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Sam on home heating bills

Posted by Rona Fischman October 25, 2010 02:15 PM

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Sam Schneiderman, broker owner of Great Boston Home Team (our Monday guy) writes today about home heating bills.

Many prospective buyers ask what the utility bills are.

That’s certainly something that any budget conscious buyer should do to get a rough idea of how energy efficient (or inefficient) a home or condo is, but buyers should realize that the life style of the current occupants could be very different from theirs. Personally, I think that a good home inspection will tell you more about a home’s energy efficiency, but having an inspection plus the past bills is obviously better.

The best way to get past utility bills is to ask the sellers. Unfortunately, not all sellers keep good records. You might think that it would be possible to call utility companies and ask for the bills, but that doesn't always work because utility companies don’t give out information about their customers.

While gas companies won't tell you what their customer’s heating bills are, they will often respond when asked; “if I buy this house, what can I expect to pay for gas on a “level billing plan”? (Gas companies offer “level billing plans” that allow customers to pay the same amount each month of the year to smooth out the highs and lows of the seasonal heating bills we experience here.) If all else fails the buyer can ask the seller to get a printout of past usage from utility companies.

While an extraordinarily high heating bill might tip a buyer or agent off to a home with a problem, how can you really compare heating and cooling bills from home to home? Condo sellers that have a one-year-old child and are moving to a single-family with a yard would probably have higher heating bills last year than incoming buyers without small children. I have neighbors who set their thermostat at 60°, but my family is uncomfortable when I lower the thermostat below 70°. Some people are home all day; others lower the heat when they leave for work every day.

Electrical bills can also vary dramatically from home to home. Some folks can't live without air-conditioning and others dislike it. Some families leave all the lights on, and others use every opportunity to economize on their electrical bill.

I've done research to try to find the average utility bills for various size homes and condos. While there is information on rental units, I haven't been able to find any meaningful information on single-family utility costs other than the average utility bill for all homes, which is meaningless because homes vary so much in size. With that in mind, if enough readers respond with their annual heating bill, size of their home or condo, type of heat and brief description of the occupants and usage, we can get some good data right here. What is your annual heating bill?

How important is/was past utility use to your buying decision?
What do you do to lower your bill or conserve energy, or do you even try?

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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