Portland Home Energy Scores: FAQ

portland home energy score faq

As with a lot of things that go along with selling a home, the Home Energy Score requirement in Portland can be confusing. Here are some quick answers to the most common questions we get from people ordering a home energy score on their Portland home.

What’s the difference between a Home Energy Assessment and a Home Energy Performance Report?

According to the City of Portland’s Final Interim Administrative Rules about the program, a Home Energy Assessment is the actual audit conducted by a licensed Home Energy Assessor. The document they produce from the audit is officially known as the Home Energy Performance Report, which is where you’ll find the Home Energy Score along with estimates of energy use and cost, the home’s carbon footprint, and suggested improvements.

How long does the Home Energy Performance Report stay valid for home sellers in Portland?

The Portland Final Interim Administrative Rules state that the Report expires eight years from its issue date. However, after two years, sellers may request a “reissue” that does not actually require a new Home Energy Assessment. The reissue simply generates new estimates of home energy costs and emissions based on the most recent information available from the City of Portland.

After eight years, homes are required to be re-assessed, to ensure that the Report reflects the most recent scoring practices. Of course, if any alterations are made to the home that may affect its energy performance, the home is required to get a new home energy score.

How do I know if my home or condo is required to get the Home Energy Score? What about foreclosures?

All residential detached homes and single level condos within Portland’s jurisdiction are required to be scored before they are listed on the MLS. The exceptions are condos that do not have their own roof (high-rises). For a more detailed explanation, see our article here.

The city does issue exemptions for certain homes. These can include publicly listed foreclosures, short sales, and auction-sold homes. Some sellers may qualify for a “hardship exemption”, but only by submitting a request before listing the home for sale.

How are the “suggested improvements” generated?

The goal of the “suggested improvements” section (second page) of the Home Energy Performance Report is to help homeowners (or buyers) quickly and easily reference a list of improvements that will increase the home’s energy efficiency, lower utility bills and decrease the carbon footprint.

However, it’s important to note that not all potential improvements that would achieve these goals are listed here. The list is limited to those improvements that would pay themselves back in energy cost savings in ten years or less. For most Portland homes the “suggested improvements” are to insulate the attic and basement and perform duct and air leak sealing. Check out the DIY category on our blog to get started before you order your home energy score.

Will a low Home Energy Score negatively impact my home’s value?

Because the Home Energy Score policy has only been in effect in Portland forjust over half a year, it’s a little early to judge how scores are affecting buyer behavior overall.

What we do know is that home buyers make their purchasing decisions based on a number of facts about a home, and the fewer homes available, the less likely they are to be choosy. Right now in Portland, demand outstrips supply for homes priced under $400,000, which makes it a sellers’ market. For homes in the higher price range, there’s more supply than demand, which means buyers are going to be a little choosier.

What determine’s a home’s value? There are many factors that buyers prioritize differently based on their individual needs. Of course, location is key — and not going to change based on your home energy score. The Portland area is still growing quickly and expected to add more than 800,000 residents in the next 20 years, according to Metro estimates. Very few homes will be overlooked in the competition among these new residents to find housing.

Bottom line is, for higher-priced homes in Portland, a home energy score is going to have a higher chance of triggering a low offer from a potential buyer. For homes affordably priced to the average income earner, sellers can still fetch asking price or better, even if their home energy score is below average.

Should I make improvements to my home to boost my Home Energy Score before I list it on the Portland real estate market?

There’s no straightforward answer to this one. Circumstances vary for each home and homeowner. How much money do you have to invest in your home? How soon do you want to put it on the market? Are there other major repairs that you should do first?

For most homeowners, return on investment (or ROI) is important. You want to get back the money you’re putting into the home, whether it’s for all-new appliances, a fresh coat of paint, or duct sealing.

If you’re making an improvement for the sole reason of improving your home energy score, it’s probably not going to provide a good ROI. A good question to ask yourself is, if the Home Energy Score did not exist, is this something buyers would want done? In most cases, the answer is yes — sealing your air ducts, insulating your attic and stopping air leaks are all improvements that stand a good chance of improving home value. When you get to things like solar panels and new high-performance windows, ROI becomes a little dicier.

Is this law really going to be around for a while? Should I just wait to list my home for sale?

Waiting to list your home just to avoid a couple hundred bucks for the Home Energy Score is not going to pay off in the long run. The Portland real estate market seems to be cooling overall and is headed into the seasonal lull period of late summer/fall.

Meanwhile, the Home Energy Score policy has not met with any major political challenges that we are aware of. Though the extra step in getting a home listed for sale in Portland is not always liked, most people are on board with the idea of doing their part to slow climate change. In fact, by 2030, the city’s Climate Action Plan requires a 40% reduction in carbon emissions, and so far Portland is on track to meet that goal.