It’s not very often – if ever – that a whole new profession gets created. And not only that, but one that allows you to exploit a captive market! But that’s what happened recently when the role of Domestic Energy Assessor was created. You might have seen courses offering you an opportunity to become a Domestic Energy Assessor (or DEA) advertised a lot of late. So in this review we will look at what DEAs do, and whether it could be for you.
Why do we need Domestic Energy Assessors?
You can thank the Government (well the European Union actually!) for this opportunity. The EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) means that all properties that are put up for sale or rented out must include an Energy Performance Certificate (or EPC) showing how energy efficient it is. With a house for sale the EPC makes up part of the Home Information Pack (or HIP) you must have when you put it on the market. Only qualified people are allowed to carry out the assessments that must be carried out to produce an EPC. So, in effect, it is a ‘closed shop’ that has been created by the Government. Unless a house owner or landlord pays a DEA to produce an EPC for them they can’t sell or rent their home. Simple as that. A couple of years ago the Government estimated that 1.5 million properties for sale and 2.5 million properties for rent would need an EPC every year – and that at least 4,000 new DEAs would be needed to compile these.
What does a DEA do?
The work isn’t as technical as it sounds. DEAs do not usually need any previous property or surveying knowledge.
Firstly, DEAs collect data on the dimensions, construction, heating and hot water systems in the property and then enter the information into a software program. This, in turn, will produce the EPC measuring the property’s energy efficiency on a scale from A (good) to G (not so good). The second job of the DEA is to make recommendations for improving the energy efficiency of the property, e.g. with more insulation or renewable energy sources.
How do you get started?
Not just anyone can become a DEA. You need to study on a training course, obtain a DEA qualification and be accredited. You need at least the Level 3 Diploma in Domestic Energy Assessment (Dip DEA). DEA qualifications are provided by three official awarding bodies – the Awarding Body for the Built Environment (ABBE), City and Guilds and the National Federation of Property Professionals Awarding Body (NFOPP). Each is given after a multiple-choice exam and an assessment of some EPCs you have done.
Many organisations have set up to offer DEA training courses. These include local further education colleges and commercial training companies. You have to pay for these training courses yourself, although grants are available to some people. The basic qualification just allows DEAs to create the basic EPC. You can take further qualifications that qualify you to produce the entire HIP, EPCs for newly built homes and more complex EPCs for commercial and industrial buildings.
How would you find work… and how much could you make?
Once you are qualified as a DEA there are lots of different ways you can make money from it. Some DEAs are employed directly by companies while others work on a freelance basis and are paid according to how many EPCs they produce. You could work directly for property owners and landlords. You could work directly for estate agents who produce HIPs for their clients. Or you could work for specialist HIPproducing companies. If you study and get all the qualifications you could even set up your own business offering not only the EPCs but the HIPs and all kinds of energy assessments and consultancy as well. As this is a new profession it is difficult to say how much you might earn. But reports I have seen in the press and on the Internet suggest you can make in the region of £12,000-£50,000 a year, depending on exactly what you do.
By the way, things are slightly different in Scotland where EPCs only came in at the end of 2008. It’s likely that there won’t be as much demand for DEAs here as existing surveyors and others are able to do EPCs without any specialist training.
What are the pros and cons?
So let’s take a frank look at whether becoming a DEA is worth considering… and whether it is for you. First the pros. There is no doubt that working as a DEA is a genuine opportunity in itself. People selling or renting a property have to have an EPC and they have to pay a DEA for it. In that way it is a captive market. Not only that but becoming a DEA is a wideopen, accessible opportunity. Almost anyone with a reasonable level of education and good basic skills can go into it. So, if you are looking for a new start in something different it is certainly worth considering. Now some cons! Firstly, I think the cost of training is likely to be an issue for most people. It’s not cheap, and there is no guarantee that when you pay for a course you will make your money back. It’s likely to cost you well over £2,000 plus the costs of setting up. Also, there’s the competition to consider. Lots of people have trained or are training to become DEAs and you will be in competition with them for the work.
This brings me to what I feel is the main snag at the moment. As you probably know the housing market is deep in the doldrums right now. The market just isn’t moving, so there’s unlikely to be anything like 1.5 million house sale EPCs needed each year. In short, you have a growing number of DEAs all entering into a market that – well – just isn’t growing. You might find it a lot more difficult to find work than some of the training organisations suggest. I would definitely check what work there is likely to be available for you before signing up for any course.
That said, if you can take a medium- to long-term view, I don’t think it need all be doom and gloom! Maybe in three/four/five years the housing market will have turned around completely. If you’re able to take that view, and pay for your training on the basis you won’t necessarily recoup your investment immediately, it could be for you. So, while I think it’s a good idea to be cautious, if you are thinking of doing this I certainly wouldn’t write it off completely.
More useful contacts
If you would like to know more about the qualifications that are needed for this work then you can get impartial information from the bodies that award them:
The Awarding Body for the Built Environment (ABBE)
Tel. 0121 331 5174
City & Guilds
Tel. 020 7294 2800
National Federation of Property Professionals Awarding Body (NFOPP)
Tel. 01926 496800