HomeServe engineer fixing a boiler

UK Homeowners reveal concerns over unexpected costs hitting strained family budgets this winter, study reveals

Posted 16 January 2015 3:39 PM by John Greaves

  • Millions of homeowners reveal concerns over funding expensive and unexpected costs this winter, survey1 shows
  • Boiler breakdown, car breakdown, appliance replacement and burst pipes top homeowners’ winter concerns
  • HomeServe launches Seasonal House with useful tips on protecting homes during the colder winter months

A HomeServe survey1 reveals that millions of UK homeowners are concerned about unexpected costs hitting strained family budgets this winter. 

More than half (51%) of UK homeowners polled in HomeServe’s “Unexpected Costs of Winter” survey reveal they are concerned by boiler breakdowns, expensive car repairs, or burst pipes – examples of unexpected winter costs that  can rise into hundreds of pounds.

Strained household budgets (26%), the costs of Christmas and high seasonal spending (20%), rising household bills and outgoings (17%) and a lack of savings (11%) are leading to homeowner concerns, according to the representative survey of 2,000 UK homeowners conducted by Consumer Intelligence.

Unexpected costs topping this year’s list of concerns are boiler breakdown (chosen by 36% of those polled), car breakdown (32%), frozen or burst pipes (27%), appliance breakdowns (23%) and plumbing problems (21%). Storm damage (18%) and unplanned energy bill hikes (13%) also featured highly in the survey.

Greg Reed, HomeServe’s Chief Marketing Officer, said: “It’s not surprising that typical home emergencies feature so highly on the list of concerns this winter. The survey shows that people are having to make some tough financial choices, and we are on hand to help them wherever we can.”

To coincide with the survey, HomeServe has launched a new interactive Seasonal House – available by visiting – which highlights potential problems in the home this winter and offers a range of useful tips for UK homeowners and landlords.

“There are many simple steps people can take to protect their homes in the weeks and months leading up to the peak of winter,” added Reed. “By taking care of a few things now, homeowners and landlords can limit their chances of facing potentially more expensive or unexpected costs later on.”

Millions of UK homeowners are believed to have experienced at least one unexpected cost in 2014 (a total of 64% of those polled) and almost three in ten (29%) had problems paying for it. The research also reveals a stark generational gap, with almost half of 18-24 year olds (49%) struggling to fund their unexpected costs, compared to just 8% of over 65s.

Of those polled, almost two thirds had to dip into seasonal savings or pay by credit card (37% and 30% respectively) to cover the costs. Surprisingly, only 12% had a policy or insurance to cover the expense, with many turning to borrowing from friends or family (7%), overdrafts (4%), loans (2%) or payday loans (1%).

If hit with an unexpected cost of £250 this winter, almost half suggest they would turn to credit cards or borrowing from family or friends (40% and 9% respectively) and, if the unexpected cost rose to £1,000, this would rise to 42% and 13% respectively.

David Black of Consumer Intelligence is also an independent financial commentator. “One of the most worrying findings of this survey is the stark generational gap in preparedness for the unexpected costs that can strike us all, but which can have a particularly strong impact during the higher spending winter season. Almost half of under 25s just aren’t prepared, it seems, for these unexpected costs when they hit. Compare that to just 8% of over 65s – who have probably experienced many of these costs during their lives – and it’s concerning. It’s important that young and old consider how they would meet such unexpected bills or take steps to limit the potential for these problems to occur.”

HomeServe’s useful winter tips are available in an interactive Seasonal House infographic, which users can navigate for information by clicking on “heat spots” where unexpected costs around the home could be most likely to occur. 

HomeServe also offers a range of home assistance policies for homeowners and landlords in the UK. For more details they can visit 

Pictured: A HomeServe engineer gets to work on a boiler repair, which tops this year’s list of unexpected cost concerns.


1 Homeserve commissioned an online survey conducted by Consumer Intelligence on 8th and 9th December 2014 among a representative sample of 2,050 UK homeowners. Regional breakdowns of this survey data are available on request.

About HomeServe

HomeServe is a national home assistance company providing plumbing, drainage, electrics and heating maintenance and repair services through its own network of directly employed and sub-contracting specialist engineers. Around two million people in the UK have placed their trust in HomeServe and turn to us when it comes to fixing, maintaining and looking after their home.