Dirt cheap: the decreasing demand for ‘brown’ property

You could be forgiven for thinking that buying something cheaper is better because it saves you money. But when it comes to buying property, it’s important to remember you're making an investment. 

Research shows that 25% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions come from the built environment. As the UK faces the challenge of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, tenants and buyers are looking for properties with sustainable features. 

In fact, 42% of renters consider the environmental impact of a property before renting, while 82% of buyers said they would be willing to pay more for an energy-efficient property. This means that it’s going to become increasingly difficult to rent out or sell an older, and therefore, cheaper property. Here we look at how and why in 2022, cheaper isn’t always better. 

What is a ‘brown discount’? 

Most homeowners and tenants will be aware of energy performance certificates (EPCs). As the name suggests, an EPC rates how energy efficient a property is. Houses built before 1940 are far less likely to have an EPC rating of C or above. This means they’ll be harder to heat and therefore more expensive to run and more harmful to the environment. 

With the government planning to bring in even more regulations around energy efficiency and sustainability, the demand for these houses is decreasing. Less demand means these properties will usually come on the market for less than a property that’s been built in the last 20 years. 

What about making improvements? 

Of course, making improvements to these properties is an avenue that can be explored if you want to buy cheaper. But unless you’re specifically searching for a project, this can result in a false economy. 

Retrofitting is an option but it’s often expensive. This is the process of updating old systems and introducing new technology to a property to make it more sustainable and energy-efficient. These improvements could include better insulation, efficient lighting, solar panels, heat pumps and more. As you can imagine, the cost of installing these features can soon grow and it looks like there are even more regulations and requirements on the horizon.   

What does the future look like?

As part of the government’s plan to reduce emissions to zero by 2050, it’s highly likely that new legislation will come into play in the coming years. The government’s Future Homes Standard will have a huge impact on the way homes are built from 2025. 

It’s likely we’ll see mandatory hot water storage, significant improvements to insulation and a potential ban on gas boilers. With an estimated 24 million homes in the UK requiring retrofitting to help fight climate change, it’s still difficult to determine what this might mean for owners of older properties. 

The increasing cost of living will make it difficult for homeowners to find the extra cash to carry out the improvements to future-proof their homes. The question on everyone’s lips is: what kind of support will the government provide to help reach these goals? 


Whether your top priority is finding a property that’s already sustainable or you’re in the market for a doer-upper, we’re on hand to help you with a survey you can trust. Talk to us today.