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Is our fetish for period property going to die out?

Karl McArdle

February 26, 2021

Karl McArdle (pictured) is the joint chief executive and co-founder of The Property Buying Company

We’ve got a severe fetish for period property here in the UK, and there’s no hiding it.

Properties built before 1919 have witnessed a substantial spurt of popularity since 1986 – 461% in fact!

Although that’s not to say this fetish is set to continue.

If the Climate Change Committee has their way, this flame could very soon be extinguished.

To say speed is off the essence when it comes to the environment, wouldn’t be far wrong.

So perhaps it’s this, coupled with the government’s net zero carbon target for 2050, that’s caused the Climate Change Committee to interfere.

The committee recently proposed that all UK homes sold after 2028, should sit in EPC band C, or above. Criteria that only 29% of UK homes actually meet. A large chunk of which can be found in the capital.

Of those properties in London measured since 2009, 37% fall into bands E, F or G. The culprits mainly being character and period homes.

So the question we now need to ask ourselves is, can all period homes in the capital adhere to this legislation? Or could their saleability be about to take a hit?

In the first instance it does appear quite the hurdle, especially when you consider that period homes weren’t built with efficiency in mind. Compared to new builds, they’ve got a real appetite for energy.

Just ask anyone with a Georgian town house – they are by no means the cheapest to run.

Reason why, is when these properties were first built, such things as vapour barriers or damp-proof membranes didn’t exist. Walls in a character properties are usually solid stone too, without any of the insulation you’ll find in modern homes.

Then there’s roofs, which on new builds are highly insulated and in some instances even feature solar reflective tiles to aid efficiency.

Solar panels can also help new builds edge ahead here too. Even windows are now double or triple glazed opposed to the classic single glazing you’ll find on a period home.

However, all these foibles don’t mean that period homes can’t adhere to this legislation. It just means that for the owners, there’s a lot of work to do.

The best course of action though would be entirely dependent on the property.

EPCs can be lifted by anything from simply installing a few thermostatic radiator valves, to investing a large amount into exterior wall insulation.

However typically the lower the EPC, the larger the investment that’ll be required. And this itself raises another concern around saleability.

If homeowners are forced to renovate their house to meet this new saleable standard, could it lead to another wave of property prisoners?

Only this time instead of being imprisoned to their mortgage deal, they’re imprisoned by unrealistic EPC legislation.

It’s fair to note that even if the government launched a support scheme to help those who could afford the upgrade, that the saleability of their house may still be affected.

Launch a property into a market where the competition hit the EPC target and it’s likely to achieve a lower price, as buyers use the EPC as a picking point.

Partially because they’re after a good deal, but also because buying the house would mean that the responsibility for the low EPC, would be transferred onto their shoulders.

Look at this way and the only people this speed bump is actually going to help are developers – those with the money and contacts to renovate a character property on a tight budget.

A tough pill to swallow for a seller who needs to achieve a set price.

So while the meaning behind this initiative is indeed for the greater good, and the Climate Change Committee do have a valid point about the inefficiency of UK homes, you have to question their methodology.

Safeguarding the environment is a step that the housing industry needs to address – no question – but imposing what is essentially a tax on inefficient homes in order to do so, may not be the wisest approach. Nor would it be the post-Covid lift that homeowners are looking for.

Perhaps then the Climate Change Committee needs to rethink their tactics and work with the government to encourage homeowners to be more eco-conscious, instead of outright forcing them.

Otherwise, the issue of the environment is at severe risk of just becoming another ‘tax excuse’.


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