Mr. and Mrs. Jones and Mr. and Mrs. Smith live in identical split level houses build in 1968. They’ve been neighbors since they bought their homes in 1980. Both homes have been well maintained. But both families are empty nesters now, and in the last couple of years they’ve been doing upgrades and remodeling projects in anticipation of retiring and selling the houses. The houses have generous room sizes so neither feel the need to do an addition. Both believe more than likely, a young family will buy their home. Their remodeling approaches are very different, however.
Mrs. Jones leaves all the remodeling decisions to her husband. Mr. Jones figures buyers are wowed by modern bells and whistles and first impressions. Mr. Jones is very frugal so his goal is to spend the least amount of money to create the illusion of modern and updated. So he does the granite countertop and stainless steel appliance thing in the kitchen, paints the whole house in one neutral color, puts in new neutral carpet in the bedrooms. He paints the existing cabinets an puts on new brushed silver hardware. Over the years the Jones had put in hardwood floors in the living and dining rooms, replaced the linoleum kitchen floor with tile, and updated the baths about 10 year ago. BUT his HVAC system is 15 years old. It’s still working but doesn’t meet the latest energy efficiency standards. The windows are original but the Joneses have all the storms and screens. Frugal Mr. Jones decided that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. And even though Mr. Jones notices heating and cooling bills rising, he figures they’ll be in Florida by the following winter so best to leave well enough alone.
Mrs. Smith, on the other hand watches all the HGTV “green” shows and assures Mr. Smith that their house will be worth more, and better for the environment, if they make sure their upgrades meet the current demand for energy efficient, money saving and eco-friendly features. Mrs. Smith works for the EPA and is concerned about indoor air quality. The Smiths also replaced their existing kitchen appliances with stainless steel one but made sure the refrigerator, dishwasher were EnergyStar rated. They put in granite countertops like the Joneses. They replaced their washer and dryer and got a front loading, more efficient washer. They had already replaced their windows in 2009 with windows that met the Dept. of Energy’s standards for the U factor and SHGE measurements; and got a nice federal tax credit on their 2009 tax returns. They decided to add a programmable thermostat and ceiling fans to enhance the efficiency of their 12 year old HVAC system. Although they had updated their baths a few years ago, they put in dual flush conversion kits and low flow shower heads to improve water efficiency. Like the Joneses, they painted the whole house, but used low-VOC paint and carpeted their bedrooms using recycled content carpet.
Which of these homes should sell and appraise for more? Given the cosmetic similarities, the extra energy and eco-friendly improvements the Smiths made should add value for the buyers and the corresponding appraisal required by the lender. However, it’s crucial that their real estate agent aggressively market the green features to buyers, and that the appraiser has the knowledge to appraise green features. Fortunately sellers can now look for agents who have either an EcoBroker certification or an NAR Green Designation (or both) to market their home. But appraisers have been slow to adjust to the changing market of existing homes with green remodeling features. There is now a new Appraisal Institute book called An Introduction to Green Homes. The book teaches “appraisers on how to estimate values for popular “green” home features, such as energy-efficient appliances, toxin-free flooring and insulation and vegetated roofs.”
My solution is to meet the appraiser at any home I list where the sellers have green improvements. I basically go over all the features with the appraiser and tell them what the cost savings and advantages of the features are. I have yet to have a home not appraise. I feel that educating buyers, sellers and appraisers is part of my job as a sustainability focused Realtor.
My purpose is to serve my clients and advocate for their highest and best good, so they attain their real estate goals.