85% of prospective homebuyers see having an EPC rating of C or above as non-essential, survey shows

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Over half of homeowners (52%) have plans for green home improvements over the next decade but costs and finance options are the greatest barriers to carrying these improvements out, according to new research from NatWest and IHS Markit.

In the context of the UK government’s 2050 net zero target, the Greener Homes Attitude Tracker from NatWest, based on responses from 1,500 people across the UK in July 2021, was conducted to get a deeper understanding of homebuyers’ preferences on the importance of certain environmental features and energy saving improvements.

Lloyd Cochrane, Head of Mortgages at NatWest, commented: “Residential properties generate around 15% of UK total climate emissions.

“Our research shows that more needs to be done in raising awareness of what improving energy efficiency means for individual customers as there’s no ‘one size fits all’.

“We launched the Greener Homes Attitude Tracker to run on a quarterly basis as a way of monitoring changes in consumer attitudes over time and to enable us to build the products, services and processes needed to play our part in tackling climate change and provide useful insight for all those involved in supporting the transition.”

According to the survey, more than a quarter of homeowners (26%) anticipate making changes within the next one to five years, with a further 16% planning on carrying out improvements in 6 to 10 years’ time.

However, the research indicated that more needs to be done to catalyse immediate change.

When asked, a significant proportion of UK homeowners responded that they do not have any plans to make improvements to the environmental sustainability of their home in the next 12 months (with only 15% planning to do so) and almost a third of homeowners (29%) with no plans in the next decade, highlighting that for most homeowners, sustainability is either ‘a relatively low priority or unaffordable.’

As the UK works towards net zero emissions by 2050, less than half of homeowners asked feel confident they can afford to replace their gas boiler with a more sustainable alternative.

Many of the surveyed homeowners indicated that the date of the potential ban, 2035, was too far in the future to need to take action now or even start planning to, and they would reassess the situation closer to the time.

The survey also found that many expected a change in circumstances in the intervening period, like moving to a different property.

Other common reasons for a lack of action included waiting for financial support from the government, scepticism towards the potential plans, and the recent installation of a new gas boiler.

The Greener Homes Attitude Tracker found that:

  • EPC rating of C or above was seen as essential by 15% of prospective homebuyers.
  • The majority of respondents (56%) didn’t feel confident of being able to replace their gas boiler with an alternative due to high costs
  • 34% of respondents who are looking to buy in the next 10 years regarded double-glazed windows as an essential feature
  • 36% of homeowners plan to switch to an electric car in the next 10 years
  • Smart energy meter the most likely ‘green’ home feature to be installed in the next year

When it came to green lifestyle choices, respondents were often conscious of their daily habits and the associated impacts on the environment. The results showed that many are actively looking to reduce their carbon footprint and household waste.

Efforts to minimise food waste (69%) and home energy usage (58%) were at the forefront of actions by survey respondents.

To address the key blockers in meeting net zero in the UK buildings environment, NatWest recently launched a ‘Sustainable Homes and Buildings Coalition’.

By partnering with British Gas, Worcester Bosch, and Shelter the bank is setting out to improve UK buildings energy efficiency, to raise awareness and help customers understand the choices they have to decarbonise their homes and commercial buildings.

NatWest is also conducting a ‘Green Plan’ pilot. Similar to a financial health check, the Green Plan uses APIs to recommend the top actions customers can take to reduce their homes’ carbon footprint.

Through the pilot, customers can choose to ‘green’ their home, travel, shopping and finance and can tailor it to the parts of their life they feel capable to change.

Greener Homes Attitude Tracker can be found from the NatWest website.