Dwelling Vitality Audit Might Come Quickly—and Your Dwelling Might Not Measure Up
Car buyers worried about their gas bills can check a vehicle’s estimated fuel efficiency on a sticker on the window. Those in the large home appliance market can compare energy costs on the attached yellow labels.
So should home buyers not be able to judge a home’s energy efficiency or inefficiency while browsing property listings?
Massachusetts could soon be the first state in the nation to turn this scenario into a reality. Governor Charlie Baker would like to have an energy audit and home scorecard as part of the traditional home sales process. Environmentalists hope that the state parliament will approve it by the end of July. Similar ideas are already being tested in a handful of cities across the country, including Austin, TX; Berkeley, CA; and most recently Portland, OR. And soon more cities and states could come on board.
The Baker administration hopes to get more people to invest in costly energy-saving improvements like a high-performance oven or new windows. This could potentially add value to their homes, save them money on their energy bills, and reduce their carbon emissions.
The ratings would be coupled with recommendations for the improvements that would most effectively increase the score.
Often times, people are reluctant to invest in a major energy saving measure because they aren’t sure it will pay off before they sell their homes, he says Antonio Barletta, Director of Government Affairs of the State Department of Energy Resources.
However, the state will offer some incentive and discount programs to help homeowners offset the cost of the upgrades.
Some homeowners are surprised by their score
In January, the City of Portland requested all home sellers to obtain an energy scorecard and disclose it when their home comes on the market. The rating can be uploaded directly to local multiple listing services.
So far, the new system has not influenced the pace of sales or property prices, it is said Jane Leo, Director of Government Affairs for the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors®. (The group resisted the idea.) But that may be because the real estate market is booming. Properties sell within days of listing, regardless of their energy efficiency, she says. And there are enough certified energy auditors to get around.
However, many sellers are not interested in the new requirement. Some refused to receive the audit, which cost $ 100-250, while others complained about the results and questioned the methodology behind it. There are stories of those who put a lot of money into energy efficiency updates only to get a bad score.
The average rating in Portland so far is 4 out of 10 points. That may seem low, but it’s not entirely surprising given that much of the city’s housing stock dates back to the early 20th century, it is said Andria Jacobs, Senior Manager in the City Planning and Sustainability Office.
Meanwhile, the city of Austin has mandated a home energy audit since 2009. (Homes under the age of 10 are exempt.) Rather than giving homes an overall rating, the Austin audit analyzes the efficiency of windows, attics, plumbing, and HVAC systems. and determines which discount programs are available to cover the cost of recommended improvements.
In focus groups run by Austin Energy, the municipal utility running the program, home sellers have stated that they are happy to showcase the report to buyers and highlight the improvements they have made Tim Kisner, a project manager for Austin Energy. As for buyers, many use the report “as a hit list” when they work in their new home, he says.
The disadvantage of an energy audit for private households: possible delays and higher costs
The Massachusetts Association of Realtors® argues that a separate energy audit, in addition to a home inspection, could slow the sales process by a few weeks as homeowners wait to complete it. This can also drive up seller costs, as the New England state exam costs an estimated $ 150 to $ 200 per resident. Buyers may be forced to bear the brunt of these fees.
Home energy ratings are already available for free through Mass Save, a utility-run program funded by a small rating on tariff bills. The valuation advises homeowners on the greening of their apartments and provides them with free LED light bulbs and water-saving shower heads. Every year around 80,000 to 90,000 state property owners voluntarily use the program.
There is also the potential for these energy ratings to stigmatize poorly performing homes – causing sellers to make costly improvements or bring the price down.
However, this has not happened in the countries of the European Union that have implemented these ratings.
“The scorecards did not produce negative or black marks for the value of a home with a low energy rating,” says Barletta of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources.