Typically, when homeowners hear the word audit, they run for the hills. Why? Traditionally audits are seen as negative. And if it’s anything like a tax audit, an audit runs the risk of an individual having to open up their pocketbook to avoid any consequences.
Fortunately, the ECAD audit is significantly different. While it’s required of older homes before selling the property, it could potentially help with a return on investment. Yes – that’s right, money talks! No matter which way you slice it, both buyers and sellers get something out of ECAD audits.
So now that we have your attention, let’s talk more about how your clients can benefit from ECAD audits and what REALTORS® can do to help move the process along and get those green properties sold faster.
But before we get into the good stuff, let’s recap:
What is ECAD?
The Energy Conservation Audit and Disclosure Ordinance (ECAD) requires properties within Austin and served by Austin Energy to undergo energy audits before the sale of the property. ECAD works to disclose building energy performance and facilitate energy improvements in existing single-family and multi-family homes and commercial buildings ten years or older.
The audit must be completed and provided to buyers within 72 hours (3 days) prior to the close of the options period, or at time of contract signing if no options period exists.
Audits typically cover:
- Air conditioning and heating system efficiency
- Air infiltration, duct performance, air sealing in plumbing, and weather stripping
- Attic insulation
Audit Best Practices
The City of Austin has some general best practices for ECAD audits.
1.) It is best to conduct the energy audit early in the selling process. This provides plenty of time to schedule and complete the audit. It will also allow time to decide if the seller wants to make improvements prior to sale. As a note, the ordinance only requires the audit to be performed and DOES NOT require sellers to make improvements.
2.) Homeowners looking to sell should hire an ECAD Energy Professional to conduct the audit.
ECAD requires that homeowners work with a certified ECAD Energy Professional to conduct the energy audit and disclose their home's energy efficiency as part of the real estate transaction.
For a list of certified professionals, visit the Austin Energy website.
3.) If selling a home, the homeowners will receive an Audit Certificate that can be attached to the Seller’s Disclosure Notice. Energy audit results must be provided to prospective buyers:
- Three days before the end of the option period or time of contract
- If no option period exists, at the time of the contract signing
There are exceptions, but remember it’s the law!
Homeowners may possibly be exempt from ECAD audits, and they can learn the criteria at bit.ly/ECADexempt. However, remember that ECAD is a law similar to other City ordinances, and non-compliance with ECAD is a Class C misdemeanor with fines from $500 to $2,000.
So how does ECAD benefit my clients?
Regardless of if your client is or is not selling their home, an ECAD audit may be beneficial because it can help identify opportunities for making the home more energy efficient. Energy efficient homes have short and long-term benefits for homeowners, including:
- Increasing the value and marketability of the property
- Improving indoor air quality and reducing energy consumptions
- Saving money on utility bills
Furthermore, if a homeowner decides to make any improvements there are great rebates available to them. Austin Energy has a rebate program for residents on qualifying systems and services, covering up to $1,600 off the total cost of all recommended energy efficiency measures. Homeowners may also benefit from applicable Texas Gas Service rebates and tax credits available on many of these improvements.
Learn more about energy rebate programs in the Austin area.
If your clients are outside the Austin area, have them check with their local energy utility and visit IRS.gov for information on tax credits.
Marketing a Green Home
If your client is making improvements to sell their house, there is more you can do aside from assisting them in the ECAD process. Promote the listing! Homes with energy efficient improvements can be listed as green homes and help attract buyers that are motivated to purchase those select properties.
1.) Have Sellers Fill out an EES attachment
The new Energy, Environment and Sustainability (EES) attachment is intended to supplement MLS data with detailed information about five categories of green property features: energy efficiency; healthy living; materials and construction; water conservation; and sustainability. Additionally, the EES attachment will provide green building and energy efficiency ratings documentation.
The EES attachment is designed to be completed by the seller, and will be required to have as an attachment if the listing agent indicates that a property has EES Features by selecting “yes” in this MLS field. Although the EES attachment is not searchable on the MLS, the detailed information will be a valuable resource to appraisers assigning value to green property features.
Download the EES attachment.
2.) Identify Green Listings in Matrix
Marking “yes” in the MLS EES field isn’t all you should be doing to identify green listings. The addition of 40 pick-list values to existing MLS fields ensures that common green property features and big-ticket items are accessible when identifying comparable properties or searching for clients. Sellers that fill out the EES form can have the information plugged into the MLS by the REALTOR® so other agents can easily search for green listings. REALTORS® should also indicate if the listing is part of a green rating program.
The Bright Side of the ECAD
While audits may not seem to be appealing at first glance, the ECAD audit has a positive impact on Austin’s landscape and has many benefits for home buyers and sellers alike. Many buyers are looking to reduce their carbon footprint. Sellers want to get the most return on investment. With the growing need for energy efficiency and the resources available to make homes “green,” now’s the perfect time to educate clients on ECAD and help them with the process from beginning to end.