real estate energy efficiency
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Including home energy efficiency scores in online real estate listings would help buyers to buy more efficient homes with lower energy costs, finds a first-of-its-kind study released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

By ensuring that home energy information is presented to buyers, state and local policies would guarantee their home energy efficiency needs are met.

ACEEE says the development would ensure state and local policies incentivize sellers to make home efficiency upgrades and builders to construct more-efficient new homes.

Key study findings include:

  • Homebuyers have said the energy efficiency of homes is a priority when choosing a property to buy.
  • Home sellers rarely include efficiency information in their listings, so potential buyers using the major real estate aggregation websites—where 93% of home buyers begin their searches—generally cannot find this information.
  • Only Portland, Oregon, requires home energy information in real estate listings.
  • A dozen other US states suggest some type of home energy disclosure at various stages during transactions.
  • Energy efficiency information encouraged home buyers to avoid the least-efficient homes and choose more-efficient ones. Homebuyers with such information clicked on the least-efficient listing less often (23% less), and the most-efficient option more often (14% more), compared to those who did not see this information.
  • Presenting efficiency information for only the most efficient listings (mirroring a voluntary labeling policy) was not an effective strategy for encouraging the choice of efficient homes.
  • Homebuyers valued efficiency most when it was presented as an image depicting the home’s efficiency score along a scale from inefficient to efficient.
  • Low-income home sellers could be adversely affected by energy efficiency disclosure requirements unless they are accompanied by complementary policies.

ACEEE used a panel research firm to recruit a national sample of 1,538 individuals who indicated they were planning to purchase a home within the next five years.

The energy efficiency scores would include simple home energy score (HES), an HES along a continuum (line) from inefficient to efficient, an estimated annual home energy cost, an estimated annual home energy costs plus HES along a continuum or a HES for only above-average homes (simulating a voluntary labeling programme).

Reuven Sussman, the co-author of the report, said: “We always thought home buyers would respond to energy efficiency information, but now we’ve shown it’s really true.

“Prospective home buyers have a lot of information at their fingertips, but usually they know little about the energy efficiency of the homes they’re considering. Just getting the right information in front of people can make big differences in their choices. If we can help buyers find efficient homes, we can really stimulate demand for them.”