Monthly Archives: August 2013

HEAT: Your First Line Energy Assessment

Explaining the benefits of energy efficiency to homeowners can be challenging, especially at the beginning of a business relationship. But when the conversation is focused on the specifics of a home and your solutions are tailored to the family’s needs it becomes easier to help them take the next steps.

Distrust is one of the single biggest reasons homeowners don’t invest in energy efficiency upgrades. Will the promised savings really materialize?

Elisa Wood asked how we can frame the conversation with homeowners and found that trust is a key issue. Simply put, if a homeowner doesn’t believe that their investment will pay off, they won’t be interested in retrofits or upgrades.

One solution is to break out the checklist and calculator, sit with the homeowner at the kitchen table, and run through the industry’s savings estimates: $40 per year with a low flow shower head; $50 per CFL; $2,000 over the life of double pane windows. And that’s the easy stuff. Get into air sealing and R-values and you may need a second cup of coffee.

We’ve used asset based home energy audits for years to quantify energy usage and envelope tightness, and we know these tools and methods work. The problem is that they are time consuming, expensive, and they also require some homeowner education before you break out the blower door.

To solve these problems, expert homebuilder Dean Durst developed the Heating Energy Assessment Tool, a first line web app that calculates actual energy used for heating, cooling, and domestic hot water. Based on utility data and envelope and appliance efficiency, AREVS estimates annual and long-term energy costs, and rates home performance three ways: on an A-F scale for easily educating the homeowner and comparing houses in the same service area, for normalizing the energy load of homes anywhere in the United States, and for pinpointing fuel and energy usage.

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President Obama, Zillow CEO Rascoff, and First Time Home Buyers

Early August saw the Obama Administration begin a series of campaign-style events to address concerns about the still fragile economy, including the housing sector. Among the Administration’s first events were a major policy speech in Phoenix and a town hall Q-and-A for first time home buyers hosted by Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff.

President Obama and Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff discuss first time home buyers

President Obama and Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff discuss first time home buyers.

Home prices in Phoenix are up 30% from April 2012, and local businesses are reporting increased demand from a growing population. President Obama’s choice of Phoenix for his housing policy speech was not merely allegorical, but based on a real economic recovery in the residential real estate market. Five “next steps” were included in the speech:

  • Mortgage refinancing and current low interest rates, to keep more money in homeowners’ pockets
  • Cutting regulations that prevent well qualified buyers from getting mortgages quickly
  • Immigration reform, in the hope that new immigrants will buy houses
  • Analyzing existing home stock to repair rundown houses and tear down the derelict
  • Creating more, and more affordable, rental units

A key piece of mortgage accessibility is winding down federal guarantees of mortgages through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which would be replaced by private capital, and keep financial risk in the face of supply bubbles local, not national.

Will first time home buyers go for it?

Reaction to the President’s Phoenix speech was generally positive. U.S. News & World Report’s Rebekah Metzler observed that “additional money and new housing policies” should have a positive effect on local and regional housing markets.

We support a more efficient and transparent housing market. Housing reform should be combined with pending legislation including the SAVE Act, which uses home energy costs in evaluating mortgage affordability. We support these targeted bills in the House and Senate designed to reform and enhance U. S. energy policy, strengthen the real estate market, and make home buying and operations more affordable and accessible for everyone.