  9. Milton Keynes – Buckinghamshire – 17.29%
  10. Southwark – London – 16.64%

The most striking thing to see from this list is the huge discrepancy between Tower Hamlets and the rest of the list. Most on the list have between 18% and 19% of their properties at an A or B level, whereas Tower Hamlets has nearly 30%.

This is due to huge investments being made by the local government here in order to ensure new build developments are as energy efficient as they could be.

The next thing to notice is that all of the top ten areas are in the south east, with half of them in the capital itself.

The Least Energy Efficient Places in England & Wales

Percentage shows how many properties are rated F or G overall.

  1. Isles of Scilly – Isles of Scilly – 35.34%
  2. Gwynedd – Gwynedd – 26.31%
  3. Ceredigion – Ceredigion – 24.33%
  4. Eden – Cumbria – 21.15%
  5. Isle of Anglesey – Isle of Anglesey – 20.70%
  6. West Somerset – Somerset – 20.54%
  7. West Devon – Devon – 19.33%
  8. Ryedale – North Yorkshire – 18.34%
  9. Cornwall – Cornwall – 18.30%
  10. Powys – Powys – 18.23%

As you’ll see, most of the places on this list are more remote and more exposed locations. Exposed locations won’t automatically make a difference to the EPC results, but exposed locations located on the west side of the country do have an issue.

The top three locations, Isles of Scilly, Gwynedd and Ceredigion fit into this category.

The reason being is that the western edge of Great Britain is exposed to wind and driving rain. This makes them unsuitable for cavity wall insulation, making wall insulation itself either impractical or too expensive.

Conclusions

This data shows just how effective an EPC or an Energy Report can be when it is being used to compare the energy efficiencies of properties around the country.

In this case the properties which are rated F or G will be paying, on average, three and a half times the amount to heat their homes that properties at an A or B level will be.

If you’re looking to improve the energy efficiency of your property, click here for some quick wins.

Is it worth improving your hot water cylinder insulation?

MEES 2019

The first stage of the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) was introduced in April 2018. A year later, MEES 2019 has updated the previous conditions and landlords and letting agents need to be aware of the changes.

Main changes in MEES 2019

The main change for MEES 2019 means that from the 1 April this year, landlords have had to fund the installation of energy efficient measures in their properties themselves, in order to achieve minimum energy efficiency standards.

There is a spending cap, however of £3,500, including VAT, for overall improvement costs.

This means that the ‘no cost to landlord’ exemption set out in the Energy Efficiency Regulations 2015 no longer applies. Landlords are unable to use this exemption to prevent them making improvements to their property out of their own finances.

Third part funding may still be available in the form of Green Deal, Grants and ECO.  However if those things are not available, from 1 April 2019, landlords have had to fund the improvements themselves.

If any landlords registered their exemptions before the 1 April cut off then they will still see changes. MEES 2019 means that their exemption period is no longer set at five years. Instead all improvements need to be made by April 2020 at the latest.

Landlords not meeting these minimum standards could face a penalty of up to £5,000.

This change should now future proof these regulations. Landlords are required to fund property improvements themselves when funding is not available.  However  their liability is clearly capped.

What next?

The next update to MEES will come on 1 April 2020, The regulations will then state that MEES applies to ALL residential property that is privately rented.

This means that if a property requires a domestic EPC, it must reach a minimum ‘E’ standard before it can be rented out. This applies to all leases whether new or existing.

The EPC Certificate, how does it affect you?

The EPC Certificate – How Does it Affect You?

When it comes to purchasing or renting a property, it is the person selling the house or the landlord who has the responsibility of obtaining an EPC. However, it’s still important for everybody involved to understand what the certificate is telling them.

Sellers

It is illegal to sell a home without an EPC in place. In order to obtain an EPC you should speak to your estate agent, or for better value for money, obtain one directly from an EPC provider.

Buyers

Ensure that you receive an EPC when you buy the house. Your solicitor should be checking this. Have a look at the recommendations it has and use it to inform you what improvements the property needs. You may even use it to negotiate on price.

Landlords

If you have a property you wish to let out you must ensure that you have a valid EPC in place. Not only that, if you are asking a tenant to sign a new lease you must ensure that the property has achieved a minimum rating of ‘E’. From April 2020, this rule extends to cover all existing leases too.

Tenants

Insist on seeing the property’s EPC before you move in. This not only ensures that it has met the legal requirements, it also gives you a good idea of how much the property will cost to run. This makes it easier to plan your monthly budgets going forward.

Understanding the EPC

The basic premise of an EPC is to show how energy efficient a property is. The main focus is on the Energy Efficiency rating, on page one of the document.

Here you will see two scores, one is the current rating, the other is the potential rating. The EPC will in subsequent pages show you how to get from one to the other.

‘A’ rated is the highest, ‘G’ rated is the lowest. Newer homes tend to have better ratings with older homes tending to have ratings of ‘D’ and ‘E’. The national average for a domestic property in the UK is ‘D’.

These other articles may also interest you

Tips for improving your EPC rating

Biggest EPC Wins

Moving Home Efficiently – Top Ten Tips

Tips for Improving your EPC Rating

Improving your EPC

There are many reasons to try and get the highest possible score on your EPC. The first is to try and ensure that your house is as energy efficient as possible. An energy efficient house costs less to run, saving you a potential fortune on your heating bills.

The other reasons are in terms of actually needing to achieve certain ratings. If you’re a landlord then your property MUST achieve an ‘E’ rating before you can rent it out. If you are looking for a Feed in Tariff (FiT) when you install a renewable energy product, then your property must already be ‘D’ rated.

Here are five top tips for improving your EPC score.

  1. Insulation – The most important consideration can also be the cheapest too. Twenty five percent of a property’s heat is lost through its roof, luckily loft insulation is not only cheap, it is also one of the easiest things to install. Ensure you install it to a depth of 270mm (do not crush under boarding) in order to get the most benefit.Wall insulation is also crucial. Cavity wall insulation needs to be done by a professional company but it can be a relatively cheap process. Depending on government funding available to energy companies it can also be free.

    Solid wall insulation can be very expensive but can also be the number one saver for energy bills in older houses.

  2. Install renewable energy – If your home is suitable you should look into installing renewable energy. In almost all cases they will provide a large boost to your EPC score.Most people will think of solar panels when they imagine domestic renewables and Solar PV panels to supply electricity have been very popular. But you can also consider solar thermal panels for your hot water or biomass boilers or heat pumps to heat your home.

    When improving your EPC, if you want your property to achieve maximum score then you MUST have some renewable energy in place.

  3. Replace an old boiler – Heating makes up a large percentage of a household’s energy costs. If you have an old, inefficient boiler it will be reflected in your EPC score and, more importantly, it will be costing you more money than it should to heat your home.Look into getting an ‘A’ rated boiler and ensure that you have full control over the heating in your home. Also consider the installation of a room thermostat, a programmer and TRVs (thermostatic radiator valves.)
  4. Get double glazing – If you have old, thin, single glazed windows with wooden frames then you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that a significant portion of the heat from your home is being lost through them.Get double or triple glazing installed. If it’s too expensive or it’s not possible, secondary glazing can be just as effective.
  5. Replace your lightbulbs with LEDs – You can’t buy halogen bulbs anymore and there’s a good reason. Not only are they not energy efficient but they often only last a couple of years.Although replacing the bulbs will only have a small impact in improving your EPC and despite the fact that at first glance they seem expensive, when you learn that LED bulbs can last more than 20 years you realise that you’re actually going to save money.

If you enjoyed this article you might also like Biggest EPC Wins.

Biggest EPC Wins

I often get asked as to what is the biggest win when it comes to an Energy Performance Certificate. What improvements can I make to my property which will improve its energy efficiency the most?

This is especially relevant to landlords nowadays who are bound by the regulations set out by MEES. Before you rent out a property to tenants, landlords must ensure that the property has a rating on an EPC of at least an ‘E’.

Landlords enquire about double glazing or cheap solutions like replacing bulbs with low energy alternatives. In truth both of these are pretty small fry in terms of improvements.

Boilers

Generally people want to avoid expensive improvements such as replacing boilers. In truth if the property has a gas boiler, unless it’s a very old floor standing gas boiler with an open flue, a change to a more modern boiler is unlikely to make a massive difference.

On the other hand, if the property is heated by electricity then the heating system could make a huge difference. If the property is old or exposed and it is heated by electric radiant heaters then the rating is going to be poor. In this case the recommendation will always be to upgrade to high heat retention storage heaters or fan assisted storage heaters. The difference in ratings can be huge and drag an ‘F’ or ‘G’ property into ‘D’ or ‘E’ straight away.

Insulation

But what of properties that aren’t electrically heated? The answer is simple. The biggest gains can come from simply insulating the property properly.

Loft insulation

If the property doesn’t have any loft insulation then add some. Any can make a difference but the recommended amount is to a depth of 270mm. Not crushed under floorboards. Putting boards on top of insulation makes it as effective as the depth it is crushed to.

This is a cheap and simple way to dramatically increase rating. It’s also an easy DIY job.

Wall insulation

The other vital insulation consideration is walls. This is especially important in pre 1930s houses with solid walls. This can be very expensive but is always very effective.

For houses with cavity walls it is a much simpler and cheaper solution but also very effective and can produce a significant difference to your EPC rating.

If you require a Landlord Report or any other services, please feel free to contact us at any time.

If you require an EPC in any the following areas, please click on the links.

Weird EPC Experiences

Working as I do in other people’s houses and properties I come across things that are a little strange. Sometimes they are one off occurrences, sometimes they form part of a theme. Here are some weird EPC experiences that I’ve had in my seven years of being a domestic energy assessor.

Indoor botanicals

It’s an unfortunate truth that I have to do surveys in properties that are in probate. In other words the previous tenants have passed away. Some have been stripped bare but others are still fully furnished and left as if someone has just popped out to the shops.

In 100% of probate cases (this is NOT an exaggeration in my experience) someone has always been in and taken the TV, whether the house is empty or the rest of the furniture is still there.

I remember one house where the chap who lived there had recently died after living alone for many years. I walked into the dining room to find that it was unusually dark for the middle of the day. I discovered that this was because patio weeds (your run of the mill weeds that grow in between paving slabs) had grown so high they had gone past the height of the patio doors, blocking out all of the light.

This wasn’t the oddest thing. In the kitchen one of the trees from the back garden had a branch which had broken the kitchen window. Not only that, the branch was growing (and had been for many years) across the kitchen ceiling, sprouting new branches in some cases and venturing into cupboards.

Very sad that he had no-one to take care of it for him.

Take that

It’s the nature of the job that I have to go into a lot of places that are unoccupied. It can be quite spooky, especially in older places which naturally creak and groan as you wander about.

I was once in a flat that I knew the occupants were out at work for the day. As I would normally do, I opened up all of the doors to get an idea of the layout of the property before commencing with my floor plans.

The last door was to the kitchen. I opened it up and stepped in. I shouted (screamed if I’m honest.) A man was running towards me from the other end of the kitchen. I ducked down and backed out, slamming the door behind me quickly, heart beating hard.

Nothing happened, all was quiet on the other side of the door. No footsteps, no shouting. I called, “Hello”, my voice shaking.

I slowly turned the handle and glanced in. I had another initial shock and my heart leapt back into my throat as I glimpsed the man still running towards me, but in exactly the same position as before.

I took another look.

It was a life-size cardboard cut out of Robbie Williams.

Droppings

Yes, of course some house’s pet rules aren’t as strict as others, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the animals that aren’t pets. Those that scurry, scratch and occasionally flap. The unintended occupants of properties that most official occupants aren’t even aware of.

In the most cases you can find these in cellars and lofts, the evidence of them at least.

I went into one property where I was warned that they used to have mice and rats in the loft. When I tried to lift the fairly innocuous looking loft hatch I found that it weighed a ton. I eventually managed to heave it up. When I glanced around in the loft I found that the entire place was covered in at least 3 inches of rat or mice droppings. So solid, you could walk on it.

Still that was better than the 200 year old property where I was warned there could be bats in the loft. When I opened the hatch, splat. Face full of bat poo.

Night night

This one has happened on numerous occasions. People staying in bed whilst I work around them. A few of them are teenagers where their parents have answered the door and they simply refuse to get out of bed. This is fair enough, it is only 2pm after all…

However, on occasion, it’s the grown ups who surprise. On multiple occasions I have had the door opened before the occupants have climbed back into bed.

One time a lady answered the door before climbing back under the covers. When I went into the bedroom to measure up, her and her partner were both fast asleep. It was a strange shaped room where I had to stretch across the pair of them in order to plant my laser measure. At one point my face was a few inches from the man’s face, and I wasn’t sure if he knew I was even there.

Could have been awkward if he’d woken up.

Shadow

I do have people who insist on following me into every room and every outside area as I work. I don’t entirely blame them. I am fully accredited, insured and criminal record checked in order to do the EPCs, but I am still a stranger wandering round their house and their precious possessions.

One particular elderly gentleman did this to me in a small terraced house with a ridiculously steep staircase. He followed me into every room, going up and down the stairs.

I do the assessment in a particular order which means that I don’t do things room by room. I could come into a room multiple times for multiple reasons and I could be up and down the stairs numerous times over the course of a survey.

This poor old chap had diligently followed me up and down the stairs at least five times during the survey and even came halfway up the ladder as I went into his loft.

It was only after I’d finished and was saying goodbye that I noticed the framed picture in the hallway. It was a framed letter to him from the Queen. The shattered fella in front of me was at least a century old!

These are some of my weird EPC experiences. Let me know if you’ve had any?!

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Hot Water Cylinder Insulation

Hot Water Cylinder Insulation

Improving the Energy Efficiency of your Hot Water

There’s not a huge amount of difference between a hot water cylinder and a kettle. A hot water element is inserted into a large cylinder which heats and then stores water.  However, it is not necessary to insulate a kettle, but hot water cylinder insulation is essential.

It costs money to heat hot water and (especially if you’re using electricity to heat it) and it will start to lose heat very quickly once heated. Think how quickly the water in your kettle drops from being 100℃ to cool enough to touch. Hot water cylinder insulation is crucial to energy efficiency which in turn leads to financial and environmental savings.

It is also a question of convenience. If hot water is stored effectively it is also available instantaneously as opposed to having to be heated up as required.

All modern cylinders are now supplied with 50mm thick factory fitted foam which is sufficient to sustain hot water temperature. Slightly older cylinders will have foam fitted on the outside at 38mm but even these may need to be improved. The foam wears away and the cut outs for pipework can expose the copper cylinder.

Older cylinders may have no insulation fitted at all. If your cylinder has no or insufficient insulation fitted then it will need to be upgraded. This is simple to do and makes use of a purpose made ‘jacket’ which wraps around the cylinder. The depth of the insulation is normally at 80mm. The cost can be as low as £15 but its addition could save you up to £80 a year in heating costs.

When improving your hot water cylinder insulation it is also worth insulating the pipes around it. The sections that are next to the tank can also lose a lot of heat and are again very easy to insulate.

Hot water cylinder insulation will provide instant improvement in your EPC results.  If you require an EPC or any of our other services, check out the menu above for details of our prices.

How does an EPC Assessor Record Their Data?

EPC Bromley

The short answer is, “Any way they like.”  As long as they record the data accurately it really doesn’t matter.

When EPC Bromley first started doing EPCs in 2012, there wasn’t a choice.  The data had to be input into a database on a computer to do the calculations eventually, but it’s impractical to carry  laptop around with you whilst you do a survey.  The data was therefore collected on a preprepared form and input later in the day.

The initial accreditation company that EPC Bromley used didn’t even have the facility to enter the data online in 2012!  Instead you had to download software which barely functioned and submit it onto there.  We changed accreditation companies very quickly to one which had an online facility!

Still, writing all the information down on paper and then sitting down later to type the same information onto a database is still a massive waste of time.  Mobile data collection had been around for a long time when EPC accreditation bodies started to consider solutions for themselves.  To say they were behind the times is an understatement!

When apps were eventually produced for iPad and iPhone they were awful.  They needed a perfect phone signal, so useless for rural areas, and some of them still needed to be plugged in later so the data could be uploaded.

EPC Bromley’s first experience of using an iPad instead of paper resulted in a one hour survey lasting three hours.  This was an experience which meant that we stuck with pencil and paper for another two years.

In 2016 we gave the digital version another try.  Ideally we wanted to trial multiple versions but we hit a snag.  We had traded in iPads for large screened iPhones and MacBooks as they were more practical, unfortunately the majority of accreditation companies had only designed software fit for iPads.  In the end we only had two choices.

The first company (who shall remain nameless), had software that was provided by a third party, to describe it as poor would be generous.  Exactly the same problems as before, parts either overly complicated or overly simplified and elements of it just not functioning correctly.  Again pen, paper and a later input was quicker.

We then trialled the iPhone app available from Elmhurst.  Straightaway it functioned exactly how it should.  The survey order was logical, reminders for photos worked well and not only could you submit it and receive the EPC in seconds, you could upload all evidence and set it as ready for audit immediately.  This reduced the office work by 100%, surely the very point of doing it on site in the first place?!

The only thing that we have to use pen and paper for is the drawings to establish the volume of the property.  There are apps available to do this on the iPhone but in the experience of EPC Bromley, these only work accurately when you’re in a house with absolutely no furniture.  So in reality they aren’t particularly practical.

Once these apps are perfected however, EPC Bromley looks forward to dispensing with the paper altogether!