Austin Residents Must Conduct Energy Audits Before Selling Home

Published September 1, 2009

Under a new city law, residents of Austin, Texas must purchase costly energy audits before they will be allowed to sell their homes. Prospective sellers must provide evidence they’ve had a professional analysis of items such as heating systems, cooling systems, draftiness, and insulation.

Austin joins San Francisco and Berkeley, California as the only cities in the nation requiring such energy audits, which typically cost $200 to $300 apiece. The requirement is an additional burden on homeowners already finding it difficult to sell their residences in a depressed housing market.

‘Shooting Homeowners in the Foot’

“It may not seem like much, but in a tough economy I think the city council is shooting homeowners in the foot. It’s going to make it more costly and difficult to sell a home,” said Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis.

“Homes will be rated on something that may or may not be important to people, but they’ll have to figure it in. People will say the home’s not very energy efficient. Based on these standards, it could cost sales, and it’s just laying an additional cost on sellers and buyers,” Burnett added.

Alan Steinberg, the 2008 Republican candidate for Congress in Texas’s 22nd district, agreed. “This government intervention into private markets is an uncalled for and unnecessary action that will only harm individuals in an already depressed market while benefiting special interests.”

Audits Already Available

“Consumer protection would be better met though requiring home inspections that could result in the identification of structural flaws than energy audits that are generally conducted by individuals interested in selling products to homeowners,” said Steinberg. “I support efforts to increase energy efficiency, but requiring energy audits does not lead to solutions but rather problems for people already suffering during tough economic times.”

“If prospective buyers desire an energy-efficiency assessment, they have the freedom to search for such information, on their own dime; whereas home sellers have no choice but to comply, or else they are potentially subject to criminal prosecution,” noted environmental policy analyst Drew Thornley. “This heavy-handed regulation will only delay the time it takes to sell a home and increase the cost of doing so.”

Krystle Russin ([email protected]) writes from Texas.