Is Portland Fighting Climate Change through Home Sales?

In December 2016, the Portland City council voted to require home energy audits as a part of the home sales process.  The requirement will take effect in January 2018.  We’ve yet to see how it will play out. Advocates say it’s a step toward meeting our 2050 City action plan for an 80% reduction in carbon emissions; opponents say it is an undue burden on sellers.  The audit would give a home an energy efficiency rating between one and ten by which buyers could compare one property to another.  Voluntary audits have been around since 2009, but the rating did not get much attention during a home sale.  Very few homes obtained voluntary ratings, less than 2%, so many homes coming to market did not have scores.  Therefore, energy efficient homes with score rarely had other homes to compare with.

It turns out Portland’s commercial buildings have been subject to this requirement since 2015.  Since about half of all carbon emissions from buildings come from residential housing, rolling in single family residences helps a great deal with the overall reduction goal.

The Realtor associations have opposed this requirement as one more unnecessary burden on a home’s sale.  Critics say the audit could be used against a seller, or used to negotiate improvements to a home during a sale.  Note: we typically negotiate repairs rather than improvements during the process.

Ready for the inside scoop?  We’ve been in favor of this for a long time.  This has not been a popular stance among colleagues. Disclaimer: no doubt we’ll have bumps along the way.  It will make the process more complicated.  It is already quite complicated, but that’s why professional assistance is needed.  There are a small number of environmentally-minded realtors in Portland that have been proponents of this policy all along.  We have consulted with home buyers for years on home improvements, it has been disheartening to discourage a potential homeowner/seller to forgo energy improvements, and opt for an Ikea kitchen instead (no dis meant to Ikea).  We believe this requirement will balance Portland values with more flashy cosmetic upgrades – with an energy score, both home investments will have a way to be visible to buyers.  R-38 insulation as sexy as a farmhouse sink?  Coming your way.