Should buying houses be more like buying cars?

I have recently purchased a new car. Rather like buying a new home, I had to put down a large deposit, I was able to choose which extras I wanted, and the colour of the paint and the seats, and I’m going to have to wait for a number of months before I will get the keys.

However, I was also offered a huge incentive by the government. In an effort to remove older, more environmentally damaging vehicles from the road, as part of my purchase, they are going to buy my husband’s old car for £5,000 and will scrap it. This is as much as 10 times what the car is worth.

This turned my attention to other things in our lives which aren’t as energy efficient as modern standards demand, such as our 1920s semi, which doesn’t even have cavity walls.

New homes are spectacular in their retention of heat and their energy efficiency, in comparison to older homes. A friend of mine has never put her heating on in her new build, something I am rather jealous of as I shiver under blankets on a cold evening.

With the car scrappage scheme in mind, is there more the government could be doing to incentivise people to look to newer properties, with their impressive energy credentials? The Climate Change Act (2008) sets a legally binding target, requiring the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of 34% by 2020, and 80% by 2050, from 1990 levels. Transport (not just cars), contributed 26% of all UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2013.* In the same year, the residential sector accounted for around 17% of all greenhouse gas emissions.** Admittedly less, but still a huge proportion.

I am not for a second suggesting that we should be demolishing older houses (especially not my own!). I am questioning whether the recent suggestions regarding stamp duty discounts go far enough though.

The proposed policy, reported last week here, considers reducing stamp duty on properties where homeowners have improved energy efficiency. Or alternatively, make it more expensive to sell your home if you have not installed sufficient insulation.

This is just one in a number of policies being considered by the government to help them reach their target of all UK properties having a Band C energy efficient rating by 2035.

I question whether this is enough though, and wonder whether more could be being done to praise the housing industry for their delivery of such efficient homes, and to praise buyers for making an energy conscious choice. Sure, you will save money in the long-run on the running costs of your home. But should you be saving money up front too?

Our experience tells us that energy efficiency is more important to some communities than others. But do you know which ones? At MPC, our exclusive and innovative research tells us what is most important (and most hated!) by communities. If you are struggling to find supporters for your scheme, come along to our conference, Engagement 2017, on 16th November, or give us a ring to discuss on 01225 422 243.


**Department of Energy & Climate Change (2014), 2013 UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Provisional Figures and 2012 UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Final Figures by Fuel Type and End-User, pg. 15.

This article was written by Emma Benson, Director at MPC Chelmsford.