The evolving role of the DEASince the start of the Home Information Pack initiative last year, many organisations have adapted their businesses to become HIP providers; estate agents have developed their own internal functions, solicitors and conveyancing operations have also gone down this route, in addition a high number of newly formed companies have appeared, specifically created to offer HIPs to the market place.
Over the last few months, there has been an increase in the number of Domestic Energy Assessors looking to capitalise on this opportunity, as well as identify additional revenue streams. At Quest, we work closely alongside assessors to support their EPC lodgements needs and as a result we have identified a marked increase in the number of assessors who are exploring new income avenues to differentiate themselves.
Many are capitalising on what they see as their key ‘unique selling points’ – distinct local knowledge, the fact they are the first to enter the property and so while visiting are able to undertake other searches or investigations, and also that with few overheads they are able to offer additional services to estate agents for reasonable fees.
As well as offering EPCs, we are seeing assessors starting to deliver full Home Information Packs to estate agents, entirely removing the administration from estate agents. Several accreditation schemes are supporting their members by offering them the opportunity to order HIPs through their existing EPC lodgement technologies.
In addition, many are also offering additional value-added services to support estate agents and to capitalise on the thriving lettings market by delivering not only the EPC, which will be mandatory on all rented properties from October 1 this year, but to provide the rental inventory and auditing service.
Again, as the assessor is the first to enter the property to carry out the EPC, DEAs and Home Inspectors are saying why not undertake the inventory at the same time? It cuts down time, reduces the footprint of having multiple individuals going back and forth to the property, and helps support lettings agents by removing administrative functions.
I recently spoke with Chris Broadbent from the Building Research Establishment and he is supportive of members who are diversifying into new fields: “In a difficult market BRE is keen to do all it can to enable DEAs and Home Inspectors to develop new business and generate additional income, and to help them develop stronger relationships with local estate agents by offering a wider, more comprehensive service.”
Brian Scannell, managing director of National Energy Services is also supportive of DEAs moves into new areas: “In a difficult industry it is a wider service offering that can set assessors apart. DEAs and Home Inspectors are uniquely placed to capture other data direct from the home seller which then can be incorporated into the HIP to move towards conveyance-ready HIPs.”
Having previously been a professional jockey, Newmarket-based Brian Russell moved into the residential estate agency sector after a couple of bad falls meant doctor’s orders wouldn’t allow him to continue racing any further. After ten years in the business, Brian decided to retrain and become a Home Inspector so he could operate as a self-employed Assessor, supplying Home Condition Reports and Energy Performance Certificates to agents in and around East Anglia.
Brian undertook his training with BRE, and despite the U-turn on the mandatory inclusion of HCRs in the HIP, Brian continued the training and qualified mid 2007 as he felt that with the combination of his industry expertise, localised knowledge and the Home Inspector qualification would be advantageous to agents.
Having developed a network of estate agents to supply EPCs, Brian felt there was an opportunity to deliver additional services to his clients, as he explains: “Earlier this year, I contacted a couple of search companies to explore the options of me providing the entire Home Information Pack.
“I had initial reservations regarding the insurance liability so I never ventured any further. When BRE announced it was offering this service to its members, I felt very secure; the backing of BRE combined with the secure technology from Quest, which manages the ordering and fulfilment of each pack, provided me with a good level of reassurance as I knew the resulting HIP would be compliant.”
Keen to remain competitive in the marketplace, Brian identified an opportunity to offer a fair-priced HIP to customers, which would help him retain existing clients as well as potentially expand into new regions: “I currently cover East Anglia, however by offering HIPs there is scope to develop a national network of DEAs to offer HIPs on a national scale.
“Ultimately, what makes me and other assessors different is we have good local knowledge, we can provide a personal service, and agents in the local area trust our expertise.”
Having ordered approximately 25 HIPs during July, the uptake so far has been good and Brian believes this will only grow over time as word spreads locally of his services; “I have set up a web ordering site for my customers to make the process as simple as possible. They go online, submit an order form with the property’s details and then its over to me.
“Using the BRE OPEN software I am then able to order the HIP components, whilst undertaking the energy assessment at the property. The system keeps my client up to date by sending email and SMS text updates as soon as each component of the Pack is delivered.”
And, it doesn’t stop there for Brian. The next step is to venture into offering his client-base additional services, as he concludes: “I have already started offering a floor-plan service to both agents and private sellers, and I have starting looking into inventories for letting agents and property management firms.
“Having already done these services when I worked in estate agency, I am aware that these can take up a lot of time in-house. Therefore, I am looking at ways of supporting my clients so they can outsource such functions but to a local professional that they can trust.”
* Tom Parker is the founder and managing director of estate agency technology company Quest Associates