The rising cost of energy is a concern for all of us. And I'm not just talking about what we pay at the pump. Energy prices affect how much we spend on almost everything we buy. That includes the electricity and natural gas we use to power, cool and heat our homes. It even can play a role in the price you pay to purchase a home or how much you can fetch when you sell.
Buyers are still looking at all the usual factors in selecting a home; considerations like schools, bedrooms, bathrooms, and closet space - those things won't change. Recently, though, increasing energy costs have prompted consumers to place more emphasis on the proximity to desirable locations and the energy efficiency of the homes they find.
For many families, utility bills and pressure at the pump amount to substantial expenditures that are often overlooked in affordable housing decisions. Choosing a less expensive home that's 10 miles farther from work or one with lower energy-efficient qualities may actually cost you more over time and could even jeopardize your ability to afford the home. Talk about diminishing returns!
If you find a home that piques your interest, see what you can find out about the average energy costs for that property. Two seemingly similar houses can have large discrepancies in heating and cooling costs, especially if one was remodeled with energy efficiency in mind.
What about transportation costs? How would living in this home affect your commute and errands? Is public transportation available? Living just 10 miles farther away from a five-day-per-week job adds up to 100 miles per week. That's at least one extra tank of gasoline per month. These days, that can add up to a few thousand dollars over the course of a year.
For homeowners and sellers
Energy-efficient homes are less expensive to run, more comfortable and have a higher resale value.
If you're interested in making energy upgrades to your home, consider having a Home Energy Rating audit performed. A home energy rating system (HERS) report is a review of your home's efficiency prepared by a trained professional.
In this audit, a certified home energy rater will check insulation levels, window efficiency, the integrity of the ducts, ventilation, weather stripping, the HVAC unit, the water-heating system, appliance efficiency, climate considerations and other components of energy efficiency. The results of the report show opportunities to increase efficiency.
Is your home already energy-efficient and on the market? If so, you have an attractive selling point. If you're trying to sell your home and haven't made any energy improvements, it's possible the house down the street has that advantage over yours. A prospective buyer may feel she's getting more for her money at the other house, due to the anticipated savings of a smaller utility bill.
A HERS rating can also be used to help a buyer or homeowner qualify for financing options like an energy-efficient mortgage.
In new construction, the HERS rating verifies that the home and appliances are energy-efficient, and the borrower qualifies for a higher amount based on projections of low energy consumption.
For existing homes, a buyer or owner can use an energy improvement mortgage to purchase or refinance the property. After the certified rater makes suggestions for efficiency upgrades, the estimated costs of these improvements are rolled into the loan. Once the projects are complete, the lender pays for the work out of an escrow account. So, even though the monthly payment to the lender is slightly higher, you would realize an advantage through lower utility bills.
Who can help?
There are Realtors who specialize in "green" real estate. Many of them have earned the EcoBroker designation, which teaches real estate professionals innovative energy, environmental and other green strategies. Additionally, some Realtors have attained an affordable housing certification - Texas Affordable Housing Specialist - which includes a course on green technology's effect on housing affordability.
Whether you're interested in buying your first home, your next home, or just want to know more about home-ownership in general, I encourage you to check out a couple of great online resources: http://www.texasrealestate.com/ or http://www.har.com/ and for all of your Pearland TX and Northern Brazoria and Galveston County real estate needs, please visit my site at http://www.danfrankrealty.com/. All of these sites offer tons of useful, real estate-related information geared specifically for Texans.
Danny Frank is a local Pearland TX Real Estate expert! You can see my entire blog at http://www.pearlandrealtyblog.com
My column was also published in the 17May09 edition of the Galveston County Daily News