When a seller decides to make improvements to get their home sold for the highest price, painting, landscaping, de-cluttering and staging are the things they are most often told to do by their real estate agents. After all, most buyers don’t examine the insulation in the attic or check for drafty doors and windows when they’re looking at home. But since buildings use 40% of all fossil fuel energy in the United States, the idea that sellers can quantify energy use is becoming a more marketable factor in home value.
Occasionally buyers will ask what the utility costs are when they have seen a home they would like to consider. And occasionally sellers will proactively display monthly utility costs if they happen to be pretty low. Since the cost of utilities is a recurring monthly expense just like a mortgage it make sense to think of the utility bill as part of the overall cost of home ownership.
Just like buying a car, homebuyers are looking for something physically attractive. In other words, they aren’t going to buy a house that is unattractive to them just because it’s energy efficient. But surveys show that energy efficiency is becoming more and more important to buyers. In fact 39% of all homebuyers say energy efficient is a very important factor in their home buying decision. New home building codes are mandating higher levels of energy efficient standards. However, older homes have no such requirements. So a seller who consciously improves the energy efficiency and has an agent who knows how to market these improvements can expect more interest in their home and possibly a better price if the home has the other attractive features a homebuyer is looking for.
In order to assess the energy efficiency of a home the homeowner should first have an energy audit performed by a reputable auditor. Once the report is in hand the homeowner can proceed to systematically make the improvements necessary to make the home more efficient. And the improvements don’t need to be cost prohibitive or so expensive that the seller won’t recoup the investment. For instance, windows don’t necessarily need to be replaced if they are old and single pane. Simply caulking and/or new storms can dramatically improve efficiency by cutting down on drafts. On the other hand, if the home won’t be sold for a number of years, new windows may be worth the investment.
If the HVAC system in a home is more than 15 years old it might be worth replacing even if it hasn’t broken down. In 2006 the SEER rating (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) was mandated to be at least 13, which was a fairly dramatic increase in energy efficiency. Today HVAC systems with SEER ratings between 18 and 23 are available. The lifetime cost of operation for a 23 SEER rated HVAC system is half that of an older 8 SEER system. The cost for a new HVAC system is much less than a complete kitchen remodel for example, and if properly marketed in the sale of the home, may be a better investment. After all you can’t account for someone else’s taste in kitchen design. But knowing you have a new furnace that will save you hundreds of dollars in energy costs over the course of a year, and is good for the environment because of lower greenhouse gasses, is certainly a good selling feature.
Insulation is a biggy and a very cost effective improvement. Using an insulation material that is free of formaldehyde, which is not good for the indoor air quality in a home, adds yet another marketable eco-friendly feature. This article from the Sierra Club Green Home has some great tips on insulation. If you’re thinking of replacing older appliances to add value and appeal to your home be sure they’re Energy Star rated.
A Realtor who understands the importance of marketing energy efficiency and eco-friendly features of a home can add thousands of dollars to the seller’s bottom line. To often when I preview or show homes I recognize features that I point out to clients, but that are nowhere to be found in the marketing material, either online or in print.
My purpose is to serve my clients and advocate for their highest and best good, so they attain their real estate goals.