Examining the pros and cons of overhaul of EPC system in Scotland

In the quest for a greener and more sustainable future, the Scottish Government’s ongoing consultation on Domestic Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) reform is a welcome step.

At present, one fifth of Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions comes from our buildings so improving the efficiency of these buildings is vital if we are to achieve net zero by 2045.

Retrofitting our homes to be more efficient not only lowers emissions but also makes them more comfortable and affordable to heat. However, there is a significant monetary cost required to do this and any retrofit must be thought out and assessed to future proof the building.

As our clients and their tenants closely follow these developments, let’s examine why reform is needed and the pros and cons for both parties.

Why is reform needed?

The current RdSAP methodology that determines an EPC score is undoubtedly flawed. Presently, the EPC score is modelled on running costs meaning a property heated via oil fired central heating scores higher than a property heated via efficient electric heaters. If EPCs are to be used to benchmark efficiency to help reach net zero, they must first improve accuracy and make relevant and suitable recommendations. RdSAP 10 will be released in early 2024 and will be introducing changes to the methodology to improve accuracy.

What do the Scottish Government propose?

The Scottish Government proposes to revise the information on domestic EPCs and expand the current metrics. This would separate the certificate into a Fabric Rating, Cost Rating and Heating System Type along with a separate section consisting of the Emissions Rating and Energy Indicator. This would allow for more accuracy while presenting clearer information. Another important aspect to note is that the proposals include reducing the validity of an EPC from 10 years to 5 years.

Pros for Landlords

Increased Property Value: Stricter EPC standards and an accurate methodology would allow properties to be more energy efficient and cheaper to run. Properties being heated correctly could limit maintenance requirements in regard to condensation issues such as mould and damp.

Compliance with Regulations: In the next few years, there will be a minimum EPC requirement to let residential properties. Though dates have not yet been confirmed having a proactive stance could mitigate any potential penalties in the future.

Cons for Landlords

Upfront Costs: Undertaking energy-efficient improvements requires a financial investment. Landlords might face challenges in covering the initial expenses of retrofitting properties with more efficient technologies.

Tenant Resistance: Installing insulation and new heating systems can be disruptive and may require properties to be vacant while improvements are being carried out. Tenants may be hesitant due to potential disruption during renovation periods.

Pros for Tenants

Reduced Energy Bills: Stricter EPC standards would lead to more energy efficient properties, leading to lower utility bills.

Enhanced Comfort: Being able to heat properties correctly and affordably would reduce the risk of mould and condensation issues in the winter months. This reform could contribute to healthier, cosier home for tenants.

Cons for Tenants

Rent Increases: Due to the significant costs required to retrofit properties, it is likely that rents would need to be increased to help cover the upfront costs.

Limited Choices: Not all landlords will be able to or desire to improve the efficiency of their properties which could see a decline in available properties on the rental market. Rural, stone-built properties may never be able to achieve a high scoring EPC which could lead to an even scarcer supply of rural homes available to rent.


Reforming EPCs could be a significant stride towards creating a more energy efficient future. While the pros and cons are clear for both landlords and tenants, it is crucial to recognise that that retrofitting properties is essential for combating climate change and advancing sustainable living. Though we have focused on residential properties, the consultation also covers commercial buildings.

Home Energy Scotland can provide financial support in some cases for both landlords and tenants. Scotland’s Domestic EPC reform consultation closes on 10th October 2023. If you would like to discuss any of the proposals, please contact Bell Ingram and we will be happy to assist you.

Our people

Hamish Hope

Hamish Hope

Surveyor, MRICS
Land Management
Tel: 01463 717 799

About: Hamish is an experienced RICS Chartered Surveyor and Registered Valuer, working across the Highlands with a focus on rural estate management from traditional sporting estates to diversifications. He is a graduate of Edinburgh Napier University with MSc Real Estate Management and Investment. Interests: Estate Management, Sales & Lettings, Valuations, Domestic Energy Assessments.

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    Highlands and Islands property market defies the headlines

    The property market in the Scottish Highlands and Islands has been booming for some years and despite signs of a slowing market elsewhere, prices remain strong in the North and West of the country.

    With mortgage rates rising and rumours of house prices stagnating, you could be fooled into believing the Scottish property market is about to crash. But our experts in Oban and Beauly are seeing no let up, with predictions that growth is to slow yet to be seen in practice.

    In fact, Andrew Fuller, Bell Ingram’s Estate Agent in Oban, recently secured a sale for a home achieving 100% over the asking price, which put paid to the fact that buyers are no longer willing to offer such large sums over the home report value as we have seen post pandemic. Most recently Andrew and his team also secured two notable sales of over £1million for homes in some challenging conditions.

    This is just one example, but it would appear to be backed up by the latest figures from Registers of Scotland that show the price of a detached home is up by 13% to £349,000 on average with the biggest increases seen in the council areas of Argyll, Highland and the Islands.

    Similarly, Joanne Stennett, our Estate Agent based in Beauly in the Scottish Highlands, is still experiencing huge demand in the region with houses regularly going to closing dates and achieving in excess of 10% over the asking price.

    Interest in both the Highlands and Islands remains strong with a constant stream of enquiries from buyers south of the border, and increasingly from the Central Belt. This demand for houses in the regions has remained strong since the pandemic and off market deals are becoming common place as buyers vie for properties before they reach the open market, such is the competition for stock.

    Despite a recent uptick in house prices in the regions, they continue to be favourable to those further south and Joanne believes this will only continue as mortgage rates squeeze buyers out of already expensive property markets.

    There is one thing Andrew and Joanne do not have on their side while working in some of Scotland’s most regions is and that is the weather. As we look towards the end of this year and early 2023, it will be the only thing holding them back.
    If you are interested in taking advantage of this strong market speak to your nearest Bell Ingram office about our free market appraisal service.

    Our people

    Andrew Fuller

    Andrew Fuller

    Senior Associate
    Estate Agency
    Tel: 01631 566 122

    About: Andrew heads up the Estate Agency team in our Oban office and is focused on ensuring his clients have a first-class experience when they list their property with Bell Ingram. A resident of the Isle of Mull, Andrew is very well known across the West Coast of Scotland and has developed an excellent reputation for marketing prime residential property, including plots, crofts, island homes and lifestyle opportunities. Andrew joined Bell Ingram following almost 15 years managing several high-level private and commercial development projects in the United Arab Emirates. Interests: Residential Estate Agency, Rural Property Sales.

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    We'd love to hear from you, use the form below to email me direct


      Our people

      Joanne Stennett

      Joanne Stennett

      Estate Agency
      Tel: 01463 717 799

      About: Joanne heads up the Estate Agency team in our Beauly office and is focused on ensuring her clients have a positive experience when they list their property with Bell Ingram. From country houses to farms and estates, she has been marketing prime residential property in the Highlands and Islands for over 17 years. Joanne is well known in the local area, having developed excellent relationships with buyers and sellers. Interests: Residential Estate Agency, Rural Property Sales.

      Get in touch

      We'd love to hear from you, use the form below to email me direct

        Article posted on 12/09/2022

        Five of the best lifestyle opportunities on the market

        Repeated lockdowns have seen us all spend more time in our homes, which has really focussed the mind of buyers on what they truly want from their homes and living environments. For some, it has even thrown into question the type of lifestyle they wish to lead and has led to some downing tools and upping sticks entirely in the search for a more rural way of life.

        At Bell Ingram we have seen the increase for demand of rural properties which offer a new business and lifestyle opportunity. Here we round up five of the best lifestyle opportunities on the market with Bell Ingram.

        1. Barmore Farm, Tarbert

        This well established and profitable holiday business offers buyers an opportunity to acquire a beautifully presented, listed Victorian Steading, sympathetically converted to a selection of unique holiday let cottages, each offering a blend of traditional and contemporary living.

        Offers over £1,100,000.

        2. Roseview, Oban

        Situated in a wonderful rural location on the fringe of the ever-popular coastal town of Oban, Roseview Caravan Park is set in approximately 4.89 acres of land and offers buyers an opportunity to acquire a well-established tourist destination, perfect for those looking for a lifestyle change or tourism investment.

        Offers over £795,000.

        3. Ornum House, Beauly

        Ornum House is a very well presented property which is brought to the market alongside two popular self-catering cottages. The house is currently run as a successful Bed & Breakfast business and the overall package offers the purchaser the opportunity to live in a beautiful, quiet location and have a business on site.

        Offers over £600,000.

        4. Coullabus Farmhouse, Isle of Islay

        With its rural setting on the picturesque island of Islay, Coullabus Farm offers a superb opportunity for those looking to adopt a lifestyle change and reap the benefits of a country island life.

        Previously operated as an operational island dairy farm, the main farmhouse property now offers family accommodation over two levels, with an adjacent tastefully converted detached cottage giving opportunity for self-catering accommodation with scope for significant secondary income.

        Offers over £595,000.

        5. Ardnamurchan Natural History Centre, Acharacle

        The Ardnamurchan Natural History Centre offers buyers an opportunity to acquire a thriving business with three identifiable income streams – retail, tearoom and exhibition. The property is set in an enviable rural location on the West Coast of Scotland, a wonderfully scenic location, popular with tourists visiting the region.

        Offers over £525,000.

        Article posted on 07/02/2022

        Thinking of buying a croft? It’s important to do your homework and consult an expert

        TV programmes like Amanda Owen’s ‘Our Yorkshire Farm’ and Ben Fogle’s ‘New Lives in the Wild’ have tapped into a national obsession with self-sufficient lifestyles ‘off-grid’ living.

        So much so that even during lockdown, farm and crofting properties are generating a high level of enquiries as soon as they come onto the market.

        But for those seeking the rural idyll, does the romantic notion of swapping city life for a sheep farm in the Dales or living in a white-washed croft house on a west coast bay live up to the reality?

        Bell Ingram’s resident crofting expert Ian Blois says: “It can do, but it’s not always straightforward and prospective crofters need to be aware of a number of points when buying a property which could be restricted by crofting legislation.”

        He continues: “Increased interest in crofting properties during the Covid lockdown has been prompted partly by lower property prices and partly by a genuine consideration of escaping to the country and leaving behind the stresses of city living. Working from home is now a reality for many people and with good broadband, connectivity to a business or employment anywhere in the world is now possible amidst the freedom and slower lifestyle of the Highlands.

        Based in Bell Ingram’s Beauly office, Ian has worked with Estate Agency colleagues advising potential crofters for over ten years and reckons that a working knowledge of crofting legislation almost comes as standard if you are a rural professional living and working in the Highlands.

        He adds: “While the rules and regulations around crofting aren’t particularly complicated, like most things of this nature there are certainly a few pitfalls that could trap the unwary, and it’s sensible to do your homework and consult an expert.”

        Here’s a number of points you might want to consider if you are thinking of buying a croft:

        What is a croft?

        Crofting is a system of landholding which is unique to Scotland and is an integral part of life in the Highlands & Islands. A croft is legally any small land holding, which is registered as a croft by the Crofting Commisson and therefore subject to crofting legislation. The croft may or may not have a house or farm buildings associated with it and there is no size limit. Currently Bell Ingram have a number of crofts for sale ranging from a 1.6acre croft near Oban to 127 acres of farmland near Lairg in Sutherland.

        Where are crofts located?

        There are 21,186 crofts entered on the Crofting Commission’s Register of Crofts (ROC) of which 15,137 are tenanted and the remainder are owned. These crofts are located within the traditional Crofting Counties of Argyll, Caithness, Inverness, Ross & Cromarty, Sutherland, Orkney and Shetland, or in one of the newly designated crofting areas – Arran, Bute, Greater and Little Cumbrae, Moray.

        How much does it cost to buy a croft?

        This depends of a number of factors, including location, land quality and whether the sale includes a croft house. For example, a croft (with a croft house) in a desirable area like the Black Isle with good transport links to Inverness is likely to fetch a higher price than a property without a croft house in a more remote location.

        What is the legal position if I buy a croft?

        There are two possible scenarios when you buy a croft and these should be apparent in the sales particulars. The croft may be classed as owner-occupied, in which case you would be buying the land and the crofting tenancy, which is the right to farm the land. Or, in some cases, the ownership of the land is not part of the sale and you would be buying the assignation or tenancy of the croft, which is just the right to farm the land.

        What are my rights and responsibilities if I buy a croft?

        Owning a croft is not the same as owning an ordinary regular home or farm because the use of the land is regulated by the Crofting Acts. Whether you become an owner-occupier or just the tenant, in both cases you must comply with certain duties imposed on you by the crofting legislation. These are:

        #1 A duty to be a resident on, or within 32 kilometres of, the croft.

        #2 A duty not to misuse or neglect the croft.

        #3 A duty to cultivate and maintain the croft or to put it to another purposeful use.

        If any of these rules are breached, the Crofting Commission have the statutory powers to terminate the tenancy and allocate the croft to someone considered to be more suitable. This applies even if you own the croft, so it is important that prospective buyers understand the commitment they are making.

        Can I buy a croft house without any land?

        A “croft” house is not necessarily a croft. If a house is being sold without land, it is unlikely to be subject to crofting legislation which applies mainly to land. In this case, normal property laws apply and you can use it as a second home or let it out as a holiday cottage.

        If a registered croft is being sold with a house, the house and garden has often been de-crofted which means that while the land remains under crofting tenure, the house is no longer subject to crofting legislation. This can be important if the buyer needs a mortgage as lenders will only offer financial assistance if the house is free of crofting legislation.

        Making an Offer

        If you are serious about buying a croft, speak to the selling agent and your solicitor to make sure you are fully aware of what it will mean to become a crofter. It is usual to make a formal offer subject to getting approval from the Crofting Commission. This means that if your offer is accepted, you will then make an application to the Crofting Commission to be approved as the tenant of the property. This is likely to be successful as long as you intend to live permanently on the croft or at least within 19 miles of it and to actively farm the land. Once approved, your offer to buy will be completed.

        Still Confused?

        If you have found you dream house on an internet search and you find that crofting is mentioned, please do not be discouraged. Just give us ring at either our Beauly or Oban office and someone will be pleased to answer all your questions. It’s not as complicated as it sounds.

        Useful links:

        Crofting Commission www.crofting.scotland.gov.uk

        Citizen’s Advice www.citizensadvice.org.uk

        Shelter Scotland www.scotland.shelter.org.uk

        Our people

        Ian Blois

        Ian Blois

        Rural Land Management
        Tel: 01463 717 799

        About: Ian is a highly experienced Land Agent whose remit includes negotiating temporary access agreements and compensation claims for private clients, giving farm advice and submitting grant applications, and providing land agency services to utility companies and other government bodies. Ian is Bell Ingram's resident crofting expert. Interests: Pipelines & Utilities, Private Estate Management, Sporting Management, Rural Land Management.

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        We'd love to hear from you, use the form below to email me direct

          Article posted on 01/11/2021

          5 top tips if you are plotting your dream move to the country

          Bell Ingram Design Architect Murray Fleming shares his 5 top tips for things to consider when plot hunting:

          Readers of a certain vintage will remember 1970s’ sitcom The Good Life which chronicled the adventures of Tom (Richard Briars) and Barbara (Felicity Kendal) Good as they embraced a life of self-sufficiency in their home in Surbiton.

          And this desire to create a ‘good life’ has been one of the enduring property trends of the last 50 years with the current pandemic only increasing the demand for house plots as many people reassess their priorities in favour of building a better quality of life in the countryside.

          So, if you are thinking of swapping city living for the rural idyll, Bell Ingram Design Architect Murray Fleming shares his 5 top tips for things to consider when plot hunting:

          1. Where is the sun?

          One of the great benefits of designing a new house on your own plot of ground is the opportunity to take advantage of the sun as it moves through the day and to simply enjoy the pleasures of a light filled house. Whether it be the morning sun in the kitchen or a view of the setting sun from the living room, good house design begins with designing around the sun ‘path’.

          However it is not a simple as north facing site = bad and south facing = good, it is much more a matter of the surrounding topography and how that affects how the sun reaches the site. A north facing site may actually benefit from sun throughout the day if there are no obstructions and a south facing site may not see any sun if its path is obstructed by trees or a large hill immediate to the south.

          Try and visit the site at different times of the day to find out when the sun first hits the plot and when it dips below the horizon at the end of the day. Then, taking account of the time of year, an assessment can be made of how this will vary during the year, as the sun path from winter to summer varies enormously at our northern latitudes.

          1. Where are the utilities?

          Not so glamourous, however as many sites in the countryside are sold with no utilities, an assessment of the cost of bringing in water and electricity, and dealing with sewage is crucial to understanding the ‘real’ cost of the project.

          A site that seems like a good buy at first can quickly become a money pit if the cost of running in each of the utilities is exceptional due to long distances for water/electricity, or poor ground conditions for a sewage system soakaway. Watch out too if no water supply is available and the only option is an expensive and uncertain water ‘borehole’.

          1. Where are the underground services?

          While bringing services a long way into a site can be expensive, dealing with services already on site, but which are in the ‘wrong’ place, can be equally problematic, whether it be a water main running across the plot (which can be the case even in an apparently remote location) or overhead electricity or BT lines.

          There are several companies that can supply this information for a fee, however local knowledge is equally invaluable, and a short chat with a long-time neighbour of the site could save you thousands!

          1. Where are there planning conditions?

          Most house sites will be sold with either ‘Planning in Principle’ or full ‘Detail Approval’ and both are likely to have ‘conditions’ attached which you will be required to comply with. These can vary from a requirement to carry out protected species surveys to archaeological ‘watching briefs’ or simply forming a new vehicular entrance from the public road to meet the current local council standards.

          While many conditions may have no cost implications, the above examples could prove expensive and so making a careful assessment of the potential costs and indeed risks of any planning conditions is an essential part of plot assessment.

          1. Where is the love?

          Buying a plot of land and designing our own house is a dream for many of us, and it’s not as complicated as it might first appear! But, before you make that life changing purchase, ask yourself: “Do I love this site? For better, for worse? For richer for poorer? ‘Til de … well hopefully not that part!” And if the answer is YES!, come and speak to us at Bell Ingram Design and we can help make your dream come true.

          Start planning your dream home by checking out the plots for sale on our website www.bellingram.co.uk or contacting Murray Fleming by ringing our Beauly office.

          Our people

          Murray Fleming

          Murray Fleming

          Senior Associate
          Tel: 01463 717 799

          About: As Senior Architect based in Bell Ingram’s Beauly office, Murray is responsible for the company's architectural services covering the Highlands and Islands. He has extensive design and project management experience in a wide range of building sectors, including residential, commercial, public and healthcare. Interests: Full architectural design service, Planning advice & submissions, Feasibility studies, Condition surveys, Building warrant advice & submissions, Administration of construction contracts.

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          We'd love to hear from you, use the form below to email me direct

            Article posted on 01/11/2021

            Getting to know Bell Ingram: Why Land Agent Jamie Cowie branched out from Forestry to surveying

            Jamie Cowie joined Bell Ingram in 2003 as Forest Manager before going on to become a MRICS qualified land agent. Based in our Highland office, he is involved in pipeline and utility projects as well estate/property management, forestry management, valuations, estate agency and GIS/mapping.

            Says Jamie: “I can’t recall a single eureka moment that led me into working in the rural scene. I grew up in Buckie, a fishing village, and had no immediate family in the rural industries. We never holidayed abroad, with trips being tent-based excursions scattered across the country.

            “Living in such an incredible and diverse country meant my interest grew, predominantly in the physical geography and nature, with land use, history and people following on later.

            “In my teens, I started to become more active in the outdoors through hillwalking and mountain biking. Moray has a particularly high percentage of forest cover for the UK, and my attention soon turned to trees. The idea of having a career based indoors and with no travel did not fill me with any enthusiasm.  

            “So off I went and spent five years (including two student placements with Forestry Land Scotland ) studying Forestry at Inverness. About the time of our final exams, Bell Ingram was advertising for the position of forest manager in Aberdeen. I got the job and started in the summer of 2003.

            “After a few interesting years, I was offered the opportunity to branch out into the slightly different world of rural surveying. Initially this was predominantly based on a Scottish Water project, but eventually I ended up dabbling in a range of other utility projects. The opportunity to diversify again presented itself, so after a couple years of post-graduate distance learning I became MRICS qualified in 2014.

            “Since then I have continued to be involved in a variety of utility projects, forestry management, farm sales and valuations ranging from Grangemouth in the south, Peterhead in the east, Aviemore in the middle, Kyle of Lochalsh in the west and Unst in the north.

            “My love of Scotland has only grown, and I am fortunate to be in a line of work that lets me see and be a part of so much of it. I also get to work with and meet an equally interesting range of people.

            “While this would not have been apparent to me back in the early days of high school, the knowledge of what I know about the work I do now would have definitely focused my career path at an earlier age.”

            Our people

            Getting to know Bell Ingram: Why Land Agent Jamie Cowie branched out from Forestry to surveying

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              Article posted on 17/10/2021