Post Independent opinion: Add energy efficiency to real estate listings |

Post Independent opinion: Add energy efficiency to real estate listings

Local real estate brokers are gradually joining others across the state and country to add energy efficiency indicators to property listings.

It’s an idea that’s long overdue, and we encourage the real estate community to employ this tool for residential and commercial listings.

At the very least, the indicators will give buyers a sense of what kind of electric and natural gas bills they might be facing after purchasing the property. More detailed indicators would list the energy efficiency investments sellers have made, such as upgrades to insulation, windows, heating and cooling systems, lighting or appliances.

Giving buyers the ability to sort their search to include buildings with energy efficiency improvements and low energy bills would be a valuable added service.

Sellers who have invested in efficiency should get credit for that effort. Sure, R-49 insulation in an attic is not as glamorous as a whirlpool bathtub or granite countertops, but it is one of the best amenities for day-in and day-out comfortable living.

Likewise, a well-tuned, high-efficiency heating and cooling system in a commercial building can prevent thermostat battles and cut down on related maintenance problems.

On the flip side, listings that don’t mention efficiency upgrades can serve as a warning to buyers, or as an opportunity for buyers to bargain on price and then make efficiency upgrades that will improve the value of the property.

Mortgage lenders would also be advised to pay attention to energy efficiency upgrades. If a home or building’s energy bills are significantly lower than average, the buyer may be able to take on a slightly higher mortgage, or be able to qualify at a slightly lower income level.

Some communities have already debated whether to require sellers to carry out a building energy audit at the time of listing.

A detailed energy audit, which costs $300 to $500 for a typical home and can run into the thousands for a commercial building, would provide far more detail than the basic information offered in multiple listing service books or websites. Buyers would get a clear picture of what upgrades are in place, what additional upgrades are warranted, and the overall functioning and durability of the home or building.

We believe an educational campaign would be a better approach than a law requiring a time-of-sale energy audit. With enough consumer and broker awareness, this type of report could become an expected part of the transaction, much as the home or building inspection is today.

Meanwhile, adding energy indicators to real estate listings is an important first step. But even this won’t happen with the snap of a finger.

Continuing education of real estate professionals, with emphasis on the added competitiveness of an energy-savvy broker, is the obvious next step. Once real estate brokers understand how to gather and present energy information, and see the value of this information to their clients, energy efficiency can become a key selling point.

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