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Green Building News

Mass. Bill Would Require Energy Scorecards Be Given to Homebuyers

The governor pitches a plan that would require sellers to provide potential buyers with energy assessments, beginning in 2021

Proposed legislation in Massachusetts is designed to give homebuyers better information about the energy performance of properties they are considering buying. A group representing state Realtors objects.
Image Credit: Richard Klein / Flickr

The governor of Massachusetts has introduced legislation that by 2021 would require that people selling their homes provide potential buyers with home energy performance ratings.

The Boston Globe said the measure filed by Gov. Charlie Baker earlier in the week would be the first of its kind in the U.S.

At the outset, the bill would require energy raters such as Mass Save to provide homeowners with a home energy scorecard when they have a free assessment done. Beginning in 2021, anyone selling a building with one to four residential units, and listing the property for sale publicly, would be required to provide potential buyers with energy performance ratings.

The governor’s office said in a press release the legislation is part of the state’s effort to lower greenhouse gas emissions and help state residents save money.

The scorecards would include an estimate of annual energy consumption based on features such as lighting, insulation and HVAC equipment. Homeowners also would get recommendations for efficiency upgrades, such as better water heaters, and more efficient heating and cooling equipment.

Massachusetts has been ranked best in the country for energy efficiency programs for the past seven years by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. “Upon passage of this legislation, [it] would be the first state in the country to require home energy scorecards for residential homes to be made available to potential homebuyers,” the governor’s office said.

Should the bill pass, the state’s Department of Energy Resources would design the scorecard and develop standards and training for providers.

Real estate group not so thrilled

The Massachusetts Association of Realtors is opposed to the legislation. In a prepared statement, Rita Coffey, the association’s president and the general manager of a Century 21 agency in Weymouth, said, “Realtors are for energy efficiency but the mandatory nature of this bill won’t do what its supporters hope it will. The key to increasing energy efficiency in Massachusetts is through incentives, not mandates.”

The association said the measure would “really stick it to” homeowners with low and moderate incomes because they might not have the money to make energy-related improvements to their homes before a sale. Lower energy scores could mean lower values.

Home prices are rising to their highest levels on record in Massachusetts, in part because of a declining inventory of homes for sale. The number of homes for sale has declined in 72 of the last 73 months, and the association says getting a mandatory home energy audit before a house could be listed for sale would worsen the situation.

“Massachusetts is starved for housing inventory,” Coffey’s statement said. “In fact, it’s so severe, that we’re seeing the lowest number of homes on the market since we’ve been tracking this data. This scarcity is increasing home prices to a point where many first-time homebuyers are being forced out of the market and deciding to look in other states to buy a home.”


  1. STEPHEN SHEEHY | | #1

    I like the idea of providing prospective buyers with energy information. But wouldn't a requirement to provide a few years of actual use data be more useful and more accurate?
    Something like this:

    " over the last three years, this house used an annual average of xxx kwh and yyy gallons of oil. "

  2. resilientbuilding | | #2

    privacy and individual variability
    The courts would probably consider it an invasion of privacy for the state to require sellers to divulge how much energy they consumed. Actual energy use depends on a lot of factors, like how severe last winter was, how many people were living in the house, and literally dozens of lifestyle choices. Also, there would be no such data for new construction.
    I am hoping this scorecard will require some actual analysis of a home: measuring insulation, infra-red pictures (to ID hot/cold spots), and blower door tests, as well as the energy consumption rates of appliances. These things will give the most impartial picture. The trick will be converting the information into a simple "scorecard" that will communicate the results in a way non-building-scientists can understand and use. Hopefully the scorecard will also come with recommendations for improvements based on cost vs. impact.

  3. STEPHEN SHEEHY | | #3

    Andrew: I don't see any privacy issue. Homeowners need to disclose all sorts of stuff to prospective buyers. And private utilities already have the numbers.

    While weather, number of residents, etc. certainly have an impact on energy use, such real data is probably more useful, and more accurate, than a HERS score or LEED certification, based on drawings that may or may not have been adhered to. And historical data can be gathered without any expense. The real estate industry will go nuts if sellers need to spend money on blower door tests, infrared scans, etc. and spend more getting someone to interpret them.

  4. user-349933 | | #4

    New homes are good old are bad
    It would seem that a score card will end up highlighting newer homes as energy efficient while older homes will be energy hogs.. If someone tears down an older modest size home and replaces it with a much larger "green" home isn't it possible that the energy consumed by both homes could be identical? Say I have a 2000 sq ft home and my neighbors have a 4000 sq ft home that is twice as energy efficient will both homes score the same? In a previous article it was pointed out that a low flow shower head isn't always what determines the amount of water use but the time in the shower can be the bigger factor. Homeowner behavior is a factor as well. I think I once read somewhere that some of the greenest homes built aren't the ones featured in green publications but instead huts in Africa.

  5. gusfhb | | #5

    I think you should be careful
    I think you should be careful about over specifying efficiency tests. we already have title 5 septic tests, and buyers have a number of tests that are basically a requirement for loans.
    That said I really don't understand the pushback by realtors. They think nothing of suggesting a new kitchen to increase sales price. Maybe it will now be a new boiler......
    Current energy use can be very deceptive. The PO of my house basically heated with the fireplace and wood from the back 40. No utility bills, but frightening real costs

    A pretty basic energy analysis will be an important tool for home buyers, I don't think they really consider energy costs as part of total ownership costs. I would just encourage them not to get too carried away trying to put too fine a point on it.

    Heat it with a candle
    Not too bad
    Hope you own stock in Exxon

    Check one..........

  6. BobHr | | #6

    Don't we already know the
    Don't we already know the relative efficiency of homes built in a certain era. Wouldn't homeowners use that they had insulation blown in, new windows, etc. In marketing the property. If it doesn't get people to improve their homes it is a waste of money.

  7. capnkent | | #7

    Portland OR EPS dumb down
    Portland Oregon has implemented the HES (Home Energy Score) We've found it to be a dumbed down version of energy rating. I suspect that may be the future of the ratings programs...

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