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Qualitative Research Presentation 6th February 2004

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Title: Qualitative Research Presentation 6th February 2004


1
Qualitative Research Presentation6th February
2004
Home Condition Report Energy Section Development
Research
Presented to Energy Saving Trust COI
Communications Presented by Alastair
Burns Burns Company 00 44 208 372 3382 JN
360
2
Background
  • Home Condition Report to be launched in 2006.
  • This will include a section on energy efficiency
    performance of the home.
  • Overall objective of the energy efficiency report
    is to get buyers (and possibly sellers) to take
    action to improve the property.
  • Research was required to guide development of the
    Energy Efficiency Report.
  • Three potential designs were developed for the
    research from three different organisations
  • EST
  • BRE
  • FAERO

3
The Research Objectives
  • To assess comprehension of the three approaches
  • To evaluate communication of the benefits of
    energy efficiency
  • Money saving, energy saving, quality of life,
    property value
  • To explore the extent to which the report would
    influence behaviour
  • In terms of home purchase
  • And in terms of carrying out the recommended
    actions

4
The Sample Design
  • 8 mini group discussions with recent home buyers.
  • Split by
  • First Time Buyers, 2nd/3rd Time Buyers, High
    Value Buyers
  • London, South of England, North of England, Wales
  • Urban, suburban, rural locations
  • Flat, small house, larger house
  • Criteria
  • Mixed sex
  • Main / joint decision makers
  • Including sellers as well as buyers
  • Mix of age of property
  • Exclusions
  • Buy to let, property developers, estate agents,
    surveyors

5
Sample Design
  • Detailed sample

6
Agenda
  • Attitudes to Energy Efficiency when House Buying
  • Motivators and Barriers
  • Attitudes to the Home Condition Report
  • Attitudes to the Energy Report
  • Awareness
  • Reactions to the idea
  • How would they be used by buyers and sellers?
  • Reactions to the Energy Rating methods
  • Bands / letters
  • SAP scores
  • Reactions to Benchmarking
  • Reactions to the recommended actions / benefits
    sections
  • Likelihood of adopting the recommended actions
  • What would encourage or discourage action?
  • Attitudes to the low / no cost measures

7
Attitudes to energy efficiency when home buying
  • As you would expect, people had many different
    priorities when choosing a new home..
  • More rooms, more space, more garden
  • Better location
  • Access to schools, work or transport networks
  • Investment potential
  • Parking
  • Low maintenance
  • Affordability
  • Attractiveness
  • Low start up costs
  • Or, most importantly,.
  • That gut feeling when you walk in

8
Attitudes to energy efficiency
  • Energy efficiency was not a direct factor in
    the choice of property.
  • They were broadly aware of some energy efficiency
    measures, e.g
  • Double glazing
  • Draught proofing
  • Loft insulation
  • Tank lagging
  • BUT very few in our sample had taken any specific
    steps to improve the energy efficiency of their
    home
  • Some had installed or bought homes with double
    glazing
  • One or two used energy efficient light bulbs
  • Some had improved the jacket on their cylinder
  • And, if they had, their motivations were not
    usually to do with energy efficiency as such
  • They were driven by more selfish motives such
    as COMFORT, CONVENIENCE, IMPROVING VALUE, or
    SAVING MONEY

9
Attitudes to energy efficiency
  • For example, those who valued double glazing did
    so because
  • It was lower maintenance
  • Or they believed that it added value to their
    home
  • Or to reduce noise levels
  • Or to improve security
  • As well as to keep the home warmer
  • And to keep running costs down
  • My motivation was laziness. I couldnt be
    bothered to strip down wooden windows
  • For others, double glazing was anathema
  • Inappropriate for older style homes
  • It would spoil the look of the place

10
Attitudes to energy efficiency
  • Overall, Energy Efficiency in itself was not
    motivating or interesting to this sample, in the
    context of home buying.
  • There were a number of possible reasons for
    this.
  • Energy efficiency was perceived to be a much less
    pressing issue than, say, problems with the
    structure or decor
  • Therefore it is something people can worry about
    later, or never
  • I might take it up at a later stage, but right
    now I think Id rather decorate
  • Most people moving into a new home want to deal
    with problems that were visible or fundamental
    first
  • Energy efficiency is somewhat invisible
  • Or a nice to have not must have

11
Attitudes to energy efficiency
  • Buying a home is expensive enough, and this is
    just one more thing to worry about
  • Most buyers had stretched themselves to afford
    their home and were therefore resistant to any
    additional costs
  • Particularly costs which were not perceived to be
    essential or urgent.
  • They therefore saw it as very low priority, in
    comparison with their other concerns.
  • Its not one of the things Id have thought of
  • It comes near the bottom
  • Its not really important. Im more worried
    about Council Tax
  • You never see energy efficiency in the Estate
    Agents particulars do you?
  • Its not something Ive considered because its
    boring
  • You do what people can see first, dont you.
    There are more important things to think about

12
Attitudes to energy efficiency
  • The problem was that home buyers did not have a
    clear view of the benefits of energy efficiency
  • It was not a motivating end in itself,
    particularly if it cost them money
  • So why should they be concerned about improving
    the energy efficiency of the property?
  • If Im only going to save a few quid on the
    bills, why bother. Ill save the cash
  • Whilst they would agree it is a good thing in
    principle, it was rather a remote concept
    lacking in immediate relevance to themselves.
  • Its also about what you want to do with the
    house. Ive sanded all the floors and varnished
    them, so I know its going to be colder than if I
    had carpets
  • In part this was because of lack of knowledge and
    information on the subject
  • Something that the Energy Report begins to
    address
  • But it was also because they failed to connect
    energy efficiency with clear and motivating
    benefits to themselves

13
Attitudes to energy efficiency
  • As a result, energy efficiency was perceived as
  • Something imposed, rather than something they
    would do by choice
  • An issue being pushed by local and national
    government, for its own ends
  • A global problem to be dealt with by countries,
    rather than something that was relevant and
    beneficial to individuals
  • So, what benefits could motivate greater interest
    and action?
  • The potential benefits fell into four main areas
  • Helping the environment
  • Improving comfort
  • Investing in property value
  • Reducing running costs

14
Attitudes to energy efficiency
  • The most obvious assumed benefit of energy
    efficiency was to help the environment
  • Through reducing emissions.
  • This was a familiar issue. Many respondents
    regarded themselves as environmentally aware
  • Particularly younger home buyers who had been
    educated to be concerned
  • Many paid lip service to the idea
  • Id like to help the environment, but I cant
    afford to
  • Yet it was striking that even they confessed that
    in the context of buying a home - the
    environmental issue alone would not compel them
    to action
  • They, like the other respondents, placed helping
    the environment at the bottom of their list of
    benefits.
  • It doesnt mean were environmentally
    unfriendly. But for the purposes of this it is
    low priority. We recycle things. We do other
    things

15
Attitudes to energy efficiency
  • It seems that buying houses brings out the
    selfish streak in people
  • They really want to know what is in it for
    themselves
  • A vague and long term benefit to the community
    was not enough
  • Its because its not actually telling you its
    doing anything for you. The other ones offer
    something in it for you.
  • I think people are quite selfish and as long as
    they can get something out of it themselves,
    theyll do it. Not just for the environments
    sake.
  • A number of possible reasons for this
  • They did not see a clear and compelling
    connection between home energy consumption and
    carbon emissions
  • They did not think of homes emitting anything
    much in comparison with, say, cars
  • And, if they do, it is invisible
  • So it is less easy to tell whether you are
    causing more or less pollution (unlike driving a
    gas guzzling car)
  • So, the relationship between energy use and
    pollution was not as clear for homes

16
Attitudes to energy efficiency
  • Even if they did understand this connection, they
    argued that their contribution was insignificant
  • What they did in their home would not make any
    difference
  • The environmental issue was also taken to be long
    term
  • Something that might have an impact some time in
    the distant future
  • Therefore it was not pressing and immediate in
    the context of buying a home
  • We know it on a logical level, but we dont feel
    anything about it
  • We know at the back of minds that for the next
    generation it will have an impact but its too
    ethereal now.
  • Some also rationalised their lack of motivation
    on the grounds that the case for global warming
    was not proven

17
Attitudes to energy efficiency
  • They also saw this as an issue that had to be
    tackled at a national and global level not by
    them as individuals.
  • There was considerable cynicism about the actions
    being taken in the opposite direction e.g.
  • M25 road widening
  • More runways
  • USA failure to agree to emission reductions
  • Just look at the USA. Theyve moved factories
    to Mexico to reduce their emissions but they
    pollute somewhere else instead
  • How much does a coal fired power station pump
    out and what are we doing about nuclear energy?
    Decommissioning.
  • Theyre trying to encourage you to do things but
    theyre not doing anything themselves. Its got
    to go both ways.

18
Attitudes to energy efficiency
  • As a result, there was a danger that home buyers
    could see the pressure to improve energy
    efficiency as a Government agenda
  • To help the Government meet its targets
  • At the expense of, rather than to benefit the
    home owner
  • Helping the Government to meet its commitment to
    reduce emissions was not in itself a motivation
  • It smacked of nanny state to some
  • So, at a rational level, helping the
    environment was not sufficiently motivating to
    prompt home buyers to want to make improvements
    to energy efficiency.

19
Attitudes to energy efficiency
  • However, helping the environment was still a
    potentially powerful motivation at an emotional
    level
  • People would like to think they are doing their
    bit
  • When the reality is pointed out, it does prompt a
    sense of guilt
  • The issue is that they are more likely to help
    the environment if it does not cost them or
    involve significant sacrifices
  • E.g. the small, no or low cost ideas mentioned in
    the reports
  • Or if, in doing something that will benefit
    themselves, they are also doing something that
    helps the environment
  • This is a powerful combination
  • It provides emotional as well as rational
    justification (and reward) for taking action

20
Attitudes to energy efficiency
  • So the message should be
  • Do this to save yourself money, and by the way
    it will help the environment too
  • NOT
  • Do this because its less harmful to the
    environment, and it saves you money too.
  • (The reports tended to communicate the latter
    message)

21
Attitudes to energy efficiency
  • Another logical benefit of energy efficiency is
    improved comfort
  • Through reducing heat loss
  • This connection was clear and easy to understand
  • For many respondents particularly women, those
    with young children and older, more affluent home
    buyers comfort was a key requirement
  • The need for high levels of comfort had
    influenced decisions about property
  • It prompted some to install double glazing, or
    choose houses with it
  • It was a factor in choice of a new build home
    rather than a draughty older home
  • It persuaded some to replace old boilers,
    insulate lofts, or draught proof doors

22
Attitudes to energy efficiency
  • Theres nothing worse than getting draughts
    through the front door. It was important to me
    because I dont like being cold
  • I wanted gas central heating because I had coal
    fires in my last house. It wasnt energy
    efficiency, it was comfort really
  • But, even though comfort was highly desirable to
    some, it did not necessarily provide a strong
    motivator for making energy efficiency
    improvements.
  • Im quite cold and I like to keep the house very
    warm. I want hot water on demand all day. But
    we dont really care that it costs more. Its
    just that there is hot water all the time
  • Reasons for this

23
Attitudes to energy efficiency
  • People can be comfortable without being energy
    efficient
  • They just turn up the thermostat
  • So comfort can be linked with increased energy
    use, not less
  • If its cold, you turn up the central heating
  • If people are already comfortable, they see no
    great need to make improvements
  • If they have enough hot water and warmth, why
    worry?
  • Chances are youre comfortable already, so why
    spend 4,000 for more comfort if youre already
    in a house thats comfortable?
  • Comfort is also relative
  • One persons comfort is another persons stuffy
  • It is about suiting the environment to your taste

24
Attitudes to energy efficiency
  • Comfort was also a relatively minor issue to some
    First Time buyers
  • They were prepared to put up with some discomfort
    if it meant an affordable price for the property
  • You just put another jumper on
  • Of course, in extreme conditions, it will prompt
    action
  • But not all home buyers will consider that they
    are buying an uncomfortable home
  • Comfort is also an issue that becomes apparent
    after moving in
  • It is hard to establish comfort levels prior to
    purchase
  • (Although, of course, that is something that the
    Energy Report will help to achieve)

25
Attitudes to energy efficiency
  • So, comfort is an important factor for some
    purchasers
  • It will even prompt some to take energy
    efficiency improvements in more extreme
    conditions
  • But it is not a particularly strong motivator for
    those living in acceptable comfort
  • Therefore it could be used as an implied or
    secondary benefit of energy efficiency
  • Rather than a lead rational benefit

26
Attitudes to energy efficiency
  • Improving the value of the home was a further
    potential benefit of making energy saving
    improvements
  • The saleability of the house would be a
    motivation, if you could go up a band.
  • For some, the motivation for making improvements
    was to modernise the home
  • And, hopefully, raise its value in the eyes of a
    potential purchaser
  • As well as minimising on-going maintenance by
    renewing old items such as windows and boilers
  • The motivation here was not really to do with
    energy efficiency
  • More to do with making sure that everything has
    been done that could be done
  • Energy efficiency is a side effect
  • Therefore it will apply to some (more visible)
    improvements (such as windows and central
    heating) rather than the less obvious items

27
Attitudes to energy efficiency
  • The issue with this benefit was that it appealed
    primarily to the more affluent vendors, rather
    than buyers
  • Vendors who could afford to invest in the
    property and make improvements
  • First time buyers, and others who had stretched
    their finances to buy, would like to be in a
    position to increase the value of their property
  • But lacked the cash to invest
  • Potentially, the Energy Report would have an
    impact here
  • By making energy efficiency part of the currency
    of negotiation
  • This will raise its importance to both buyers and
    vendors
  • And perhaps motivate more to improve energy
    efficiency in order to make a property easier to
    sell

28
Attitudes to energy efficiency
  • The final, and by far the most motivating benefit
    of energy efficiency was Reducing running
    costs.
  • This was a logical and credible benefit of energy
    efficiency
  • Although, without the report, hard to quantify
  • Respondents saw a clear link between energy
    efficiency and the end benefit of saving money,
    as a result of lower utility bills.
  • This had the most universal appeal of all the
    potential benefits and was ranked above comfort,
    property value and the environment by almost all
    respondents.
  • Whats really relevant is your gas and
    electricity bill. Youre paying higher bills if
    you are in a G vs in a B. Keeping monthly bills
    down is the benefit

29
Attitudes to energy efficiency
  • Running costs were particularly important to
    first time buyers
  • On a tight budget after moving in
  • Who were keen to know what expenditure to expect
  • And were worried about unexpectedly high bills
  • 2nd/3rd time buyers who had moved to bigger
    houses were also highly motivated by this
  • Again, they were expecting bigger bills than they
    were used to
  • And this could strain budgets
  • We stretched ourselves to buy this house so
    running costs matter. Ive never had to think of
    it before
  • It was also very motivating to older home buyers
  • Particularly those who were planning for
    retirement
  • And who were aiming for low running-cost, low
    maintenance housing

30
Attitudes to energy efficiency
  • The issues with this approach were
  • The savings are difficult to quantify
  • How do they unravel what to attribute to energy
    saving and what to seasonal fluctuations?
  • The Energy Report had an important role here in
    terms of quantifying the potential savings
  • Without this, buyers had no way of assessing
    whether energy efficiency measures would really
    help
  • If it said it will cost 50 a month more to live
    in a house which is E rated vs A efficiency, that
    would be more interesting

31
Attitudes to energy efficiency
  • The benefits are easily outweighed by the short
    term capital cost
  • This story is about SAVING not INVESTMENT
  • It therefore suits best the lower cost
    improvements
  • E.g loft insulation, lagging, draught proofing
  • If the pay back is too long, it can de-motivate
  • If this is the case, the saving on running costs
    may in fact be minimal.

32
Implications
  • From the home buyers point of view, the
    hierarchy of benefits is therefore
  • REDUCED RUNNING COSTS
  • IMPROVED COMFORT
  • ADDING VALUE TO THE PROPERTY / GREATER
    SALEABILITY
  • HELPING THE ENVIRONMENT
  • No single motivator serves all people or
    situations
  • Each has a different effect on parts of the
    target audience
  • Therefore, a combination of these is needed in
    the story
  • Leading with reduced running costs as the
    rational proposition
  • But with comfort and helping the environment
    as emotional supports

33
Implications
  • The hierarchy of benefits as presented by the
    Energy Reports did not match this
  • The benefits communicated by the Reports were
  • SAVE ENERGY
  • HELP THE ENVIRONMENT
  • REDUCE RUNNING COSTS
  • Very little emphasis on either Comfort or Adding
    value.

34
Attitudes to the Home Condition Report
  • There was some but not strong - awareness of
    the Sellers Pack idea
  • One or two per group had heard of it
  • Gleaned from newspaper and TV reports
  • Is it something to do with the business of the
    seller doing the survey?
  • Little was known about the specifics of
  • What this pack would contain
  • When it would be provided to the buyer
  • How much it would cost
  • Some assumed that it was part of a wider plan to
    align the English / Welsh system with Scotland
  • Is it so buyers cant withdraw their offer like
    they do in Scotland?

35
Attitudes to the HCR
  • When explained, the HCR was thought to be a good
    idea, broadly
  • Main perceived benefits, from a buyers point of
    view
  • Sellers will have to be serious about marketing
    their property
  • It will stop people putting their house on the
    market just to test the market because its going
    to cost them 1,000 to do so
  • It will slow down the market
  • Reduces wasted expense if the sale falls through
    (something that many had experienced)
  • Surveyors sell the same survey over and over
  • You get a lot of unused surveys that are no good
    to anyone
  • Forces vendors to be more transparent about the
    condition of their property
  • Its fairer than the current system
  • For many,the HCR would give them a much more
    thorough survey than the one they would pay for
    themselves
  • Particularly those buying newer or lower priced
    properties
  • Some went for the minimum option to satisfy the
    lender
  • Otherwise, many used friends or relatives in the
    business to advise them on the structure

36
Attitudes to the HCR
  • Perceived benefits from a vendors point of view
  • Potential buyers will be aware of the property
    condition up front, so make their offer in this
    knowledge
  • Less scope for buyers to demand a reduction in
    the price at a later stage
  • Therefore greater likelihood of serious offers
    and the sale going through
  • Potentially, it should speed up the process of
    selling
  • The problem with selling is that it all crumbles
    when the survey is done. This will be done first
    so that everyone will know where they stand and
    it will be taken into account in the price. It
    stops people asking for money off the price.

37
Attitudes to the HCR
  • Overall, therefore, it was perceived to be a
    good thing.
  • There were, however, some potential issues..
  • Some scepticism about the independence of the
    survey if carried out on behalf of the vendor not
    buyer
  • (Levels of trust of surveyors was not very high)
  • There is a risk of the surveyor saying well
    make it look good, if they seller is paying.
    Its like a dodgy MOT.
  • Reassurance about the credentials and
    independence of the surveyor was thought
    essential
  • I wouldnt trust someone elses survey. Theyll
    be working for the vendor, not you
  • Some felt that they would still do their own
    survey, regardless
  • Particularly those buying more expensive
    properties or older properties
  • Youll end up having the survey done twice
    its another one to pay for

38
Attitudes to the HCR
  • The legal position was questioned by more
    experienced home buyers / sellers
  • Will buyers still be able to sue the surveyor if
    they are commissioned by the vendor?
  • Have you got protection as a buyer if it is
    inaccurate?
  • Others felt that surveyors were very difficult to
    sue, even if commissioned by the buyer
  • Surveys are always ambiguous. They always cover
    themselves.
  • They dont do much anyway. They dont move
    anything or look in the attic.
  • There was a question about the longevity of the
    survey
  • If a house proves difficult to sell, will the
    vendor have to get a new survey after a certain
    amount of time?
  • It may take months to sell a house and things
    can change

39
Attitudes to the idea of an Energy Report
  • None had heard of the idea of an Energy Report
    within the HCR
  • None had seen or heard of Energy Reports being
    conducted as part of a survey.
  • The only people who had any experience of this
    issue were those who had had major building work
    done recently
  • And had encountered Building Regulations on
    Energy Efficiency
  • Otherwise, the information in the reports was
    totally new in relation to buying a property.
  • There were, however, spontaneous associations
    with the Energy Rating of white goods
  • Because of the A to G rating chart

40
Attitudes to the Energy Report
  • Broadly speaking, buyers welcomed the idea of an
    Energy Report.
  • As already discussed, energy efficiency was not
    felt to be a high priority in comparison with
    other aspects of the survey
  • E.g. the structural issues and condition of
    wiring and plumbing
  • Nor was this an issue that any had actively
    considered when buying their property.
  • They may have considered some energy saving
    measures notably double glazing
  • But had not been motivated by saving energy so
    much as comfort or convenience
  • However, they could see some benefits in being
    provided with this new information about a
    property

41
Attitudes to the Energy Report
  • The most important role, they anticipated, was as
    a further NEGOTIATING TOOL
  • Sellers could use this information to put
    pressure on buyers to further reduce the price
  • This information had not previously been
    available to them
  • Youd work out how much it cost to do and take
    it off the price. The idea is not to pay as much
    for your house.
  • Its grounds for negotiation if its a big item
    like a boiler or windows
  • This approach was particularly attractive to
    first time buyers, who welcomed anything that
    would help them to cut the cost of purchase
  • This role was undermined by the realisation that
    the survey would be available to buyers at an
    early stage
  • Therefore the price would presumably take
    into account the necessary improvements

42
Attitudes to the Energy Report
  • Another important potential role of the report
    was to help buyers PLAN EXPENDITURE on their new
    property
  • Both in terms of capital expenditure on the
    building
  • And ongoing energy bills
  • Most buyers had stretched themselves in order to
    afford the next step up the ladder
  • And therefore had to think carefully about what
    costs they would incur after moving in
  • A costed Energy Report would add to this
    information prior to purchase
  • In particular, they imagined that the Energy
    Report would alert them to major problems that
    might not be covered in the main survey such as
    boiler failure
  • You can take a general look around, but you
    cant walk up to a boiler and know its any good
    with a tap on the side.

43
Attitudes to the Energy Report
  • However, it would carry less weight in their
    decision than any structural problems
  • Its the icing on the cake
  • The Energy Report was also perceived to deal
    with longer term issues rather than matters
    that would require immediate and urgent attention
  • Unless it suggested that boiler failure was
    imminent (which, presumably, would arise in the
    structural survey, not the Energy Report)
  • At least youd know how much itll cost before
    you move in. If it says the boiler is about to
    go, youd think about it. But then, you probably
    wouldnt need an Energy Report to tell you that
    the boiler is old

44
Attitudes to the Energy Report
  • First Time Buyers, in particular, were very
    concerned about the cost of living once in a
    property
  • They had generally stretched themselves to the
    limit in order to buy
  • Living expenses were therefore on a tight budget
  • But it was hard to know what bills would be like
    in advance
  • You dont find out what the bills are until you
    have been there a few months, and then you
    realise youve got to cut down
  • An Energy Report could, they felt, give an
    insight into the running costs
  • It gives you an indication of what your costs
    are going to be and have an idea of the
    outgoings
  • It wont affect the purchase, but it will be
    useful when youve moved in
  • Assuming that youre moving up in size, you know
    your bills will double and this gives you an idea
    of costs and how to keep them lower

45
Attitudes to the Energy Report
  • Buyers did not think, however, that the Energy
    Report would have a direct effect on their
    purchase decision
  • Its not a deal breaker
  • Several reasons for this
  • Buying a home is to a large extent an emotional
    decision. Once made, minor rational factors
    are not allowed to get in the way
  • If you really like a house, its not going to be
    an issue whether its energy efficient or not
  • If you really want the house, youll still get
    it because its the right location or the rooms
    are a good size. Youre not going to not buy it
    because its not efficient

46
Attitudes to the Energy Report
  • The relative energy efficiency of the home is
    unlikely to be a big surprise
  • It is largely a function of the general condition
    and modernity of the property
  • And will have been to some extent taken into
    account in the price
  • So, for first time buyers, an older property in
    need of modernisation may well be inefficient,
    but it is cheap!
  • The sort of houses I can afford, you know they
    arent energy efficient otherwise I couldnt
    afford them
  • If a house has double glazing youd assume it
    was more efficient than one that did not
  • As mentioned earlier, energy efficiency is also
    perceived as a longer term consideration (if at
    all)
  • Something they can worry about later (unless it
    warns of an imminent boiler failure)
  • Meanwhile, there are more pressing expenses or
    problems

47
Attitudes to the Energy Report
  • The energy rating might, hypothetically, become a
    decision factor if one were comparing two
    identical properties
  • But this was not thought realistic
  • So, the key role for the Energy Report, from a
    buyers perspective, comes when they have moved
    in
  • Some felt that, by raising awareness of the
    issue, it would at least put energy efficiency on
    the list of projects to consider
  • Currently, it was not something they thought
    about because they had no way of evaluating it
  • It wouldnt sway my decision to buy the house,
    but it might influence what I undertook to do in
    the first 2 years. Id prioritise things that
    Id ordinarily leave as secondary. I might crack
    on and get the plumbing sorted before worrying
    about the wallpaper, whereas it would have been
    the other way around had I not had a report
    showing me that I stood to save s by getting
    these things right (High value buyer)

48
Attitudes to the Energy Report
  • The other main anticipated effect was on VENDORS
  • If vendors knew that a report would include
    energy efficiency, it was more likely that they
    would want to improve performance in order to
    make the property more saleable
  • Giving potential buyers this information would
    put pressure on vendors to do something about it
    in advance
  • If you want to sell in future and you know
    youre going to have to produce one of those
    reports, perhaps you should start thinking about
    making your house energy efficient now.
  • Id consider doing things pre-sale
  • Energy will feature once that is stuck in a pack
    for people to read. As things stand, the seller
    wont be worried about energy efficiency, but
    they may have an incentive if this is in the
    pack.

49
Attitudes to the Energy Report
  • It was envisaged that vendors who got a bad
    report might want to improve their position
  • If buyers are going to start looking at such
    things
  • Youd probably want to do something about it,
    whereas without the pack youd just put the
    central heating up a few notches when youre
    showing people around
  • Equally, vendors who had a good report were
    likely to make full use of it to sell their
    property
  • However, from a sellers perspective, the timing
    of the report would be an issue until the
    report became commonplace
  • If, after receiving a report the vendor made
    improvements, they would not want to have to pay
    for another survey
  • A mechanism for reflecting improvements in a
    revised rating might help to encourage action

50
Reactions to the Energy Rating methods
  • All three test reports used the A to G rating
    scale as well as the SAP score.
  • The A to G bands were widely familiar
  • Recognised by those who had recently bought home
    appliances and electrical equipment
  • The energy rating had been a factor in the
    purchase decision for some
  • If 2 or 3 appliances had the required features,
    they had chosen the more highly rated
  • It helped me to choose. There were three models
    I wanted and I chose the one with an A rating
    because it will save me money on running costs.
  • I paid attention to it on dishwashers and
    fridges because theyre on a lot of the time so
    you want something efficient. If you get one
    nearer the top it will be cheaper to run

51
Energy Ratings
  • Sales staff were also helping to educate
    consumers by using energy ratings as part of the
    sales pitch
  • Thereby making a clear link between energy
    efficiency and the customer benefit saving
    running costs.
  • The salesmen at John Lewis made a point of it.
    They tell you itll save you money
  • Even Argos mention it now
  • Equally, there were some who had ignored the
    energy rating when making their choice of
    appliances
  • Particularly cash strapped first time buyers
  • To be honest its never been a deciding factor.
    Its been on cost or what the appliance looked
    like

52
Energy Ratings
  • The use of the same scale with the same graph in
    the Energy Report was considered to be a good
    idea
  • Quickly recognisable as being to do with energy
    efficiency
  • An easy to understand visual display
  • Understood that A was good and G was bad
  • Those who had seen and used the rating when
    buying products also felt that it gave them a
    reference point
  • A D or E in product terms would be pretty
    poor
  • On an appliance it makes peanuts difference, but
    on a house it will be much more
  • Id expect to be in the middle of this scale,
    not D or E
  • As soon as I saw E I thought it must be a load
    of rubbish
  • I would therefore recommend that the Energy
    Report does use the A to G system.

53
Energy Ratings
  • There were a few minor issues with the A to G
    rating system
  • Colour was an important trigger for recognition
  • Although it does work in black and white, colour
    does make this scale much clearer and more
    recognisable as the same scale seen on
    appliances.
  • The colour coding of green for A and red for
    G helped to emphasise that A was good, G was bad
  • Red for danger, green for Go
  • In order to be recognised, it needs to be
    presented on the bar chart
  • The FAERO report simply states the letter, which
    was less clear
  • More reminiscent of council tax banding than
    energy efficiency

54
Energy Ratings
  • Not everyone was familiar with the rating. It
    therefore did need explaining
  • To clarify that A is excellent and G is poor
    (The BRE report did make this clear by showing
    more efficient and less efficient ends of the
    scale the EST report did not)
  • And to clarify that the scale is showing relative
    energy efficiency (not consumption)
  • This is necessary because, for those unfamiliar
    with the scale, the graph is counter-intuitive
  • A gets the highest score, but it is the
    shortest bar
  • The length of bar should perhaps relate to the
    score
  • The explanation of the scale should also be
    clearly visible on the graph itself
  • Not hidden in the text

55
Energy Ratings
  • The current position of the home also needs to be
    shown clearly on the graph
  • With clear labelling of which band it sits in
  • (This could be improved in both the FAERO and EST
    reports)

56
Energy Ratings
  • The SAP rating was not familiar or understood.
  • None had heard of or seen such a rating before.
  • None of the reports explained what a SAP rating
    was in terms of how it was calculated
  • So it lacked meaning and relevance
  • It added to the impression of jargon
  • And seemed to be aimed at a technical audience
  • I dont know what SAP means and I dont know how
    its arrived at. Theres no explanation
  • Letters are easier to remember
  • How do they arrive at these points? It doesnt
    say how they measure it and what they take into
    account

57
Energy Ratings
  • If it is used, home buyers would like better
    explanation of the score and how it is derived
  • At present it seemed to be an arbitrary figure
    arrived at by the Government
  • Rather than the product of a detailed survey
    measuring a specific home
  • As this is intended to be a survey, respondents
    felt that it should look and feel like one
  • In terms of an assessment of what the property
    has currently
  • Before making recommendations on improvements
  • The FAERO report went some way towards this, by
    listing current measures already installed. It
    was also praised for providing a summary of the
    technical information on the home
  • All of which strengthened the impression that
    this was a proper survey of a specific property
  • However, the FAERO report did not link this to
    the SAP score
  • By explaining how these factors contributed to
    the SAP score of 49

58
Energy Ratings
  • There were some benefits in having a specific
    score
  • The letter grade, whilst familiar and visually
    clear, covers a wide band of performance
  • It does not indicate whether a home is at the top
    of a grade or bottom
  • This was of relevance when considering the
    potential improvements because
  • If near the top, it would be more motivating to
    make improvements to move up a band
  • If near the bottom, it may be that, even with
    significant expenditure, the home will remain in
    the same band.
  • Its important to show the score because it
    shows where you are in a band. If its close to
    the next band, you might do something. But its
    discouraging if youre at the bottom because you
    have to do a lot to make up to the next band.

59
Energy Ratings
  • The disadvantage of providing the SAP score is
    that
  • It complicates the communication of the energy
    rating
  • It sounds technical, jargonistic and
    governmental
  • The SAP rating is therefore an important element
    of the story
  • But it needs to be explained more clearly because
    people have zero knowledge of it currently
  • Since nobody understood or used the term SAP, it
    would be better to call it something more
    explanatory
  • E.g. Your energy efficiency score
  • It would also make more sense to express the
    score as a percentage, rather than a number out
    of 120
  • Because percentages are easier to grasp
  • And a score of 38 sounds like a worse
    performance than 46

60
Energy Ratings
  • There was also a small technical error on the
    scores relating to each letter
  • According to the graphs, a home could score 55
    and be in either band E or band D
  • It would be even better if the score could be
    related to something more tangible, such as heat
    / energy loss or wastage, which people can
    understand
  • Rather than an academic scientific rating
  • E.g. Band E approx 40 energy loss

61
Accreditation
  • The idea of awarding energy efficient homes some
    accreditation was well received.
  • It would have most appeal to vendors
  • Who would use it as a selling tool
  • And, if they had made improvements, would
    appreciate the recognition
  • As a seller, I might be chuffed
  • If you had done all of this, it would be good to
    have something that substantiated it
  • However, as buyers, they did not think an energy
    efficiency marque would be particularly
    persuasive
  • Because, as already explained, energy efficiency
    is a low priority currently
  • And they would assume that the price reflected
    the fact that these things had been done

62
Accreditation
  • At a deeper level, there were some concerns about
    the idea of rewarding energy efficiency
  • It could be the start of a stick and carrot
    approach
  • The Government may also start to use other means
    to force people to be more energy efficient
  • Next thing will be theyll tax you more for
    having an inefficient house
  • Theyll put more stamp duty on you because its
    not compliant
  • Its the nanny state
  • A line in the FAERO report hinted at this
  • The information about the energy efficiency of
    your home has been recorded in the national Home
    Condition Report databank.

63
Benchmarking
  • The comparison of the homes energy rating with
    other benchmarks raised an interesting debate.
  • The idea of providing a benchmark was a good one
  • It helped home buyers to understand the relative
    performance of the home is E good or bad in
    comparison with other properties?
  • The EST and BRE reports compared the banding with
    An average home
  • And the test home score was in line with the
    average
  • This proved to be counter productive on the test
    reports for a number of reasons.

64
Benchmarking
  • Home buyers felt that if the property was more
    or less average it would be a disincentive to
    take action
  • They, as buyers or vendors, would feel reassured
    rather than motivated to do anything
  • It would have the opposite effect. Id think oh
    great, Im in the middle.
  • Youre OK then. You probably wouldnt do
    anything if youre average
  • Youd think oh well, who cares? Everybody else
    is low as well
  • Had the score been well below average, this may
    prompt action
  • People do not like to feel that they are below
    average
  • It would suggest that there is a problem with
    the home
  • If youre in the lower quartile, youd be more
    likely to try to get it up to the medium

65
Benchmarking
  • Had the score been higher than average, the
    likely effect was complacency
  • Youd think why bother going any further?
  • So, benchmarking against the average home is
    likely to diminish the motivation to action
  • Only those well below the average would feel
    compelled to do anything
  • And then the target would be to reach average,
    not good.
  • The idea of an average home was also hard to
    grasp
  • Home buyers did not know what an average home
    would be
  • It certainly would not be theirs
  • So the reference point lacked meaning and
    relevance
  • Theres no such thing as an average home

66
Benchmarking
  • Left to themselves, people would assume that the
    average was somewhere in the middle
  • i.e. in the D band, not the E
  • So it would be better to provide no benchmark at
    all rather than a low average.
  • The chart in the BRE report did not help the
    argument
  • It showed how the home compares with the
    distribution of ratings in the housing stock
  • It was also far too complicated
  • Apart from the fact that no one except for an
    accountant understood this chart, it served to
    reassure rather than prompt action
  • If they understood anything, it showed that most
    homes bunched in the middle as average and very
    few reached the higher levels

67
Benchmarking
  • A more relevant benchmark would, respondents
    felt, be the average score for homes similar to
    the one they were considering
  • E.g. for 3 bedroom semis, or 1 bedroom 1st floor
    flats
  • However, it seems likely that the same problem
    will persist
  • Most will be near the average
  • Which will reassure rather than incentivise
  • Benchmarking against the current average
    performance is therefore not likely to persuade
    many to improve.

68
Benchmarking
  • The FAERO and BRE reports also provided a
    benchmark against the average new house.
  • This did provide a more challenging target, and a
    measure of how far the property was lagging
    behind the ideal
  • Most people understood that new homes were built
    to more exacting efficiency standards
  • As such, it is a more useful measure than
    average homes
  • And could encourage people to look more seriously
    at where the property is falling short.
  • I cant believe that theres such a big
    difference between this house and the average new
    house. Its a very big gap. In a perfect world,
    youd want to do something

69
Benchmarking
  • However, the link with new homes provided
    those buying older homes with an easy let out
    clause
  • Clearly, their property could not aspire to this
    level
  • Or, to do so would involve huge cost
  • And, in any case, they did not want theirs to
    look like a new home

70
Benchmarking
  • The ideal benchmark would (probably) be a
    realistic target rather than a measure of the
    status quo, e.g.
  • The score for a home of this type with full
    energy efficiency measures
  • i.e. something close to the description in the
    EST report After the improvements detailed
    below your house could be C rated
  • However, it needs to be kept simple and clear
  • References to a home built to current building
    regulations (as in the FAERO report) served only
    to confuse
  • None of the reports gave a clear, visual
    expression of the target

71
Reactions to the recommended actions
  • The recommended actions were very clear in all
    the reports
  • It was obvious to all that the main intention of
    the energy report was to persuade people to
    invest in the recommended improvements
  • The improvement measures were therefore the most
    prominent aspect, after the current rating
  • Overall, the improvements tables were found
    very useful and motivating
  • Although there were issues with the content and
    layout
  • As a general point, it was felt that these
    suggestions should come after an analysis of what
    the property already had
  • i.e. the rationale for its current energy score
  • The EST report, for example, focused entirely on
    improvements without mentioning the current state
    of the property
  • The BRE report does mention them, but in a low
    key way
  • The FAERO report highlighted them on the front
    page

72
Reactions to the recommended actions
  • The elements of the EST and BRE tables that
    people found most interesting, at first, were
  • The potential savings
  • The typical costs
  • From this, they were able to do a cost benefit
    analysis and decide whether it was worth doing
  • It gives you the info you need to decide whether
    to do it or not
  • The primary purpose of the tables was, therefore,
    to demonstrate how energy efficiency translated
    into benefits to themselves
  • In terms of saving money
  • This was very important and valuable because this
    was not information which home buyers could work
    out for themselves.

73
Reactions to the recommended actions
  • There was a strong preference for an estimate of
    typical costs in actual expenditure
  • Rather than symbols (, , etc.)
  • Providing both (as in the BRE report) seemed
    unnecessary and confusing
  • However, the actual values given in the EST and
    BRE reports seemed unrealistic
  • To the extent that they would be ignored as
    incredible
  • Show that to a plumber who comes to fit a new
    boiler and hed laugh as he drove off
  • Theres no way you could get someone to do the
    loft for 150 these are DIY prices and you just
    buy the materials.
  • If you can find a plumber for 50 youre better
    than me youve never dealt with plumbers in
    Cardiff
  • There was also criticism of the upper limit in
    the BRE report
  • Over 500 could mean anything, its far too
    vague

74
Reactions to the recommended actions
  • In light of this, the typical savings looked
    fragile, in most cases
  • With real costs, it was unlikely to produce a
    genuine saving
  • Even over 10 years
  • If they gave you the real costs it would scare
    the life out of you
  • I added up the costs and it would take 20 years
    to pay for everything. It comes down to how much
    will it cost me?
  • Youre not saving much - 500 over 10 years is
    not going to make a big impact. When you add it
    up, its not cost effective
  • The 10 year period also undermined the relevance
    to some home buyers
  • First time buyers, for example, had no intention
    of staying in their home for that long
  • Saving that over 10 years isnt realistic. I
    wont be there, and its an insignificant amount
    over that timescale anyway.
  • So, as they examined the figures, the case for
    improvement became weaker.

75
Reactions to the recommended actions
  • The direct connection of expenditure and savings,
    therefore, seems more likely to undermine rather
    than support the case for improvements
  • Unless the figures really do support the
    contention that making improvements will pay back
    in a reasonable timescale.
  • The dangers of this cost v savings approach are
  • It is perhaps giving people too much information
  • It is open to criticism that the figures are
    unrealistic or at worst manipulated
  • It also encourages people to look at the
    recommendations on a purely cost benefit basis
  • Providing cost and saving figures in this manner
    invites people to compare them and draw narrow
    conclusions
  • The other reasons for making improvements (e.g.
    comfort) are less prominent or clear

76
Reactions to the recommended actions
  • The other issue is that in the EST and BRE
    reports the recommendations do not appear to be
    prioritised or phased
  • The tables give the impression that people are
    expected to undertake all
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