While updated kitchens, open floor spaces and beautiful backyards remain at the top of home buyers’ wish lists, eco-friendly home features are beginning to make an appearance.
We polled Coldwell Banker Real Estate Facebook fans, who are primarily real estate agents, with the question: “Has a buyer ever asked you about any ‘green features’ a prospective home may have?” 20 percent responded yes. On coldwellbanker.com, there are currently 129 homes with the term “eco friendly” in the listing description.
Clearly, green living is something buyers and sellers are talking about, and we expect that it will continue to grow with time.
However, to some homeowners, the idea of going green is fraught with concerns about spending more as first thoughts often turn to the installation of expensive items like solar panels. And, in some cases, they are correct; not all green updates make sense.
What buyers will pay for
Before making any improvements, it is important to understand what prospective buyers want and, even more so, what they are willing to spend more on.
Buyers value green improvements that make a home healthier, more comfortable and—here’s the kicker—they’re highly interested in upgrades that will save on operating costs.
While the average U.S. household spends nearly $1,900 a year on utility bills, water and energy-efficiency are tangible benefits that are easy to measure. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy says a green home can cut consumers’ bills by 25 percent!
Buyers might be more willing to spend on an energy-efficient home because they know that they’ll be saving money on operating costs in the long run.
Where to start
Energystar.gov is a valuable resource for homeowners and sellers looking to make a start. This website suggests ways of making a home more energy efficient with products and appliances that can help to reduce high energy bills, improve comfort and lessen the environmental impact.
Big ticket upgrades, big impact
As much as half of the energy used in your home goes to heating and cooling. An inefficient heating system not only leaves your pockets empty, it leaves your family shaking during the winter months. If a heating system is 25 years or older, it’s time to replace it. And while a high-efficiency furnace with installation could run upwards of $3,000, it’s an update that buyers will appreciate as it isn’t generally a favorite on their “to do” list when they first move in.
Small improvements, still important
There are many other smaller green improvements that, over time, can make a big difference. For instance, installing a programmable thermostat is an inexpensive green improvement that can save up to $150 annually.
Another competitive edge a seller can give their home against other homes on the market is upgrading showerheads, toilets and sinks that are 20 years or older. According to Frontdoor.com, federal standards now require that these fixtures use less water. An upgrade to a low-flow toilet can also trim about $90 a year off a water bill.
Prior to putting a home on the market, you might also consider getting your home audited by the HERS Index, a rating system that verifies a building’s energy performance and is recognized by the federal government for tax incentives, mortgage loans and investor certifications. Having a good score on the HERS index can improve the value of your home to green-minded buyers.
Of course, there are many other energy-efficient improvements to consider:
Plant trees near windows to provide shade, reduce the need for interior cooling
Replace old light bulbs with ENERGY STAR-qualified bulbs (this can save more than $40 over each bulb’s lifetime)
Seal air leaks around windows and doors to prevent energy losses
If your home is currently on the market, or if you’re getting ready to put it on the market, it is important to do everything you can to give it a competitive edge. Selecting some, or all, of these eco-friendly home improvements can give buyers peace of mind knowing they won’t have to invest time and money in putting together and operating a more efficient, lower impact, more comfortable home.
Guest blogger Lindsay Listanski is the social media manager for Coldwell Banker Real Estate, a leader in full service real estate sales.