Submit Government Guide
Mortgages and Financing
an Energy-Efficient Home
Summary: This fact sheet will provide you with an overview on residential,
energy-efficient financing programs, including energy-efficient mortgages. To
view illustrations, you can download the PDF version (PDF 163 KB) of this fact
sheet (Download Acrobat Reader). See Related Links below for more publications
on related topics, which aren't included in the PDF version.
The average homeowner spends close to $1,300 a year on utility bills. But an
energy-efficient home—with such features as proper insulation, high efficiency
heating and cooling systems, and energy-efficient windows—can lower your utility
bills by 10 to 50 percent.
It's easier than you may think to enjoy the savings and comfort of an
energy-efficient home. Since an energy-efficient home is cost-effective, there
are financing programs available from mortgages to home improvement loans, which
allow more people the opportunity to live in such a home.
You can benefit from energy-efficient financing whether you're buying, selling,
refinancing, or remodeling a home. If you're looking to buy an energy-efficient
home, you can qualify for a better, more comfortable home because with lower
utility costs, you can afford a slightly larger mortgage payment. You can also
obtain financing to make energy-efficient improvements to an older home before
moving in or to your existing home. And if you put your home on the market, you
can use its energy efficiency as an attractive selling point.
Home Energy Rating System (HERS)
Most energy-efficient financing programs will encourage you to have an energy
rating for your new or existing home, which will tell you and the lender how
energy efficient it is. A rating typically involves an inspection by a
professional energy rater who is certified under a nationally or state
accredited home energy rating system (HERS). There are several options regarding
HERS, so the type of HERS used will depend on where you live. Some states even
have more than one HERS. Some of the organizations listed at the end of this
fact sheet may be able to provide you with more information regarding HERS in
your state. Here's an example of a HERS and its reports.
For the most part, an energy rater will inspect the energy-related features of a
home, such as insulation levels, window efficiency, heating and cooling systems,
and air leakage. After the inspection, the energy rater will probably give you a
report that includes the home's energy rating along with an estimation of annual
energy use and costs. The report also may include recommended energy-efficient
improvements, if needed, and their costs, as well as the potential annual
savings and eventual payback of the improvements.
To help qualify for most energy-efficient financing, the report usually must
show that the home is energy-efficient or that recommended improvements are
cost-effective and will save you more money than you'd be borrowing to install
them. While calculating whether a borrower qualifies for a mortgage, a lender
can recognize these savings and add the cost of the improvements into the
mortgage. Or, if the home is already energy-efficient, the lender can stretch
the debt-to-income qualifying ratio, which is expressed as a percentage (the
ratio is calculated by dividing a borrower's monthly payment obligation on
long-term debts by the borrower's net effective income or gross monthly income).
The cost of a home energy rating and how it can be paid—by the borrower, the
seller, the lender, the real estate agent, or financed as part of the
mortgage—as well as the availability of certified energy raters, can vary from
state to state and from one energy-efficient financing program to another.
Energy-Efficient Financing Programs
You can apply for energy-efficient financing through a government-insured or
conventional loan program. Some states even have programs for their residents,
so it's a good idea to contact your state energy office to find out if your
There are two types of energy-efficient mortgages (EEMs): one for a new home and
one for an existing home. With an EEM, you can purchase or refinance a home that
is already energy-efficient. Or you can purchase or refinance a home that will
become energy-efficient after energy saving improvements are made. Most
energy-efficient financing programs offer both types of EEMs, as well as home
improvement loans for making energy efficiency upgrades to your existing home.
Here's an example of how an EEM can save you money.
Here's an overview of some of the energy-efficient financing programs available.
Each program is subject to change; therefore, you should contact a program
directly for the most current, detailed information.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Federal
Housing Authority (FHA) insures mortgage and home improvement loans, through its
approved lenders, for borrowers who would not otherwise qualify for conventional
loans on affordable terms, such as some first-time home buyers and some
residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods.
FHA Energy-Efficient Mortgage
FHA allows borrowers to finance the cost of adding energy-efficient improvements
to new or existing homes as part of their FHA-insured purchase or refinancing
* Energy-efficient improvement costs of $4,000 or 5 percent of the property
value (up to $8,000), whichever is greater, can be financed.
* The FHA maximum mortgage limit for an area may be exceeded by the cost of the
* No additional down payment is required.
* No requalifying is necessary.
* No new appraisal is needed.
* Up to $200 of the cost of a home energy rating may be included in the
This EEM can be used in conjunction with several other FHA-insured mortgages,
including the 203(k) rehabilitation mortgage insurance described below.
FHA Section 203(k) Rehabilitation Mortgage Insurance
FHA Section 203(k) rehabilitation mortgage insurance provides a borrower with a
single loan that covers both the purchase or refinancing and the cost of major
home improvements, including those that save energy. The program allows
borrowers to complete improvements after the loan closes. The funds are placed
in an escrow account and released as improvements are made.
* Total cost of improvements must exceed $5,000.
* The total property value must still fall within the FHA mortgage limit for the
area. (The property value is determined by whichever is less: the value before
the rehabilitation plus the cost of the rehabilitation or 110 percent of the
appraised value after rehabilitation.)
FHA Energy-Efficient Home Mortgage
When purchasing an energy-efficient home, an FHA-approved lender can stretch the
borrower's debt-to-income ratio by 2 percent.
FHA Mortgage Increase for Solar Thermal Systems
The maximum loan limit under FHA's standard 203(b) or 203(k) property
rehabilitation mortgage insurance can be exceeded by 20 percent if the home has
or will have a passive or active solar heating system. The home must also have a
100 percent operational, conventional backup system.
FHA Title I Property Improvement Loan Insurance
FHA also insures home improvement loans, including those that will make a home
more energy-efficient, for homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages. It features:
* Loans up to $25,000 for a single-family home
* Loans insured up to 20 years
* No required home energy rating reports.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) guarantees mortgage loans for
veterans with active duty service and qualified reservists. Its EEM can be used
to purchase or refinance a home along with the cost of making energy-efficient
improvements. To cover the cost of the improvements, the loan amount can be
* Up to $3,000 based solely on documented costs
* Up to $6,000 if the increase in the mortgage payment is offset by the expected
reduction in utility costs.
* More than $6,000 based on a value determination by VA.
A VA refinancing loan may not exceed 90 percent of the home's appraised value
plus the costs of the improvements.
Most of the national lenders who offer energy-efficient financing operate
through one of the following programs.
ENERGY STAR Mortgage
The ENERGY STAR� Homes program—sponsored jointly by the U.S. Department of
Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—promotes voluntary
partnerships with home builders to construct new homes that are 30 percent more
efficient than the guidelines established by the Model Energy Code—a "model"
national standard for residential energy efficiency.
The program also encourages lenders to provide EEMs for certified ENERGY STAR�
homes. An ENERGYSTAR� mortgage offers a minimum 2 percent stretch on a
borrower's debt-to-income ratio, plus at least one additional incentive for
borrowers. Incentives may include:
* A lower interest rate
* A discount on closing costs and/or origination fees
* Up to a 4 percent extension of the debt-to-income ratio stretch
* Paying for the cost of the home energy rating.
Fannie Mae—a private, shareholder-owned corporation—operates under a
congressional charter that directs it to channel efforts into increasing the
availability and affordability of homeownership. It doesn't lend money directly
to home buyers; it purchases mortgages from lenders, ensuring that funds are
Fannie Mae encourages lenders to offer its EEM by providing incentives and
specific criteria for those that it's willing to purchase from lenders. Both
existing and new homes fall under this EEM.
* Several approved home energy rating methods and programs, not just a HERS, are
allowed to evaluate a home's energy efficiency.
* For existing homes, the cost of improvements is limited to 15 percent of its
total cost. There is no limit imposed on the cost of improvements for new
* A home buyer can finance 100 percent of the energy efficiency improvements
without increasing the down payment.
Residential Energy Efficiency Improvement Loan
Fannie Mae is partnering with utility companies to provide loans to utility
customers for the installation of energy-efficient home improvements. The loans
* A below-market interest rate
* An unsecured financing option
* Up to $15,000
* A term of up to 10 years
* A "whole-house" or bundled approach to efficiency improvements.
Freddie Mac is a stockholder-owned, congressionally chartered corporation that
works to create a continuous flow of funds to mortgage lenders in support of
homeownership and rental housing. It purchases mortgages from lenders and
packages them into securities that are sold to investors, providing homeowners
and renters with lower housing costs and better access to home financing.
Like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac provides incentives and criteria, as well as
flexible guidelines, for EEMs that it's willing to buy, which encourage lenders
to offer them. However, the EEMs are limited to purchasing existing
energy-efficient homes or those to be retrofitted or renovated for energy
* Several home energy rating methods and/or documentation, not just a HERS
report, are acceptable.
* Lenders can exceed the standard 2 percent debt-to-income stretch at their own
* It allows a broader range of energy-efficient improvements than most EEM
When it comes to energy-efficient financing—whether you want to purchase,
refinance, or remodel a home—it's best to work with lenders and/or real estate
agents who are familiar with home energy ratings and program requirements. If
you'd like a home energy rating report, it's also best to work with a certified
energy rater. In all instances, it's always a good idea to ask for references
and check companies with your local better business bureau.
The following are sources of additional information on energy-efficient
You can also contact your state and local government energy offices for
region-specific information on energy-efficient financing.
E-mail: [email protected]
Consumer Web site: Homepath Web site
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD), Federal Housing Authority (FHA)
Mortgages Program Web site
Advisor Web site
FHA can be contacted through your local HUD office, which can be found in the
phone book or on HUD's Web site.
Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET)
E-mail: [email protected]
A national network of mortgage companies, real estate brokerages, builders,
appraisers, utilities, and other energy and housing professionals dedicated to
improving the energy efficiency of the nation's housing. It provides
state-by-state directories of conventional EEM lenders and energy raters.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
VA Home Loan Guaranty Web site
Resources for Energy
Alliance to Save Energy
Alliance to Save Energy
DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
This report was prepared as an account of work sponsored by an agency of the
United States government. Neither the United States government nor any agency
thereof, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or
assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or
usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or
represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference
herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name,
trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply
its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States government or
any agency thereof. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not
necessarily state or reflect those of the United States government or any agency