House-buyers’ biggest regret: not checking heating system

House hunters are being urged to check the property’s heating system before buying a new home to help avoid any unexpected costs.

The advice comes after a survey from First Direct Bank revealed that failing to ask when the boiler was last serviced is the biggest regret homeowners have after moving in. A further 50% admitted they didn’t check whether the radiators were working correctly either.

In response, OFTEC, the UK trade association for the oil heating industry, has produced a guide for house hunters that outlines the key questions to ask sellers about the heating system. These include:

When was the heating system last serviced?
Boilers should be serviced at least once a year to ensure they are running correctly and efficiently – especially after last winter’s extreme weather. Regular servicing can also help to identify problems before they become more serious (and expensive!) – so ask for evidence, such as servicing reports, which should be left as a record by the technician who did the work.

Did you use a qualified technician for any installation, servicing or repair work?
You need to check any heating work was carried out by an accredited professional as there is always the risk with unqualified technicians that work is not up to standard, which could potentially put homeowner’s safety at risk. Make sure the seller has used a GasSafe (for mains gas) or OFTEC (for oil and solid fuel) registered technician.

How much does the system cost to run?
Fuel bills are often the biggest cost for households. Speak with the vendor about how much you should expect to be pay to keep warm. For homes off the gas grid, heating oil remains the cheapest fuel, currently over 25% less than LPG and over 35% cheaper than Air Source Heat Pumps.

When was the heating system installed?
Modern condensing boilers are far more efficient and cheaper to run. If the boiler is over 15 years old, it may be worth replacing it. Discuss this with the seller and you might be able to negotiate a discount if the system is due to be replaced. Upgrading to a modern condensing boiler can save up to 20% on fuel bills.

Can I see the paperwork?
To establish the boiler’s age, ask to see the ‘building regulations compliance certificate’ that should have been issued when the boiler was installed. If the owner does not have a certificate, it may mean that the boiler was not installed in accordance with building regulations, which is a legal requirement.

Has any wood burner / open fire been professionally installed and serviced?
Wood burners and open fires are becoming increasingly popular and are often a much sought-after feature for house buyers. However, like any heating system, they should be professionally installed, serviced and the chimney swept at least annually.

Malcolm Farrow from OFTEC comments:

With the house moving season in full swing, it’s easy to get swept up in all the excitement of buying a new home. Whilst we’re usually good at asking all the obvious key questions, we often forget about the heating system.

“It might not be the most thrilling feature, but a heating system is fundamental to the running of a home and can be a big source of stress and cost if you find out it isn’t working properly a few months down the line, especially when the cold weather kicks in. Remembering to ask a few simple questions before you buy a new home can give you peace of mind, and avoid unwelcome bills, once you move in.”

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