The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that homeowners in Austin, TX are now facing the additional burden of a mandatory energy audit on their homes before they can sell.

The audits which are targeted at less energy efficient (read older) homes can include checks on a home’s air-conditioning and heating systems and insulation and air-tightness and normally costs $200 to $300 on top of the repair cost which can run into the thousands.

With home sales in Austin down as they are in much of the country- April’s figures show an 18% slide compared to last year at the same point in time the law has homeowners and real estate professionals howling about the potential effect on future sales.

To top it off sellers who refuse the audit can be charged with a misdemeanor which one city councilman said was to show that the city was serious about the measure.

The city for its part says the audits are necessary to help keep Austin from having to build a new power plant by 2020 and that out of more than 300 audits conducted so far the average home was found to have leaking in their duct systems that was double what was recommended and attic insulation that was six inches thinner than ideal.

There is little doubt that power plants are expensive to build and operate and that saving energy is a worthwhile goal.  And I’m sure there are homebuyers who desire a more energy efficient or airtight home but generally make their purchase decisions based on other factors such as location, schools, shopping etc… Although I have read stories about people buying energy efficient or green homes I personally don’t know anyone who has made that a priority when looking for a home. Just look at Al Gore.

At this level home sales don’t have much further to go before they come to a grinding halt and adding this law at a time of economic distress seems dumb to say the least.  In their zeal to go green the city council has discounted the potential effect on sales which directly affects tax revenues which I doubt the city can afford to see shrink more than they already have.  Oh, wait a minute they are in line for stimulus money for doing so and that makes it revenue neutral even though the stimulus money comes from- the taxpayers!

Austin may call this an energy audit but it is really nothing more than a stealth energy that should be repealed before it spreads across the country and wrecks local economies.

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