July, 2017
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Energy Efficiency Sells: Presenting the Whole Picture to Homebuyers


Our industry is in the peace-of-mind business. We take justifiable pride in using our expertise and integrity to ensure that one of the largest investment decisions a person or a family will ever make results in a safe, healthful, “sweet” home and—perhaps more importantly—not a long-term source of regret or even financial hardship.

With inspectors working in an ever more competitive field, ASHI sees it as our mission to make sure that our members can work from the truest sense of what makes a house a “good” investment and retain the keenest eye for what defines a risky one. One way that ASHI fulfills this vision is by recognizing when homebuyers’ and the real estate agents’ perspectives start to shift regarding what makes a house affordable and attractive—not just a smart investment, but the right place to raise a family or to pursue their dreams. ASHI’s new partnership with the Department of Energy’s Home Energy Score program is a big step in that direction because it empowers ASHI members to respond quickly to the needs of a changing market.

Delivering the Real Story on Home Costs
Among the dozens of urgent items buzzing around in a homebuyer’s mind, the dollar figure on their bid is among the most anxiety-provoking. Buyers look to the home inspector and the inspection report to get an indicator that, somehow, tens of thousands of dollars in needed repairs haven’t been overlooked. As smart agents and inspectors are beginning to understand, however, an energy-inefficient home can have at least as big of an impact on a home’s true cost over time, and that kind of information can be a valuable eye-opener when delivered during the real estate transaction.

Take, for example, that $6,000 new roof being touted by the seller or a $5,000 chimney repair noted in the inspection report. An energy-inefficient home easily could cost a homeowner an additional $1,000 per year over a comparable home with high-energy performance. During the average time that a person owns a home, the monthly “energy hog tax” can exceed even the biggest-ticket items that an inspector calls out in a report! In fact, the most recent U.S. Census data make clear that energy costs for homeowners are higher than either homeowners’ insurance or property tax, although the implications for the monthly budget related to this fact rarely are discussed during the sales process.

Beyond pointing out the most urgent items to be addressed before a sale, agents and inspectors alike are taking note of the value they can provide homebuyers by delivering a bigger picture of how much it’s going to cost to live in a home once the keys are handed over.

Agents: Listening, Not Just Listing
One of the best ways to keep tabs on our evolving industry is to train a close eye on our colleagues in the real estate industry. And what leading agents are telling us now is that buyers want energy-efficient homes and they are willing to pay to understand whether they’re getting them. Not coincidentally, agents are learning quickly how to serve that demand. A new annual report focusing on the state of the profession from the National Association of REALTORS® was published in April, and John Shipman, a veteran REALTOR® and trainer, summed up the findings in this way:

“The report surveyed REALTORS® nationwide and found that professionals recognize that their industry is changing: Consumer demand is growing quickly for greener, healthier, and more resource and energy efficient homes, and being versed in green building fundamentals and energy efficiency upgrades is essential to being a successful agent. … Consumer demand for an energy-saving home will fetch a higher selling price, and eventually more homeowners and home sellers will recognize the ROI of energy efficiency, driving further investments in energy upgrades.”

Whether or not an inspector’s business is directly tied to agent referrals, it’s clear that agents and homebuyers alike are changing their tune regarding what constitutes a good home and a sound investment. And it’s gratifying to us here at ASHI to be able to plug our members into the best means of staying in front of this new market by offering the opportunity for members to become Home Energy Assessors.

ASHI Members and the Home Energy Score Fast Track
As we mentioned in the Home Energy column in the June issue of the Reporter, ASHI’s newly improved partnership with the Department of Energy gives members the clearest, most convenient path toward becoming a Home Energy Score Assessor. Our partnership with Inspection Depot delivers training, mentorship and quality assurance, with friendly support every step of the way. The Home Energy Score website (htts://betterbuildingsolutionscenter.energy.gov/home-energy-score) has been upgraded recently to provide all of the relevant detail, and members always can reach out directly to Jen Gallegos, jeng@ashi.org, 847-954-3177 or to the Home Energy Score team at assessor@sra.com to get started immediately.