A Homebuyers Guide to Existing Homes and Energy Efficiency
Looking for a new house can feel like an invigorating challenge. That, or make you want to drive headlong into a brick wall. Either way, there’s a lot to consider when making what will likely be one of the biggest purchases of your life. While most buyers mull over school districts and upgraded features, there’s another not-so-small detail that many forget to add to their list of criteria: energy efficiency.
Buying an efficient home or making energy efficient upgrades might be a little more expensive, but it has the potential to pay you back every single month for as long as you own your home. So if you’re thinking of taking the plunge and buying a new home soon, read on for a quick checklist of things that can help you save energy and money over the long haul.
Buy an Energy Star Home
It’s possible you’ve heard about Energy Star appliances, but did you know that Energy Star certifies entire homes, too? Energy Star rated homes rely on multiple energy efficient upgrades to reduce energy consumption over a typical home by 20% or more.
Run jointly by the EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy, the program uses third-party inspectors to ensure that qualifying homes are 20 to 30 percent more efficient than typical houses. They also celebrated a recent milestone when inspectors certified their one millionth Energy Star rated home!
Make an Upgrade or Allowance Contingency
It’s no secret that it’s a buyer’s market out there—so many motivated sellers are ready to do what it takes to get you to sign on the dotted line. If you’re considering an older existing home, try negotiating for certain upgrades or a cash allowance at closing to use towards the EE project of your choice. Have a home inspector point out areas that might need the most attention and use that information to close the deal in your favor. Some great and reasonably priced things to consider would include:
- New Energy Star Appliances
- Attic insulation and/or radiant barrier
- New EE windows or UV window tinting
Put it on the Punch List
One of the more fun aspects of moving into a new home is getting the chance to redecorate, remodel and add the special touches that make a space your own. So while you’re dreaming of and budgeting for new floors or a patio or a full mosaic Greco Roman bath in the basement, make sure to add energy saving upgrades to the list, too. It might not seem glamorous to forego a 70″ TV to free up some money for insulation, but it’s important to remember two things: it’ll be much easier to get upgrades out of the way before you move in, and the sooner a project is done, the earlier you’ll start to recoup your costs through energy savings.
Look for Special Financing
There’s no denying it—an energy efficient home is going to cost a little more than an average model. From insulation to appliances to windows, better made, higher quality and specially designed building supplies are bound to be more expensive than run of the mill materials. Luckily, if you have your heart set on a more efficient home, special financing is available in most areas to help cover the additional costs. Known as an Energy Efficient Mortgages (EEMs) and Energy Improvement Mortgages (EIMs), many mortgage companies offer loans that credit a home’s amount of energy efficiency savings to help qualify borrowers for larger loan amounts. Talk to several lenders about the options they offer. Most will require a simple home inspection prior to closing.
So if you’re currently house hunting, good luck! Let us know how the search is going in the comments.