Thinking about selling your house? As of January 1, 2018, *all home owners will be required to have a home energy audit PRIOR to listing your home. (Listing means using any form of public advertising including signs, RMLS, Internet ads or postings on public listing sites, etc). This new regulation applies only to homes within the Multnomah County/Portland city limits.
Before you get too excited or upset about “another regulation”, you should know that this is a relatively painless and inexpensive new regulation. Home energy audits will be conducted by licensed contractors who have been qualified as a Portland Home Energy Score program assessor. The estimated cost for an audit lasting about 1 1/2 hours will be only $150-$250. But remember, your home cannot be listed until you’ve had the audit so you will need to plan ahead.
The assessor will evaluate your home based on how energy efficient your home actually is based on type of heat, insulation, windows, etc. It will also include an estimate of the home’s greenhouse gas emissions (based on the Home Energy Score estimate of the home’s energy use, fuel types, and emission factors, provided by ODOE (Oregon Department of Energy). Assessors will NOT use your recent and current utility bills, but instead will use average use numbers as compiled by ODOE for homes comparable to yours. This is important because obviously a vacant home will use considerably less fuel than one occupied by a family or a family deliberately keeping the thermostat turned down to save money.
Once the audit is completed you will be given a report with a score from 1-10; the higher the score the more efficient it is. The report will include the following information:
- An estimate of the total annual energy used in the home
- An estimate of the total annual energy generated by on-site solar electric, wind electric, hydroelectric, and solar water heating systems in retail units of energy
- An estimate of the total annual cost of energy purchased for use in the home in dollars, based on the current residential energy price of the utility servicing the building and the average annual energy prices of non-regulated fuels, as provided by ODOE.
- The current average annual utility retail residential energy price in dollars, by fuel type and the average annual energy prices of non-regulated rules
- An estimate of the home’s greenhouse gas emissions based on the Home Energy Score estimate of the home’s energy use, full types, and emission factors, provided by ODOE
- The name, contact info, and CCB license number of the Assessor who performed the assessment
- The date the assessment was performed
- The expiration date for the Home Energy Performance Report
- The address, year built, and heated square footage of the home
Why is Portland requiring home energy audits?
Would you buy a car before knowing the estimated mileage? Or food without nutrition and calorie counts? As a realtor, I’ve seen first hand that most home buyers want more energy efficient homes. Utility costs are definitely an important factor in affordability; and as someone who recently replaced a low efficiency furnace with a very high efficiency heat pump, I can tell you that my heating and cooling bills dropped more than 50%. I no longer feel the need to keep my thermostat low during the winter months, or uncomfortably high during the hot days of the summer.
The audit is an additional soon to be required seller disclosure to potential buyers. As mentioned above, your recent utility bills are not the true measure of how efficient your home is. Unfortunately with ever rising utility bills many home owners sacrifice real comfort for lower bills. In addition a home with a high score could save a family up to $1000/year on their utility bills as compared to a similar lower scored home.
Home energy audits are already required in Austin, Texas; Berkeley, California; San Francisco, California is also just adding this audit; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Kansas City, Missouri; and Boulder, Colorado. Internationally, residential disclosure policies are in effect in the United Kingdom, Denmark and Australia. Austin was the first city to implement this policy all the way back in 2009. Portland was able to model our audit program after cities that already have this policy in effect. Other cities have reported that this program does in fact reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In Portland we take pride in being a very green oriented city, and Portland and does have a master plan to reduce greenhouse gasses by 30% by 2030. We have already been rated the fourth greenest city in the country. But besides the plan, most of us have to admit that we appreciate our clear blue skies and clean air (fire and smoke aside). We’re an outdoorsy population so this is important to all of us.
Low cost financing available for energy efficient improvements
In 2010, the City established Clean Energy Works, now known as Enhabit, to provide access to low-cost financing for energy upgrades. Enhabit’s activity in the energy upgrade financing market has resulted in local banks and credit unions offering specialized financing products for energy efficient homes.
Energy Trust of Oregon, in partnership with non-profit lender Craft3, now offers a moderate income energy upgrade financing program. There are also new specialized energy efficiency mortgage products available exclusively to buyers of homes that have a U.S. Department of Energy Home Energy Score.
An added benefit to sellers is that homes that are energy efficient generally sell for more money than comparable homes; significantly more money than the cost of a home energy audit.
Global warming is real. All but 4 countries in the world (including the recent US entry onto this list) have signed the Paris Climate Accord. Portland has just taken another step to maintaining our commitment to the Paris Climate Accord along with most states and cities in the country.
*There are some exemptions to this ruling such as homes in foreclosure or short sale. For more rules, exceptions and exemptions, click here. Low income sellers may qualify for assistance with the cost.