Home Energy Labels Receive Scrutiny

Solar Panels Being Installed on a Home

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A few practitioners expressed frustration Tuesday over home energy labeling programs during the Land Use, Property Rights, and Environment forum at the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C. They told the committee that the government programs, which assign homes a score based on energy efficiency, could “stigmatize” older homes that haven’t undergone green improvements, and they want the National Association of REALTORS® to look more closely at the matter.

“We have far more existing homes and buildings than new ones going up. It’s going to affect financing for anyone who wants to buy those buildings,” one real estate professional from Colorado said.

The Federal Housing Administration offers so-called energy efficient mortgages that help buyers finance green upgrades for the homes they purchase. But one attendee at the forum said there may be many improvements the mortgages won’t cover, which could force an older property to be stuck with a lower energy score and hurt its resale value. It could also hurt the seller of such a property if they can’t afford to pay for the improvements themselves, the attendee added.

“When we talk about retrofitting, what are we really trying to accomplish?” another attendee said. “We need to make sure we’re not buying into commercialism that’s being disguised as helping the environment.”

That shouldn’t stop the real estate industry from discovering ways to more easily upgrade older homes so they’re greener, said an attendee who described herself as an energy efficiency expert and practitioner from California. She said, for example, that replacing windows is often unnecessary when all that is needed is resealing around the original window to improve efficiency. “We really should look into how all these homes in America could be easily updated,” she said. “It can be done — it’s fact, not fiction.”