Home Selling Questions & Answers
When you’re getting ready to sell your home, you’ll likely have quite a few questions. Asking the right questions up front—especially when it comes to energy efficiency—will help you navigate the selling process successfully. Here are some of the most important questions to ask.
Energy Efficiency: Top Things to Ask a Real Estate Agent
1. Are you able to identify and promote the green features in my home? Do you have any green certifications or energy efficiency–related training?
The EcoBroker Designation and the National Association of Realtors (NAR) Green Designation are two programs that signify that the real estate agent has completed a rigorous training program on energy efficiency and sustainable homes. Real estate agents with energy efficiency experience will be better equipped to identify and promote the green features of your home.
2. What are the types of things that could come up during a buyer’s inspection?
Ask your real estate agent if you should consider getting a home energy audit or rating. You can do a basic assessment on your own, or have a professional auditor do one for you. Audits and ratings can help identify things that may come up during the inspection. This can include where your home is efficient and where it is wasting energy, which systems are working properly and which are not, and what upgrades may be needed.
Ask your real estate agent what upgrades you should consider prior to listing to make your home more attractive to buyers and to ensure a smoother inspection process. For certain issues, such as the need to replace a heating or cooling system, ask your real estate agent whether you should replace the system now or offer extra money at closing toward the replacement.
3. What are the types of things prospective buyers will get hung up on or want changed?
Your real estate agent should tell you if there is anything about your home that might detract from its potential sale. For example, upgrading or adding more insulation to an attic may be appealing to prospective buyers, as it will increase comfort in the home and lower energy bills. Some prospective buyers may also be looking for a move-in-ready home. If your heating, cooling, or hot water system needs to be replaced, it could be a deal breaker for those buyers.
4. What home energy upgrades/projects will make my home more appealing to buyers?
Although upgrades that enhance the look of your home often pay off, improving your home’s efficiency may actually be a better investment. Your real estate agent should help you decide which upgrades to invest in so that your home meets the expectations of buyers in the market. For example, in a recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders, 89 percent of homebuyers said they want ENERGY STAR certified windows. 86 percent noted they want ENERGY STAR certified appliances.
5. If my heating, cooling, or hot water system is nearing the end its life span, or my home needs air sealing or insulation, would it be better to make improvements now or offer money at closing?
Whether you should make improvements now or offer money at closing can depend on a variety of factors, including those listed below:
- The market—A good real estate agent will understand the specific market that you live in and how competitive it currently is. Are buyers competing to make fast offers or are they negotiating for lower prices and better terms? Are more people looking to buy a move-in-ready home? Or do they want the flexibility to decide on their own upgrades?
- Time of year—If you are trying to sell your home in the fall or winter, prospective homeowners will want a reliable heating system. If your heating system is older or needs repairs, consider replacing it with a high-efficiency model before listing. If you are trying to sell a home ahead of summer and your cooling system needs to be replaced, you may also want to consider upgrading to a newer model before listing.
6. How will you promote the energy efficiency of my home?
As a seller, it’s important to know exactly how an agent will promote your home. Ask your real estate agent if the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) in your region identifies “green fields.” If it does, request they be filled in for your home. For example, if the insulation in your attic has a high R-value , your real estate agent should promote this when listing your home. Homes with proper insulation tend to have lower energy bills, greater indoor comfort, and reduced noise from outside.
Many buyers and real estate agents will be looking for “green” keywords in the listing. They may look to see if a home recently underwent a home energy rating or made any energy efficiency upgrades. If your home is very efficient, ask your real estate agent if you should get a home energy rating. This can help to further promote and set your home apart on the market. You can opt to have a rating included in your MLS listing.
7. What energy-related information should I have readily available for prospective buyers?
Many buyers and real estate agents will ask for a year’s worth of energy bills (electricity, gas, oil, propane). They will look at what your monthly or annual average energy costs are. If you discover that the costs have been steadily increasing from season to season, find out why.
Buyers will also want to know the age, expected life span, and condition of your heating, cooling, and hot water systems. Make sure this information is readily available. Consider getting a professional home energy audit or hiring a contractor to service and determine the condition and life expectancy of your equipment.
Energy Efficiency: Top Things to Ask a Contractor or Energy Auditor
1. Where are the key areas that my home is wasting energy and what efficiency upgrades would I need to make to improve its efficiency?
Getting a professional home energy audit or rating is the best way to understand where your home is efficient and where it is wasting energy, which systems are working properly and which are not, and what upgrades may be needed. An auditor will do a room-by-room examination of your home and past energy bills to determine your home’s specific energy use patterns. After the audit or rating, they will let you know which areas are in good shape. The auditor will also provide a list of recommended improvements for you to consider making.
Depending on your home, the recommendations may include adding insulation, replacing low-efficiency appliances, or addressing potential hazards. Hazards could include excessive moisture or mold, which could be both unhealthy and damaging to your home. Talk to your real estate agent about what upgrades to prioritize before listing your home. If you do not get a home energy audit, ask a contractor to assess the condition of your systems.
2. Do I need to consider replacing my heating, cooling, or hot water system?
Ask an energy auditor or contractor if your heating, cooling, or hot water system needs to be replaced. An auditor or contractor will identify the age, expected life span, and efficiency rating of the equipment. This is information that prospective buyers and their real estate agents will likely ask for. If you have been experiencing any noticeable issues with the system, such as it cycling on and off more frequently than usual, or rooms that are too hot or too cold, let the contractor or auditor know.
If the system is 15-20 years old, it may be nearing the end of its life span and need to be replaced. Consider replacing the system with an energy-efficient model before listing. You can also talk to your real estate agent about offering additional money at closing for prospective buyers to get a new system.
3. How well is my home insulated, and does it meet current recommended levels?
Ask a professional contractor to check for features such as air sealing, insulation, and energy-efficient windows and doors. These features work together to prevent air from leaking in and out of your home. An auditor or contractor should identify your insulation’s R-value. The higher the value, the greater the insulating power. ENERGY STAR offers guidance on recommended R-values for home insulation based on the climate and location of your home.
If the contractor or auditor finds that your home is not insulated properly, ask your real estate agent whether making upgrades could help improve your selling price or sales process.
4. What are the anticipated energy savings from making the upgrades?
After a professional energy audit or rating, an auditor will help you prioritize which upgrades will have the largest return on investment and impact to the energy performance of your home. Ask the auditor what the anticipated energy savings will be for making each upgrade. Ask your real estate agent to help you prioritize which upgrades to make before listing your home.