It seems our legislators in Sacramento have an obsession about point of sale mandates. Simply put, these are laws that require a certain act to be performed prior to the sale of a home. There have been several attempts to require sellers to replace all toilets with the latest, low flush versions prior to sale. Similarly there have been attempts to require all sellers to convert wood burning fireplaces to gas fireplaces prior to sale. The most recent point of sale mandate attempt would have required all sellers to have a home energy inspection and to invest in energy conservation upgrades if the house failed the inspection.
There is no doubt that the intent in each of these cases is good. Conserving water, reducing carbon emissions, and conserving energy are all noble and worthwhile causes. The problem is in linking them in to the point of sale. And there are several reasons for this:
- Cost: Selling a home is already expensive, and requiring an additional outlay of cash may impose an onerous burden on the seller. There are thousands of homes for sale right now where the buyers cannot even sell the house for enough to cover the outstanding mortgage. Where are these sellers going to get the extra cash for thousands of dollars of upgrades? I have sold probate homes where neither the estate nor the executor had any assets other than the house itself. I have loaned money to sellers so they could at least paint and clean up a house prior to sale to maximize the profit from the sale. I can guarantee you that in many poorer areas a buyer would not be willing to pay a premium for a house with energy efficient features. All they want is a house, the cheaper the better!!
- Time: Sometimes a seller must sell a house in a hurry. Point of sale mandates could make that impossible and in some cases cause serious harm to the seller as a result.
- Impracticality: Somebody has to make sure the point of sale mandates are complied with. This could create a whole new bureaucracy of inspectors, increase the cost even more, and create even more delays in the selling process.
There are other ways to obtain the same results without penalizing sellers who may already be selling under duress. In the case of the toilets, it is easy. Just make it illegal to sell anything but the most recent, low flow toilets. All new home builders and renovators would be forced to buy them. Eventually, all the toilets will be converted.
Energy conservation and fireplace conversions could use a different system based on rewards. Why not offer a tax rebate incentive for these items? It has been an effective motivator for people who want to convert to solar energy for example, and there is no reason why it shouldn't work for these items as well. Legislators, please give the poor sellers a break!!