Leveraging existing home inspections at time-of-sale to promote energy upgrades
The very beginning of the home ownership cycle, a time when homeowners do significant planning for future remodeling projects (Siniavskaia 2017), is an ideal time for focusing efforts on promoting energy upgrades. However, without information about what energy upgrades their home needs, homeowners will focus on more visible and obvious upgrades; but if they know right away what energy upgrades are needed, they can add those to their remodeling plan. Since approximately 90 percent of prospective homebuyers conduct a home inspection prior to closing on a house (Pipitone 2011), this inspection could be an ideal moment to encourage energy upgrades.
With this hypothesis in mind, during the spring and fall of 2017 the authors conducted a pilot of 38 homes in the Twin Cities metro area, training home inspectors in basic energy assessment methods and assisting them in creating a separate energy report for their clients. After completing the pilot, these inspectors participated in a focus group and we completed a phone survey with participating homeowners. Our initial findings suggest that home inspectors in this market can serve as trusted messengers to prospective homebuyers for recommending energy upgrades. While our research also indicated some barriers and potential pitfalls to working with home inspectors, overall we conclude that this is a promising channel for utility-funded efficiency efforts — with the potential to increase (by an order of magnitude) the number of customers currently reached by home performance programs.