Tuesday, 13 November 2012

How can i reduce my energy bills?

Its that time of year again. No not the festive period quite yet but the annual announcements that do anything BUT put us in a festive mood. With the turning back of the clocks come the announcements that utility companies will be hiking our  energy prices WELL ABOVE inflation again at a time of year when we need to use more energy. There is the usual bluster in the news and from Ofgem but does anything ever get done? The answer is clearly NO. So in an environment when  "we are all in this together"I am afraid that it if you want to reduce your energy bills its down to YOU. Reducing our energy usage is no longer about being green or saving the environment. Its about reducing you bills and keeping our money in our pockets.

If you are in a position where you can afford to burn £10 notes then you need read no further.

What follows are some basic tips that with just a little lifestyle change could reduce our bills both now and in the future;

1. Speak to your current utility provider. Seek clarification of their best tariff. Dont let them force you to pay more than you can afford. If your not happy then shop around.

NB; Have you had a siginificant energy efficient measure installed recently? ie Loft/cavity wall insulation or a new boiler. If so ask for your monthly payment to be reviewed.

2. Send in regular meter readings. Utility companies only have to read your meter once a year. By reading your own meter and forwarding the readings to the utility provider it keeps the bills real AND raises your awareness of your own energy usage.

3. Purchase an energy monitor  or even better ask your utility company to supply you with one.

4. Take advantage of free loft/cavity wall insulation offers before the end of the year. With Energy Company Obligations (ECO) & Green Deal due to come into effect during 2013 such measures are unlikely to be free next year.

5. Switch off lights when not in use.

6. Swapping from Halogen bulbs to LED could save you approx £9 per month per bulb (based on 15p per kwh and usage of 6 hours per day). LED bulbs will pay for themselves in less than 5 months.

7. Boil only the amount of water you need rather than a full kettle.

8.Turn your tv and other electrical items off - dont leave them on standby.(Includes games consoles)

9. Charge your mobile phone before earl evening rather than overnight and turn off the charger when the phone is fully charged.

10. Turn off your laptop charger when the battery is fully charged.

11.Turn your thermostat down by one degree.

12.Use your boiler programmer to control your boiler usage and set the heating to switch off 30 minutes before you leave the house.

13. Draught proof all windows and doors.

14. If your thermostat is in the hall try fixing a door curtain and using the back door, This alone will save you ££££'s.

15. If you enjoy long slow cooked meals (stews, casseroles etc) invest in a slow cooker.

The list goes on. We challenge you to carry out an energy audit on your property BEFORE December 1st alternatively we would be delighted to assist. See what you can save.

On a final note we hear a lot of customers say "our boilers old but it keeps going" ... "we will change it when it breaks down"...."our engineer says it will last for years"....
All of these we can understand however the maths speaks for its self. A boiler with a 60% efficiency means that for every £100 of gas you use you are losing £40. £40 x 12 months is £480 per year. Boilers vary in size cost and efficiency but what we would say is that if you have a boiler over 10years old can you afford NOT to at least look into the options for boiler replacement??

Many other higher cost measures such as solar hot water or renewable energy systems are also readily available in the market place.

This blog was written by Chris at Dickens Surveyors

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

"Surveyor "- The Legal Professions "eyes and ears"

Some years ago solicitors/legal advisors would visit a property,particularly if the documents indicated that there may be issues that require special consideration. In the modern era such property visits are rarely carried out and as a result a Surveyor must act, in effect, on  behalf of the legal advisor as their "eyes and ears".

Section C of The Home Condition Survey allows comment on Issues that need to be investigated by a legal advisor or conveyancer. Such issues covered include (but are not limited to) Drainage,Planning, Flying Freehold, Rights of Way, Easements and Let Properties. Furthermore there are specific comments on Contamination & Flooding. Given that 10% of all properties in the UK are in identified flood areas and that building insurance premiums continue to rise substantially comment on Flooding is essential.

Whilst Health & Safety is a phrase that will often result in a moan and groan from people it essential that any credible report contains specific comment covering this subject. Section C of The Home Condition Survey allows comment on Health & Safety Issues. It is fair to say that both legal advisors and prospective purchasers are often surprised at issues captured within this section. From escape windows to Radon Gas, from comment on Safety Glass to Smoke Detectors. Again this list is not definitive.

In conclusion a Professional Surveyor can be of benefit to a solicitor/Legal Advisor/Conveyancer. A surveyor acting in a professional manner will highlight legal issues within their report. The knowledge that such key issues are covered in a Surveyors report will give a home buyer peace of mind and enhance their experience with the legal company of their choice.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Loft & Cavity Insulation

About 60% of all heat loss from UK homes is down to poor, old or inefficient insulation methods. Recent government initiatives aimed at drastically reducing the UK's carbon emissions enable all UK households to benefit from grants designed to improve the energy efficiency of all homes, and ultimately reduce householders' increasing fuel bills.

Loft Insulation

About 25-35% of heat from UK homes is lost through the roof. Insulation should be applied to the loft area to a depth of 270mm, both between the joists and above.
Typical Savings £145 pa & CO2 saving 750kg (Figures based on average household - Energy Saving Trust)

Cavity wall insulation

Most homes built after 1920 have twin exterior walls with a narrow cavity between them. This can be filled with an insulating material by injecting insulating material into the wall. This restricts any warmth passing between them, reducing the money you spend on heating. About 25-35% of heat from UK homes is lost through the roof.
Typical Savings £110 pa & CO2 saving 560kg (Figures based on average household - Energy Saving Trust)

Typical Savings for installing both Loft & Cavity Insulation are £255 pa & CO2 saving 1290kg (Figures based on average household - Energy Saving Trust)

Payback periods (the time it takes to pay for the measure based on energy savings)of 3-4 years for loft and 5-6 years for cavity are extremely advantageous esapecially when compared to the installation of say Double Glazing which is in excess of 20 years.

Dickens Surveyors can assist you in taking advantage of either Government or Utility company offers.You can either email enquiries@dickenssurveyors.com or call us on 01384 468568 to arrange a FREE Loft/Cavity Insulation Survey.( Nationwide availability)

Grants and free measures are time barred so it is important to make arrangements for a survey at your earliest convenience.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

"Services that kill" - Gas

September 12th 2011 saw the launch of the first ever Gas Safety Week run by the Gas Safe Register. So in the second of our series discussing “Services that kill” we will take a look at Gas and Gas Safety. Gas Safety Week aims to raise awareness of gas safety and the importance of taking care of your gas appliances. Badly fitted and poorly serviced gas appliances can cause gas leaks, fires, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a highly poisonous gas. You can’t see it, taste it or smell it, but it can kill quickly with no warning.
By taking care of your gas appliances properly you are taking care of your home and your loved ones. Follow these top tips to help keep you and your family gas safe:
To view true stories from the Gas Safe website click here
Buying a new home?
In most cases when you commission an independent survey the surveyor will not be able to comment in detail on the gas appliances. Why?
  • The surveyor is unlikely to be a Gas Safe Registered Engineer.
  • The appliances are rarely “on” during a survey.
  • The survey is non invasive
The seller should ask the vendor for an annual gas safety record which shows that a Gas Safe registered engineer has checked the gas appliances. If your vendor cannot supply an up to date annual gas safety record, you should get a Gas Safe registered engineer to check the gas appliances before you move in. This check should include the gas boiler, oven, hob and gas fire. The registered engineer will give the vendor a gas safety record which they should handover to you before you move in.
For a surveyor the lack of testing conducted by members of a government approved Accreditation Scheme is sufficient reason to justify that a Condition Rating 3 (Urgent/Serious) should be applied.
The seller should understand that failure to have the Gas appliances tested could be problematic once they find a buyer. For this reason it is sensible if you are selling a property to have a gas safety report on all the appliances you intend to leave in order to show copies to the potential purchasers, their surveyor and their conveyancer/solicitor.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

"Services that kill" - Electricity

A commonly noted issue during a Survey is the lack of an electrical test certificate.
NICEIC recommend testing every 10 years (maximum) on residential properties but in ALL cases testing is recommended “upon change of ownership”.

Electrical hazards are invisible but deadly, causing fires and electrical shocks. A defective electrical system can cause loss of life.
Government figures estimate that each year there are around:
10 fatal and 2,000 non-fatal electric shock accidents in the home
19 fatal and 880 non-fatal shock accidents in the workplace
There are also about 12,500 electrical fires in homes across the UK each year. Although many incidents are caused by faulty appliances rather than the electrical installation itself, a properly installed and well-maintained electrical system could save lives.
The Electrical Safety Council published the results of their National Consumer Survey and found that:
  • 42% of those surveyed stated they had never had their electrics checked
  • 32% of DIYers stated they had experienced one or more electric shocks while carrying out DIY 
  • 59% of people do not use qualified electricians when carrying out electrical work 
  • 48% of those surveyed did not know that their electrics should be checked at least every 10 years
Surveyors are insufficiently skilled (beyond a visual inspection) to judge whether the electrics are safe to use and the lack of testing conducted by members of a government approved Accreditation Scheme is sufficient reason to justify that a Condition Rating 3 (Urgent/Serious) should be applied.
So how can the issue be addressed so that it does not stall the sales process?
The first point of contact for the seller is generally the Estate Agent. The Estate Agent could persuade the seller to get the services tested during the sales process. Indeed this offers an “up-sell” opportunity for the Estate Agent. The seller should understand that failure to have the electrics tested could be problematic once they find a buyer.
If you would like further information on Electricity in the home please contact us for a “Free” Fact sheet.
This blog is written by Chris from Dickens Surveyors. 

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Why can't i sell my home?

A report from the National Housing Association released today has certainly placed more doom over the housing market. The report suggests that home ownership will fall by 10% during the next 10 years and yet during the next 5 years rents are expected to rise by 20% and property prices by 25%. The rate of home ownership has declined in recent years due to the level of house prices, the need for larger deposits and stricter lending requirements set by banks, the housing federation says.
This rather gloomy outlook comes shortly after the Rightmove report stating that 7 out of 10 homes put up for sale during 2011 have not sold.
With this backdrop is it any wonder that potential sellers are asking why can’t I sell my home?
The good news is that there are a number of positive steps that a home owner can take to enhance their chance of selling in today’s market.

Review the marketing activity from your estate agent. Are the sales particulars showing your home in its best light, are the photographs of a good quality and do the sales particulars contain a floor plan? Some forward thinking estate agents are also offering services such as 3d floor plans and virtual tours both of which enhance the property profile on the internet. Why is this important? Well 90% of potential buyers research potential properties on the internet.

In a flat market multi agency agreements create competition between Estate Agents to “earn” their fee. Beware and check out your current agreement to ensure that you will not be paying 2 sets of fees.  An online estate agency can offer a suitable alternative to a high street agency as part of a multi agency agreement and the fees are a lot lower.

Be realistic with your expectations. Price is still the key factor in the current market. If your price needs to be lowered then this differential can be negotiated on your future purchase.

Presenting your home in its best light for viewings is essential as first impressions do count. However this goes beyond “putting a pot of coffee on” or “baking a loaf of bread”. Carry out an audit of your property.
Do you have safety certificates for gas and electric?
Has the boiler been serviced?
Is the roof covering in a reasonable condition, and are there any missing tiles.
Are the rainwater goods securely fixed and in reasonable condition?
Are there any minor cracks in the walls that could be repaired?
The above represents a few issues that could be checked but for professional advice you could employ the services of a surveyor to produce a Home Report. The Home Report is essentially an “MOT” for your property. Alternatively you could pay for a survey on the property and market the property as “Survey provided”. Admittedly there is reluctance on the part of sellers to employ the services of a surveyor however our previous blog explains the real value of a survey compared to the cost and such an offering will make your property more attractive to a potential buyer. It will also highlight any major problems with your home and give you the opportunity to resolve these issues.

This list of actions is by no means exhaustive. It is meant to be thought provoking. Strategies to sell your home in the current market need to be far more proactive than in a buoyant market and I hope it as a least given some ideas on how to answer the Question Why can’t I sell my home?
This blog is written by Chris from Dickens Surveyors.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

So how much does a Home Condition Survey cost?

When speaking to a potential client the first question often asked is How much?
To answer this requires more than a little patience from the potential client.
Clearly in their eyes the survey is deemed to be a COST and not an INVESTMENT. It is only through having the time to discuss this fully that they understand some of the fundamentals not only in the REAL VALUE of a survey but also what a powerful tool a Home Condition Survey can be.
So before we consider the price of a survey lets look at some numbers;
The average house price is £163,981 (Based on Halifax July 2011)
25% of people that did not get a survey had to spend over £2500 to put serious defects right.
For 10% of the people they had to pay over £10,000
By contrast those people that did commission a survey were able to negotiate a reduction in the asking price that averaged £2000. (These numbers are based on the Which 2008 survey)

Even if we eliminate the "unlucky" 10% a surveys true value is close to £2000. Based on the average price above,the report is true value is 1.22% of the price. This equates to having their estate agency fees paid.

Even with these numbers some potential clients baulk at paying a fee for a survey and rely on the Mortgage Valuation. The Mortgage Valuation is not an independent survey that a buyer can rely on. Why? Well the easiest answer is to say that for a mortgage valuation the valuer will be on site for circa 20mins, compared to 3-4 hours for a Home Condition Surveyer.
A valuer will answer questions for the Mortgage lender whereas the Surveyor will be studying the property for defects to make the buyer aware.
The valuer gives the Mortgage lender a value on the property should the buyer default on payment, the surveyor gives the home buyer peace of mind.
All Home Condition Surveys are fully covered by £1,000,000 Professional Indemnity Insurance.

So now we understand more about the true value of a Home Condition Survey how much does it cost? As with most things there are variables in terms of age, size, location & detachment etc. As an indication a post war semi detached property would cost only £300 + VAT. That is less than 0.25% of the average price.

This blog is written by Chris Dickens of Dickens Surveyors.