Portland Home Energy Score Update: 2020

portland home energy score program

When the calendar turned over to the new year, Portland’s Home Energy Score program celebrated its second birthday. 

What’s new in the world of Home Energy Scores since they were implemented? To start with, Portland is seeing increased participation in the program, with nearly 13,000 homes scored. The average score, at 4.7/10, continues to be a little bit lower than expected. Also, the City of Portland is cracking down on home sellers (dishing out $ fines) who don’t comply with the rules.

2020 Home Energy Scores in Portland

If you’re considering selling a home in Portland and have already talked to a real estate agent, you might already be aware that you need a Home Energy Score before the listing goes live on the real estate market. While 35% of Portland home sellers chose not to comply with the law and listed their home without a Home Energy Score in 2019, the city has begun to issue fines for those not in compliance. Fines could be as much as $500 (and they repeat until you’re in compliance) with Home Energy Scores running between $150-$250, it makes much more sense to just get it done. 

But will a low Home Energy Score send buyers running? While no one has tracked the relationship between the Score and home sales in Portland itself, studies done elsewhere have found that buyers respond positively to the data found in reports like the Home Energy Score — whether that data reveals that the home is more energy efficient or not! For example, one analysis done in Chicago found that homes where energy costs were disclosed to buyers spent less time in the market, and had a higher rate of successful closure. Being open with information can help a buyer feel more comfortable with a large purchase.

Home Energy Scores in Portland are still being tweaked.

In Portland, Home Energy Score assessments done over the past two years have resulted in an average score of 4.7 out of 10. That means Portland homes are little less efficient than expected. When you consider that the weather here is more temperate than average, it makes sense, but there is a lot of room for improvement. A Home Energy Score is the first step toward a more efficient home — whether you, the seller, make improvements, or simply pass the information on to the buyer. In most cases, they will be glad to have a clear plan for how to make the home more efficient as soon as they move in. 

Home Energy Scores: Where to Find Them

Home buyers interested in energy efficiency are becoming the rule rather than the exception. In fact, a 2019 National Association of Realtors study found that at least 50% of all home shoppers are concerned about their home’s efficiency and environmental impact. As climate change and the price of energy become even bigger issues in 2020, Home Energy Scores will become even more valuable.

If you’re looking at a home in the City of Portland, it should already have a Home Energy Score report done and available online for you to look at. If there’s not a link in the home’s description, go to the Green Building Registry and type in the address. If you don’t find the report that way, contact your real estate agent. They may need to gently remind the sellers’ agent of the requirement.

If the home you’re looking at is outside the City of Portland, no Home Energy Score is required. However, it doesn’t hurt to look for one, or to ask the seller (via your real estate agent). Often times, other buyers will be looking at homes both inside and outside Portland city limits, and it will make sense for the seller to obtain a home energy score report so that buyers can compare homes. 

Need to order a home energy score?

The scores are good for eight years, unless you make energy changing remodels to the home. Then they have to be redone. Here is a list of licensed providers and our recommendation:

  1. OrderHomeEnergyScore.com – $125 + $34 floor plan creation
  2. The full list of all Portland energy score assessors.

How to Read a Home Energy Score Report

The Home Energy Score report format designed by the US Department of Energy is fairly simple and easy to read. There are just a couple of important points for buyers to know. 

  1. The Score is a percentile rating. This means that a score of 10 actually means a home is “in the top 10%” of energy efficiency. If a home scores a 10, it is more efficient than 90% of other homes. Working our way down the scale, a home that scores a 5 is more efficient than 50% of other homes. A 1 means that 85% of homes in the US are more energy efficient. 
  2. Costs are based on “standard occupancy”. The number on the top-right corner of the page doesn’t necessarily reflect the actual energy bills of the current owners of the home. The Home Energy Score algorithm takes the number of bedrooms in the home and estimates how many people would live in the home. It then figures their (hypothetical) average energy use and multiplies it by the local energy (natural gas, electric, etc.) rates in the area. 
  3. Go to “Priority Improvements” first. Most home buyers say that the section of the report they found most helpful is the second page, where it lists the improvements that are most likely to improve energy efficiency. Those that can pay themselves back in a period of ten years or less are listed first. Doing some research online or by calling a licensed contractor will give you an idea of how much you can expect to pay up front.
  4. Learn more about Home Energy Scores and how they work on an updated, informational Portland home energy score blog from a local scoring company..

Will Portland save $4 million and the planet?

According to NextCity, the average score of a Portland home with all the recommended energy efficiency improvements done could be as high as 7.3. “If all of those efficiency upgrades were put in place,” they write, “homeowners would see an estimated $4.2 million savings in utility bills and it would prevent 14,602 metric tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere.”

While these numbers represent a huge potential for Portland homeowners to save money while fighting climate change, it’s hard to tell if it’s actually playing out this way. The program only requires the initial report; Home Energy Score assessors don’t follow up to see if improvements were made. But, as homes turn over and are sold again, it will eventually be possible to compare how their scores change over time.

Need more info on how to comply with Portland’s Home Energy Score policy? Curious if your home or condo may be exempt? Contact our expert real estate team today. 

January 17, 2020

Stephen FitzMaurice

Stephen FitzMaurice, Realtor is a top 5% real estate agent in the U.S. A Principal Broker in Oregon, Managing Broker in Washington, he has been licensed since 2003 for residential real estate sales. Call his team in Oregon at 503-714-1111 or in Washington at 360-345-3833.

4% max to sell a home in Portland and SW Washington.
4.25% max to sell a home in Salem and Bend.
Over 2,000 homes sold.