Should Portland home sellers be required to get a home energy score before selling?
The city of Portland is proposing that all Portland city residents be required to have an energy audit and obtain a home energy score prior to listing their homes. There are approximately 160,000 single family homes in the city of Portland, but fewer than 2% of owners have an energy score. Why does this matter?
As shoppers, and we’re all shoppers, we want as much information about what we’re buying as we can get. We look for labels on food, automobiles, energy labels on appliances, etc. But home buyers want more information, and without an energy audit and score, that information is not readily available.
The framework for energy audits for houses in Portland was first established in 2009. By 2013, the training program for certifying energy scoring professionals was underway, and yet, here we are close to the end of 2016, and fewer than 600 Portland houses have had an audit done.
Portland has a Climate Action Plan that proposes that by 2050 Portland will reduce carbon emissions by 80%. But how can we achieve that goal without knowing how much carbon is emitted into the atmosphere by each house without audits? We already know that residential buildings account for approximately 50% of the total carbon being released into the atmosphere from buildings. (According to the proposal, “By April 2017, 80 percent of Portland’s commercial building square footage will be reporting energy performance.”)
More about energy audits
Before everyone panics, you should know that an energy audit takes only 45 minutes to an hour to complete, and costs only approximately $150-$250 per house. On the upside, a house with a high energy score will generally sell for up to 4% more than one with a low score, or no score at all. (With average home prices in Portland now around $400,000, you just might net a lot more money when you sell your house.) So, in spite of a lot of opposition, this is really a no brainer for both buyers and sellers alike IF the proposal is drafted property (see below for reasons to opposition). Most home owners are upgrading their homes all the time. So why not pay a little extra for more energy efficient appliances, better insulation, and regular home maintenance to improve your energy score? It makes your home more comfortable to live in and reduces your energy bills to boot.
The other upside to going energy efficient is that there are both state and federal tax credits for many of these purchases, as well as rebates issued by Energy Trust of Oregon, and sometimes even the approved contractors who install these purchases. I’ve even been told by one prior client that installing an electric heat pump instant hot water system was almost a net zero purchase with all the credits he received for the purchase. AND, of course, if you’ve ever looked at your Portland water/sewer bill, you will have noticed that the sewer portion of the bill is usually higher than the water usage portion of the bill. With instant on hot water, you’re not paying for all that water that runs down the drain while you wait for the hot water to get to your kitchen, bathrooms, and laundry room.
And one last benefit is that with a good energy score, when you sell your house, you qualify for appraisers who are certified to value your home with your energy upgrades. That is no small bonus these days when all too often homes are appraising lower than actual sales price.
How will this information be passed on to prospective buyers? Home owners can obtain a score at any time and report their scores to the city of Portland via mail, fax or online. The city will make this information available on Portlandmaps.com, and of course, listing agents will enter this information into the RMLS when the house is listed.
Why so much opposition to requiring energy audits?
According to PMAR (Portland Metro Association of Realtors), this proposal is poorly drafted.
- There aren’t enough certified auditors yet, and most who are certified are also selling some of the “green” products you might purchase anyway.
- There are multiple scoring systems. In any given metro area, the scoring model must be consistent so consumers will understand the reports and scores.
- We are already experiencing an appraisal crisis here in the Portland metro area. It’s not unusual for it to take 4-6 weeks and even longer in more outlying areas to get an appraisal done. Are there enough appraisers out there who are certified to value energy efficient homes?
- The audit must be completed prior to listing a house. For someone who is ready to list now, this could delay that transaction, perhaps for months. This could potentially be a disaster for someone who has just lost a job or is experiencing some other type of life crisis.
- Why are banks exempt from this disclosure?
- Why are rental properties exempt from this disclosure?
- Finally, why does this proposal apply only to homes within the Portland city limits? Does this mean that home buyers in Washington, Clackamas and Clarke counties don’t care about energy efficiency?
What other cities have passed similar policies?
Several U.S. cities have passed similar disclosure policies for their market, including Austin, Texas; Berkeley, California; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Boulder, Colorado. Internationally, residential disclosure policies are in effect in the United Kingdom, Denmark and Australia. The reduction in carbon emissions is apparently already noticeable where audits are required.
Please read the full scope of the proposal for more information.