€1,000 energy audit to be needed for sales of millions of French homes

The certificates, detailing work needed to improve energy efficiency, will involve suggested action only, but some experts think it could later be made obligatory

New energy audit affects up to 20% of homes in France
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People selling older, draughty homes, such as barn conversions with exposed stone walls, as well as many character holiday homes, are soon to face new €1,000 ‘energy audits’.

A climate change law passed last year will require the audit for all properties rated in the lowest energy efficiency bands F and G from March 2023.

Up to seven million homes are expected to be affected

Up to seven million homes are expected to be affected. The rule was due to come into force this autumn but has been delayed, partly due to a lack of people trained to undertake the checks.

Read more: Extra energy audit to protect property buyers in France is delayed

Energy audits are expected to cost about €1,000 for an average-sized home, rising to €2,500 for larger properties.

Audits are in addition to the existing obligatory DPE energy check, which provides the efficiency rating letter (A to G). The latter forms part of a standard dossier of certificates sellers must present, costing around €500.

Philippe Calafell, president of the ANDPI association which defends property owners’ rights, said: “We are moving towards more and more constraints. Sale deeds used to be 10-12 pages. Now there are 200-300 with all the diagnostics. We are complicating everything.” The new law on audits is just one of dozens of legal changes imposed on owners over the last 30 years, he said.

The new audit must give details of the insulation and changes to heating systems needed to raise the energy rating, how much these will cost, and what financial aids are available.

No obligations, yet…

Neither sellers nor buyers will be obliged to have this work done but some experts believe this will follow, similar to regulations governing septic tanks, where new owners have to make them compliant within a year.

Read more: Energy certificate rules could see house prices fall in France

Michael Pilaert, of diagnostics firm Aquedim in south west France, said: “They are surely preparing for mandatory implementation.

“This could have a big impact where owners prefer the aesthetic to the ecological.”

He said 30% of F and G-rated properties that his firm assesses are second homes with little or no insulation which are usually only occupied during summer.

Similar audits will be required for homes in bands E in 2025 and D in 2034. Last year’s climate change law also brought in tough rules freezing the rents, from August, of properties rated F or G. From January the renting out of the most energy-inefficient among G-rated homes will be completely banned. All those rated G, F and E will then be banned from rental from 2025, 2028 and 2034 respectively.

Problems and complications

Professional diagnostiqueurs have been concerned about how to calculate upgrade costs in the audits as these could involve structural changes for which they lack training. There are also complications around copropriété flats which share central heating and common areas.

Trade body Fédération Interprofessionnelle du Diagnostic Immobilier demanded clarification, especially as diagnostiqueurs carry legal liability for their reports.

Mr Calafell said: “They are trying to take what they call passoires énergétiques [‘energy sieves’] off the market – or force owners to carry out work”.

He said such work can be costly – for example, if windows have to be replaced – and it is sometimes impossible, due to structural factors, to get an old building up to modern standards.

Read more: Rising construction costs in France: Should you delay renovations

Existing checks unreliable

While it will not be obligatory for buyers to do the work, a poor ‘audit’ will be off-putting or they might want to pay less, he said.

Consumer bodies have called the existing DPE checks unreliable, as different checkers give different ratings – and there is no guarantee the new document will be different, he said.

However according to diagnostiqueur Mr Pilaert, in some cases a relatively small upgrade can make the difference and lead to a higher rating, as well as add value to your home. He suggests would-be sellers obtain a basic DPE evaluation and take advice from the diagnostiqueur on how to improve the rating before listing the property for sale.

Some cheap and simple upgrades

There are some cheap and simple upgrades, he said, citing electric immersion water tanks as very inefficient. “You can significantly upgrade performance by switching from a 200 litre tank to a 100 litre one.

“And if you have old-style convector electric radiators, install an air heat pump for around €2-3,000.”

In some cases, interior walls might have to be insulated.

“This will be very difficult for those who love to have exposed stone walls,” he said.

As many as 20% of properties fall into the F and G bands. The latest available figures from the Ecology Ministry showed that the north-east had the most, at some 30%, and the figure decreased further south. This is probably because, in many cases, the ratings were based on real energy usage, shown by bills.

From 2022, DPEs are based only on information about, for example, insulation, windows and heating appliances. Bills are not used, with one effect being that vièrge (no rating) DPE certificates no longer exist. They were formerly permitted in cases where no bills were available.

When they come in, audits should be presented to wouldbe buyers from the first visit and attached to the promesse de vente pre-sale contract.

They should show how, in one step or several steps the home could be raised to category C.

Unless there are ‘particular constraints’ the first step should raise the level to at least E.

Related case study: Case study: Upgrading an old stone barn conversion in France

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