Every year millions of houses are sold in the U.S. In many cases, a professional home inspection is conducted in the transaction process. The inspection is typically paid by the purchaser although, like most everything else in real estate transactions, this can be negotiable between buyer and seller. In some cases, such as with FHA and VA insured mortgages, an inspection can even be required.
Some believe the next logical step is to include energy audits as part of the real estate transaction process. Professional energy audits are now very affordable and comparable to a high quality home inspection. An energy audit would be a nominal percentage in the scope of most residential real estate transactions. However, there would be a huge potential payback in future savings to homeowners, and substantial reductions in wasted energy nationally, with the resulting improvements to upgrade the energy efficiency of houses. This idea is taking hold already in some parts of the country as noted in this recent article in GreenTechMedia.
Most audits of older homes would likely identify needed improvements. This might seem the rub to such an idea since requiring upgrades adds cost. The fact is, just sealing air leaks and upgrading the insulation can make a huge difference in the energy efficiency of most homes. These upgrades are relatively affordable and offer the quickest return on investment of all energy efficiency upgrades according to the Department of Energy and other credible sources (see story from December 2011.) In many cases, state governments and local utility companies also offer rebates for such improvements further reducing the cost and increasing the recoup of investment. Improving the energy efficiency of a home is also likely to increase future property values.
The proposed S.A.V.E. ACT, introduced in the Senate last year, proffers the idea of federal mortgage agencies requiring that energy costs are included in the underwriting process. This legislation has bipartisan support and endorsement by many stakeholder groups. If passed, it would stimulate more sellers and buyers to make improvements and obtain energy audits to demonstrate the resulting lower operating costs for their homes.
It makes sense to have a more energy efficient home and save on future operating costs. Regardless of legislation such as the S.A.V.E. Act, having an energy audit just makes sense when buying a home. So does improving the efficiency with an insulation upgrade if the audit calls for it.