What to look for when buying an energy-efficient home

Below is a post by Krissy Schwab, first appearing on our partner site the Zing blog at Quicken Loans:

solar panelsA study released in February of 2013 by the National Association of Home Builders says one of the most important qualities new home buyers want is an energy-efficient home. They add, “Nine out of ten buyers would rather buy a home with energy-efficient features and permanently lower utility bills than one without those features that costs 2% to 3% less.”

The problem is that some sellers boast “energy-efficiency” without really having the goods to back it up. And just because the home has energy-efficient appliances doesn’t necessarily mean it’s saving energy in other areas.

Having a holistic approach to energy-efficient homes is a much better way to go for both savings and reduction in energy dependency. So when you start your house hunting adventures, bring this list with you and look for these features:

  • ENERGY STAR appliances
  • Air leaks around windows and doors
  • Energy-efficient windows and doors
  • Low-flow fixtures and toilets
  • Digital thermostat controls
  • Properly insulated attics and walls
  • Low-energy lighting systems
  • Well-maintained heating and cooling system
  • Eco-friendly carpet, paint and building materials
  • Energy-or water-efficient landscaping plan
  • Tankless water heater
  • BONUS: solar panels, geothermal system, wind turbine or any other alternative energy source

After you’ve gone through the list above you’ll want to ask some these questions:

  • When was the last energy audit conducted and can you see the results?
  • Can you see past energy bills?
  • Do you have maintenance records for any of the energy-efficient appliances or alternative energy sources?
  • Are there any local or state tax credits for owning this home?
  • Do local energy companies buy back energy created by my home?
  • Does the current homeowner work with the ENERGY STAR home program?

LEED Home Certification

In some cases, homes will feature LEED certification as a key selling point. A home with LEED certification means that it met specific environmental standards established by U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Ask to see the documentation from their LEED inspection and the certification.

Your new energy-efficient home doesn’t have to have all of these qualities, but each of them can help lower your energy dependency and monthly bills. Not only are these types of homes a smart buy, but energy-efficient features can also increase your home’s value if you decide to sell the home later on.

In July of 2012, USA Today reported that homes featuring energy-efficient upgrades sold for 10% more than non-energy-efficient homes in the surrounding area. They added in an earlier story that, “In Seattle, homes certified as eco-friendly sold for 8.5% more per square foot and were on the market 22% less time than other homes, according to a new report that tracks new home sales from September 2007 through December 2009.”

Buying an energy-efficient home is a smart investment that can pay off each month and later in the future. Just make sure to ask the right questions and look for the right features so you don’t get stuck in a home that doesn’t meet your expectations.

Would you rather buy an energy-efficient home or make renovations to your current home so it’s more energy-efficient? Share your thoughts with other Zing readers!

Related links:

Notaries and the role they play in your closing process
Know your mortgage: Balloon mortgages
Low down payment? No down payment? No problem!


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