Get Real: A glance at green benefits

The U.S. Green Business Council recently reported that single-family homes are responsible for approximately 20 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. By living in a green home, people can help reduce the causes of climate change. Studies show that more homebuyers are looking to purchase homes that have eco-friendly features.

“We put out a homebuyer and seller survey annually and studies show people are more interested in buying green improved homes,” said Michelle Wardlaw, public affairs associate for the National Association of Realtors. “NAR research has consistently shown that there is a considerable growing market for green homes. Many of the consumers today, we find, want homes that are sensitive to the environment.”

Although many who think about going green envision solar panels, that may not be the best investment for everyone. With solar panels, a home must be in an area with sufficient sunshine and it must be in a location that is eco-friendly minded.

Matthew E. Kahn, Professor at UCLA Institute of the Environment in the Department of Economics, noted that in California, all things being equal, homes with solar panels sell for a 6% higher price.  Realtors in the Brandywine Valley real estate market believe that solar panels send the message that the owner has been willing to invest in other quality upgrades to the home.

While solar panels are clearly visible to a potential homebuyer, they are just the tip of the iceberg in determining whether a home can offer energy efficient savings.

“While a potential buyer will notice whether the home has a swimming pool or a great kitchen, the home’s energy efficiency and ‘greenness’ is harder to see,” said Kahn. “The seller who owns such a home should recognize this point and make his home’s green features well known.”

Justin Barnes, a policy analyst for the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, said the easiest green fixes deal with appliance replacements. “Other measures are cost effective and advisable as well, such as replacing windows and doors and finding ways to insulate the home more effectively.”

Some upgrades have more appeal and return on investment than others. Energy-efficient appliances can reduce monthly utility bills. Tankless water heaters mean less time and water wasted waiting for water to warm up, and replacing old furnaces can lower a heating bill.

These eco-friendly upgrades may not be a top priority for most buyers, but when pointing it out, you can pique their interest.

“In terms of resale price maximization, the best green initiatives to help sell hinges on whether potential buyers value energy efficiency and are aware of the home's energy efficiency,” Kahn said.  If the seller believes that his home is highly energy efficient based on green investments he has made to the home, then he should produce 12 months of past electricity bills to signal to potential buyers that the home has this added bonus.  Work with your local realtor on other ways to promote the greenness of the home in your marketing plan.

Remember, anytime you need to replace something in your home, it’s an opportunity to make an eco-friendly choice, which can help in the resale value later on.

* Jim DeFrank and Beth Alois can be reached at 610-388-3700. Prudential Fox & Roach is an independently owned and operated broker member of BRER Affiliates Inc. Equal Housing Opportunity.



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