Growing consumer interest and demand for greener, more sustainable properties is driving a dialogue between Realtors® and homebuyers and sellers. As this interest in sustainability grows, real estate professionals are making an effort to seek out and highlight eco-friendly features in their property listings.
In April 2017, the National Association of Realtors® introduced the REALTORS® and Sustainability report, which stems from NAR’s new Sustainability Program, states that more than half of Realtors® surveyed reported consumer interested real estate eco-friendly issues and practices.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Americans spend $160 billion per year to heat, cool, and light their homes. In 2015, the average U.S. residential customer consumed 10,812 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity for these services, down from 11,320 in 2009. With costs creeping upward every year, the trend toward consuming less and finding ways to conserve energy is growing. Not surprisingly, home buyers and sellers are looking toward buying greener properties, or making their homes more sustainable. And since a home’s value can increase by $20,000 simply by installing solar panels, now is the ideal time to start that dialogue.
Here’s your guide to talking about sustainability with your Realtor, to help you find properties that match your goals and values – or to adapt the property you are living in for greater resale value.
Arrange an energy audit. Regardless of whether you are looking to buy or sell, ask your real estate professional to recommend a company that conducts energy audits. Many buyers and sellers are looking for ways to make homes more energy efficient, and the best way to start is with a professional audit that evaluates heating and cooling systems, windows and doors, insulation, and more. In New York, NYSERDA offers several programs, including Assisted Home Performance with Energy Star, which provides income-qualified homeowners with incentives and low-interest loans for making energy-efficient upgrades to their homes. Solar panel installation comes with a variety of financial incentives for consumers as well. Make sure the energy audit you arrange is provided by an approved energy audit organization – not by a company with a commercial interest in selling you a new heating system, for instance.
Eliminate old, outdated features in your home. Old wall-to-wall carpeting not only gives off environmentally polluting gases, but is difficult to recycle and dispose of. Likewise, outdated, lead-leaching plumbing, leaky door and window seals, and poor indoor air quality from mold and other toxic materials are a sure bet for decreasing a home’s value. It’s an expense to upgrade, but it will pay off for sellers come showing time. And for some homeowners, there are subsidies and grants available to help offset costs, and a several-year plan may help with affordability issue.
Ask about sustainable materials for cosmetic and other home improvements. Replacing your siding? How about your wood floors? Ask your Realtor about contractors who work with recycled or reclaimed materials that are free of toxins. Low-E tempered glass windows and doors, concrete floors are energy efficient, countertops made of recycled glass and shingle-siding made from recycled rubber and plastic are among the newest materials to reduce environmental impact.
Be savvy with your home improvement records. As a seller, you will benefit from knowing when the windows and roof were last replaced. But think beyond traditional improvements and highlight your Energy Star appliances, your smart/connected appliances and monitors. Make note of your leafy trees (these great natural climate controllers reduce cooling costs in the summer), your landscaping for water conservation, your sunny yard for garden or raised beds. You’ll want to highlight your town’s recycling programs and note the convenient access to bike and walking paths.
Seek out environmentally friendly communities. With rising increased interest in minimizing ecological footprints, many buyers are looking for homes that are conveniently located to parks and other green spaces, public transit, shops, restaurants, and entertainment.
If your home can boast any of the features above – from a recent energy audit to a new solar-paneled roof, you will be ahead of the game in selling your house to a like-minded buyer.
Ron Caplan is president of Columbia-Greene-Board of Realtors®, columbiagreenerealtors.com