What challenges and opportunities are NatHERS assessors facing in 2023?
In a recent survey, we asked NatHERS assessors and employers for their views on everything from to how much they charge clients to major issues facing the industry, including challenges they are facing.
The results give a clear picture of the state of the industry, putting the spotlight on the top challenges and opportunities for NatHERS assessors in the coming year.
For the full survey findings and insights, download the report here.
NatHERS assessors as business owners
Before we delve into the top issues, it’s important to understand how NatHERS assessors work in the industry.
Two-thirds (65%) of assessors said they set up their own businesses after becoming accredited.
Like all business owners, this means they need to find clients to build an income stream, work out what to charge, and put in processes and tools to run the business efficiently.
Setting up your own business is uncharted territory for most people. You don’t have colleagues on hand to learn from, do a peer review for quality assurance, or get a sense check. The best answers will always come from talking to other assessors who are running their own businesses.
The fact that most NatHERS assessors are self-employed plays a big part in the issues that have been identified below.
Top 3 issues facing NatHERS Assessors
1. NatHERS assessors are severely undercharging for their work
Let’s talk money. The most concerning issue revealed by the survey is that assessors across the board are not charging enough for their work.
First, it’s important to note that the majority of NatHERS assessors (75%) are self-employed, meaning they most likely operate as a sole trader and pay themselves out of the fees for assessments, rather than a salary.
We also know that 78% of assessors quote for each job, while only 5% charge an hourly rate and the remainder use a variety of approaches.
So, to understand what assessors charge, we asked respondents to identify the fees they would charge for four specific projects. The results were surprising.
The minimum fee proposed by respondents is substantially below what is feasible for the work. Even with substantial volumes of work being done, it means assessors wouldn’t be paid the Australian minimum wage and would not cover costs required to operate as a sole trader.
The disparity between the highest and lowest fee is significant. The lowest fee for a simple job was just $100, with the highest at $800. For a complex job, the lowest fee was only $300, with the highest being $1500.
What’s concerning is that the lowest fee does not reflect the value of the work, which suggests that some assessors or clients undervalue their services and skills.
Even when looking at the maximum rates charged, assessors can afford to increase their fees, as others across the industry are charging as much as eight times higher for the same job.
Those assessors who charge by the hour are paid as little as $23 per hour or as much as $200 per hour. However, even this is not a real reflection of how much they are taking home, as the hourly fee may also include on-costs and expenses.
Unsurprisingly, 38% of assessors say the pay isn’t high enough for the skills needed to do the job. Some respondents also commented that they are being undercut by non-accredited assessors or offshore workers, meaning they need to drop their prices even lower or risk losing work.
Over to you: How do your fees compare? How can you make sure you are charging the true value of your work?
2. Builders and developers just want the compliance tick
According to assessors, the value of energy performance is not understood or appreciated by many clients. In fact, more than half (54%) of NatHERS assessors said that their clients – mostly builders and developers – do not see the value of improving thermal performance. They simply want the quickest, cheapest and easiest minimum compliant solution.
A further third (31%) of assessors indicated that they deal with angry clients who don’t understand thermal performance and, likely by extension, also do not understand the minimum requirements necessary. Instead they see NatHERS assessments as a compliance tick.
This gives us some explanation for why assessors aren’t charging enough. After all, if clients don’t understand or appreciate the value of thermal performance, why would they pay a premium for an assessor’s expertise?
The lack of understanding also extends to homeowners. They want a comfortable house that doesn’t cost a fortune to heat or cool. However, without a true appreciation of the benefits of improved thermal performance, they cannot demand better from their builders or developers. Often, this means thermal performance assessors are engaged too late in the design process, so the opportunity to create a better performing solution is missed and solutions are no more than an afterthought.
What clients may not realise is that only a NatHERS Accredited Assessor can issue official NatHERS Certificates. Unaccredited assessors can only produce a black and white non-accredited certificate. The good news is that some 93% of assessors say they are accredited, indicating there are 850 accredited NatHERS assessors across Australia.
Over to you: Do your clients understand the value of thermal performance? How can you educate them on the benefits?
3. NatHERS assessors are under pressure to take shortcuts
With undercharging and a lack of value appreciation, it’s no wonder more than 1 in 4 (27%) respondents indicated that they feel pressure to take shortcuts on jobs.
If assessors are only charging a small amount they need to take shortcuts to get the job done on time. However, the risk here is that the wrong shortcuts can end up costing assessors more, both in terms of reputation and risk.
Over to you: Do you feel the pressure to take shortcuts on work? Assessors need to feel more supported in running their businesses and knowing their value. Head to the NatHERS Assessors Network, created exclusively for NatHERS assessors, building energy rating assessors and thermal performance assessors. This is where you can share ideas, network, compare notes, ask and answer questions on all things NatHERS, BASIX and thermal performance assessments.
The biggest challenge facing the industry in 2023 is to demonstrate or improve the perceived value in the work performed by assessors. This will go a long way to increase rates across the industry and help assessors grow their businesses.
Read the full industry report here