Energy audits help realtors provide added value to clients

22 October 2018

Buying a home is generally the largest and most important transaction that an individual will make in his or her lifetime (not to mention one of the most stressful). As a realtor, your job is to turn this into a positive experience -- one in which the homebuyer feels confident about making a sound investment.

The same goes for selling a home. There’s a lot of money involved and a client wants to get fair market value.

That’s why a pre-purchase energy audit is always a good idea. You wouldn’t buy a car without knowing the mileage rating, would you? So why would you invest in a house without knowing what the operating costs are going to be?

An energy audit not only maps out specific energy usage (by appliances, lighting and other equipment) but can also recommend areas where significant savings are available. In many cases, there are a number of no-cost and low-cost options for greater efficiency.

In areas where a financial outlay is required, the energy audit will calculate the payback period to determine the most cost-effective measures and/or ones that demand the most immediate attention.

Advantages for realtors

Having this type of specific information – prior to the actual sale – gives realtors a strategic edge. It’s a fact that more homebuyers care about energy efficiency than ever before. By having an energy audit on a home, you provide clients with more detailed information about a potential purchase. Sellers can boost the value of their homes by demonstrating long-term energy savings and added comfort.

Here are a few of the advantages that a home energy audit provides:

  • The audit distinguishes you in the marketplace as someone on the cutting edge of real estate trends and marketing.
  • An energy audit is more comprehensive than a standard home inspection, evaluating many areas not covered by the inspection.
  • It allows buyers to negotiate energy-saving upgrades or repairs into the final purchase price. For sellers, the audit showcases energy-efficient features that can save money and increase comfort, thus enhancing the home’s value.
  • The audit provides an accurate prediction of yearly energy costs; this type of cost certainty can be very attractive for a homebuyer. It also sends a strong message that the home has been well-maintained.

Realty trends

Home energy audits have become increasingly important in the residential real estate market because of the growing awareness of energy-efficiency benefits. According to a 2016 study by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), energy-efficient features are among the top priorities for the purchasers of new homes.

The study revealed that energy-efficient windows, ENERGY STAR appliances and programmable thermostats were included in the top 10 priorities of homebuyers. The report also noted that homebuyers are willing to pay more for a home if they can be assured of lower monthly utility bills. Homebuyers indicated they are willing to pay more than $10,000 in upfront purchase costs in return for annual energy savings of $1,000.

Thus a home energy audit can increase the value of the home, which benefits both sellers and buyers. The seller can demand a higher price (more commission for the agent) and the buyer is assured of a better deal (ongoing energy savings and comfort).

What’s involved in a home energy audit?

In order to use the energy audit as an effective marketing tool, it’s important to understand what it is and what it does.

A home energy audit, also called a home energy assessment, evaluates how much energy the home consumes and determines what measures can be taken to increase energy efficiency.

In many cases, the home’s insulation and HVAC system are prime targets. According to the US Dept. of Energy (DOE), heating and cooling account for more than half of the energy use in a typical American home. Thus an old, inefficient or improperly sized HVAC system can be a major energy guzzler.

Ineffective insulation can also contribute to energy waste. The DOE estimates that 30 percent of heating and cooling costs are attributed to air leakage that can be repaired with proper insulation and weatherization.

Other areas addressed in a home energy audit include:

  • Lighting
  • Appliances
  • Windows
  • Water heating
  • Thermostats

The energy auditor examines every room of the house and analyzes monthly utility bills. Many audits include a blower door test and a thermographic scan, which indicate air leakage.An-Overview-of-Blower-Door-Tests

The occupancy and behavior of the residents can also be a major factor so the audit also considers:

  • Who is home during the day?
  • What are the typical thermostat settings for warm and cold weather?
  • How many people live in the house?
  • What rooms are primarily used?

After all this information is compiled, the home energy auditor prepares a detailed report that shows which energy-efficiency measures are indicated. The report includes the cost, energy savings and payback periods for each measure.

The homeowner can then decide which measures make the most sense for his or her situation. If the homeowner decides to move forward, the auditor can recommend reputable and certified local contractors to implement the upgrades but there is no obligation to have any of the work done.

The bottom line

  • By arranging for a pre-purchase home energy audit, realtors can increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, which leads to more referrals. Sellers can take advantage of greater home values, which translate into higher commissions for the agents.
  • Buyers can be assured of purchasing a home that will be more comfortable and also save on energy bills. As a realtor, you can demonstrate a valuable understanding of the importance of energy efficiency.
  • You can also differentiate your business by offering “green” or “eco-friendly” branding. A growing segment of real estate customers really care about energy efficiency, so why not tap into this market?
  • A home energy audit is practical, relatively inexpensive and provides easy-to-understand results. It’s a great tool to enhance your business while offering tangible benefits to both buyers and sellers.