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Tax Credits for Homes in Austin

Last February, the National Association of Home Builders released a study that proved one of the most important building qualities a potential home buyer wants in their new property or current real estate is proof and records of energy efficiency. The study stated that as many as nine out of ten real estate buyers would rather buy a home with energy-efficient features and permanently lower utility bills that one without those features that costs 2 percent to 3 percent less. It's easy to understand why home energy efficiency has become so integral to the final real estate sale, since less home energy usage means years of lower energy bills for your property (especially in hot states like Texas), and the knowledge that your residential lifestyle is contributing to a greener earth. However, some property sellers might brag that a listed home is energy efficient without explaining why or how the property functions greenly -which is why every Texas home buyer should know what green features and records to look for during a new home or real estate search.

Home Appliances: The appliances in any home should be Energy Star certified. If possible, check to see if the entire home or property might even be Energy Star Building Certified. Those residential service records alone will guarantee that the home is at least 30 percent more efficient than standard properties and buildings. However, if the home or property does not boast that qualification, make sure that the home's appliances are at least green, efficient, well-maintained, and complete with records kept by the real estate agent or seller. Ask your realtor if the property's washer, dryer, dishwasher, fridge and other often-used home appliances are over seven years old, since chances are that if they aren't newer, not only will a new homeowner be replacing them soon, but those appliances also won't be energy efficient or green now.

Residential Heating and Cooling: Home heating and cooling systems are generally responsible for forty-five percent of the energy a house or building uses. The building heating and cooling systems on the property, as well as the home's water heater, should be well maintained, and ideally the home should be outfitted with digital thermostat controls. That way, not only can you adjust the temperature easily, you can also set timers to reduce energy use while the home is empty and while you're sleeping. It also isn't nosy to ask real estate agents for maintenance records on the property's heating and cooling systems, especially if anything in the building looks old or out of sorts.

Utility Bills: Ask your real estate agent to see past energy bills from the property in order to get a feel for home heating and cooling costs (especially the cooling, this is Texas after all!), but be aware that these service rates aren't an exact science. If the past building resident was at home less or more that your schedule allows, or if there were other varying factors involving the area's energy rates, your service bills from utility companies may not be exactly the same. You can also inquire if the home comes with any local or state residential tax property credits, or even if local energy companies servicing your address will buy back energy created by the building (this is especially important if the previous homeowners installed any alternative home power source, such as solar roof panels or a backyard wind turbine). After you've bought the house, you can then keep in mind that many Texas electricity companies offer green energy options based on your address, which can clean up your home energy usage even further.

Exterior Home Windows, Doors, and More: All of the doors and windows on the property should be certified energy-efficient. Previous residential records and receipts should prove that the materials used are efficient, but to be sure you can also invest in a home blower door test, which costs around $250 and measures house and duct system air leakage. The test will map out the areas on the property that need repairs in order to reduce or remove any leaks coming in or out of the home. The attic should also be properly insulated, as should the building's outer walls. If the previous homeowners never properly insulated the building, chances are temperature control will shoot your monthly residential property bills through the roof.

After checking these major building features, there are still a few follow-up questions that wouldn't hurt to ask, especially if you're on the verge of buying a house. Ask the realtor or homeowner when the last energy audit was conducted on the property, and request to see the results. Buyers should also inquire if the current homeowner works with the Energy Star home program, has the residential Energy Star certification mentioned above or f the home possesses any further energy efficient building certifications, such as the LEED certification or EarthCraft House, or even if the home has been recently serviced to check for energy efficiency by an accredited company. Finally, no matter if you are buying or selling a property, you can consider additional savings by acquiring an Energy Efficient Mortgage, which can help pay for residential building energy improvements easily!
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