Imagine being able to buy a home the same way you would when buying a car or a major household appliance – by knowing how much it’s going to cost you to run. Consumers can examine MPG stickers for cars and Energy Guide labels for appliances to get a good idea about how energy efficient they are. But what can homebuyers look at to assess the energy performance – and affordability of the homes they are viewing? They can ask for the HERS Index Score.

The Home Energy Rating System Index, or HERS Index as it’s better known as is the nationally recognized system for inspecting, testing and calculating a home’s energy performance. The HERS Index Score informs consumers about how a house ranks for energy efficiency as compared to other similar homes. As a result, homebuyers can view homes based on their projected energy costs and make better informed buying decisions.

The way the HERS Index Score works is the lower the score, the better. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a typical resale home scores 130 on the HERS Index and a home built to the 2004 International Energy Conservation Code is awarded a rating of 100. Therefore, the lower the HERS Index Score, the more energy efficient the home.

Unlike the automobile and appliance manufacturing industries, the housing market has long suffered from a lack of transparency when it comes to home energy efficiency. Many potential homebuyers remain unaware of the fact that just because they can afford the mortgage doesn’t always mean they can afford the home. That’s because outside the home loan, the highest cost of homeownership is energy.

HERS rated homes cost less to run, are more comfortable to live in and enjoy higher resale values. Furthermore, a recent study shows that mortgage default risks are 32% lower on HERS rated, energy efficient homes. So what makes HERS rated homes better? Everything!

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