The cost of future-proofing your new home

Moving home can be a daunting project. 

Notwithstanding the need to find money to finance such an endeavour – which, in these constrained times, needs to be controlled very closely even more so than usual – there is an apparently ever-growing list that seems to go on and on, requiring your attention and wallet.

One of the last problems you might envisage as you look at what is available to buy is whether specific types of property are going to be more problematic than others. And particularly so when it comes to the question of future costs – and how much they will add up to be when you get there.

Quite often, thinking about refurbishment and maintenance costs is one of the items that is glossed over or forgotten entirely amongst the myriad tasks requiring your focus as you stampede towards the completion date.

So, how can you ensure that your up-and-coming costs for maintenance and possible retrofitting to meet future standards, such as climate change requirements and meeting Net Zero, are kept to a minimum as part of the purchase process?

A case in point

New-build homes should surely be at the top of the safe financial list, given that they have been through all the latest regulations on building, fire and safety. 

But are they?

A new article in The Guardian follows an investigation into the loopholes some builders look to exploit, particularly when it comes to the low-carbon regulations being delayed by the Government’s recent decision to step back from its green plans.

As the article notes, because housebuilders have not had to spend the time and money on implementing the requisite changes in the delayed legislation, this means that houses built in recent years may not be futureproof (for example, using gas boilers or lacking the best insulation).

While this might be manageable for now, the real problem comes once legislation is implemented (by whichever colour of government) further down the line. This will be when homeowners face the potentially significant cost of retrofitting the regulations that will inevitably become part of legislation in the near future.

The article goes on to give examples of buyers who have been disappointed with the level of “low carbon” measurements found in the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), lower-grade windows, room-heaters, connection to the gas grid, no fitment of solar panels, etc.

Bearing this in mind when you are looking at a potential purchase will drive you towards a sounder financial decision.

Because, even taking out the cost of sorting out these issues in the future, the lower grading in the EPC indicates that buyers of the property will likely be paying more for their fuel bills before that retrofitting takes place.

Not all new-builds fall into this category, of course, but the buyer should be aware that these issues do exist. And when it comes to looking at a new-build as a prospective new home, it’s worth asking the questions and asking your solicitor and surveyor to check out the property to see where it conforms with the future of green policy, so that you can factor the results of the enquiries into your decision-making.

This is particularly important if, as the polls suggest, that there will be a change of Party at the helm, since Labour wants to build 1.5m homes.

How to manage those extra moving costs

So, one of the key tasks you need to consider as you trawl through the pile of property details is the assessment of future costs on whatever type of home you choose. 

For an older property, there may or may not be telltale signs of wear and tear that need remedial action – and presumably money spent – to be taken to bring it up to specification.

For new-builds, the brochure might paint a rosy picture, but it’s worth looking under the glossy veneer to see if there are likely to be problems requiring future financial outlay.

It is always worth carrying out a survey – the information it provides will be worth the cost of the survey. And you can direct your appointed surveyor to your chief areas of concern, which they can confirm or calm your fears in their report.

Wherever such problems exist, you will have the evidence you need to discuss a possible reduction in the asking price with the vendor to cover these future costs.

And that means more money to spend on other things like furnishing your new home, decorating, or a new kitchen or bathroom.

Buying the home anyway

Beside the opportunity of getting a reduction in the original asking price, there are also several ways of reducing the brunt of future-proofing the property.

For instance, the government has recently announced that heat pump grants are to be increased by 50 per cent

There are also various grants available under the Help to Heat banner.

It’s well worth visiting the government and local authority websites to search for any such grants that might be on offer to make your new home greener. If you are looking at these as part of the buying process, your solicitor will be able to provide assistance on your eligibility.