Estimating Utility Costs Before You Buy a Home

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Estimating Costs of Utilities When Moving Into a New Home

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Moving is a complicated process, with many expenses to consider. During all of your budgeting and planning when preparing to buy a new home, you have likely thought about down payments, mortgage payments, and moving costs. However, utility bills can vary greatly from one home to another, and any new house you are considering for purchase could cost you a great deal more than what you are currently paying. If you are in the market for a new home, this guide will help you to estimate the utility expenses of any potential home, as well as provide you with some tips for suggested improvements to cut energy costs.

Research regional rates

The cost of utilities varies greatly not only by the condition of the home and size of the family but the location. Of course, a major uncontrollable variable is climate--homes in regions with extreme temperatures will inevitably cost more to keep comfortable than a home in a locale with moderate weather. There are a number of other factors that affect the cost of utilities by region, including consumer demand, legislation, and the occurrence of recent disasters in the area. If you will be moving to a new city or state, research the current utility rates using a variety of websites and tools, such as Open EI, a database including utility companies, rates, and other information for any city around the world.

Check for energy inefficiencies

Before purchasing a home, make sure you are aware of any features or problems that could cause energy inefficiency and result in increased utility bills. Things to look out for include old plumbing fixtures and poorly-functioning pipes, drafty or loose window panes, high ceilings that draw conditioned air away from comfort areas, leaky duct work, lack of insulation, old and energy-inefficient appliances, and spas, pools, and landscaping that will require a large amount of water and energy to run and maintain.

Ask for the bills

You are permitted to request past utility bills from the home's current owner to get an idea of what you will be paying. You can have your realtor arrange this with the seller's realtor, or ask the owner directly if he or she is selling the house. Request copies of the bills spanning the last 12 months to get an idea of what you will pay for each season throughout the year. Remember to take into consideration variables such as climate fluctuation (was this past winter especially cold?) and family size (are the current residents a family of six, while you are a family of three?). These variances will have an effect on your utility bill, but the information will still be helpful for you to calculate an estimate.

Get a HERS evaluation

Before buying the home, it is a good idea to have it inspected by a certified energy auditor. The Home Energy Rating System Index, or HERS, is used to determine how energy-efficient a home is. This scoring system was established by the Residential Energy Services Network, or RESNET. The lower the home's index, the more energy efficient it is.

Some homeowners have their home's evaluated before they place it on the market, using a desirable rating as a way to attract buyers. However, if the home has not received a HERS rating, hiring an energy auditor can be a great help in spotting troublesome aspects of the home and in recommending energy-efficient improvements to lower your monthly costs.

Consider energy improvements

Making improvements to a home to increase energy efficiency can actually save you money in the long run. The federal government even offers financial incentives for making energy-conserving alterations to your home, such as installing solar panels, wind turbines, efficient windows, added insulation, woodstoves and more.

Other helpful changes you can make to your home include installing ceiling fans to aid in the circulation of air, using light fixtures that make the most of LED and CFL technologies, and installing plumbing fixtures (faucets, showerheads, toilets) developed to reduce water waste.

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on August 8, 2013

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