The looming cost of living crisis is causing homeowners to think again about making improvements to ease the impact of climate change and rising energy costs, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
It found that while 34% of homeowners said they would invest in green technology to lower bills in the future, 45% said they would focus on using any savings to pay for their existing living expenses, says the body in a joint survey with data group YouGov.
This contrasts with its December 2019 Residential Market Survey before the energy crisis, which found that almost two-thirds of the survey’s respondents believed that the willingness to pay for energy-efficient homes would rise in the next three years.
The drive for greener homes is a key part of the government’s drive to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 68% by 2030 and 78% by 2035, compared to 1990 levels, before hitting net zero by 2050.
The UK’s housing stock accounts for around 14% of the country’s emissions, the country’s second-largest source of emissions after surface transport, which accounted for 23% of emissions last year, according to the government’s Climate Change Committee’s sixth report in June.
Around 60% of the 25 million homes in England and Wales, or 15 million properties, require energy efficiency improvements to meet an acceptable energy performance certificate rating of C, reported a Lloyds Banking Group survey in February.
But the surveyors’ group now says that “homeowners are unsurprisingly looking to concentrate spending on escalating household costs.”
Its latest report says that 51% of homeowners who confirmed they hadn’t already installed new energy-saving measures in their homes but would know how to, said this was because of the costs involved.
And of the same group, those who would consider green improvements to make their home more attractive to prospective buyers, 40% said they’d only consider spending around £1000 to £5000.
This figure is enough to cover the cost of some solar panels, which typically range between £2,900 and £6,700, but not a heat pump, which ranges between £7,000 to £13,000, according to not-for-profit group the Energy Saving Trust.
Rics says: “As the cost of living continues to consume more household finances, measures are needed to avoid many properties failing to meet targets and becoming un-mortgageable.”
The body adds that energy performance certificates aren’t the best measure for all properties, “as some listed buildings can’t have triple glazing for example”.
It adds that it is working with lenders and the government to look into retrofit surveys which would enlist the expertise of a professional – such as a building surveyor – to provide detailed advice on what technologies homeowners could install to help inform their decisions.
It says that 77% of homeowners say they would find this advice helpful when buying a new home.
Rics senior public affairs officer Sam Rees says: “The retrofitting of millions of UK homes will be essential to helping to meet our net zero ambitions, however homeowners’ immediate concerns are understandably with the rising cost of living, especially their energy bills.
“It is important to recognise that retrofitting and the cost of living are not mutually exclusive issues.
“A suitably retrofitted, low-carbon home can help with the long-term challenges of the cost of living and reducing high levels of energy consumption. Achieving this, however, is not cheap.
“With the UK government giving financial support to homeowners to support them with rising energy prices, Rics is calling on the government to extend this support and provide additional financial incentives to homeowners to encourage retrofitting and ultimately helping to tackle the cause of high energy usage.
“Before any significant investment is made on retrofit measures, Rics urges homeowners and the government to ensure a retrofit assessment is undertaken on the property first – ensuring that no unintended consequences occur such as overheating or increased energy demand.
“This is critical to protecting consumers and Rics is undertaking significant research to support such assessments.”
The body says its YouGov survey sample size was 4,357 adults, of which 2,776 are homeowners, who were interviewed online between 31 May and 3 June.