People’s desire to make a smaller footprint on a vulnerable planet affects the real estate market worldwide. In part this is due to the Internet’s power to inform and inspire, and it is partly due to who is buying the most homes. Millennials have made up more than half of homebuyers over the last few years. And millennials, surveys have shown, are willing to pay more for sustainability and the greenest possible living.
They often opt for new construction with the highest eco-friendly standards, but not every buyer will purchase a new home. Some millennials are not ready to make that financial commitment, and some will not be buying in trending locations that have lots of new green construction. So to attract buyers to an existing home, green home improvements can be a big win. Not only will the homeowner be doing the right thing by the planet, but also homes can sell faster and for more.
Although making green changes to an existing home can be complicated and expensive, there are many levels of improvement that vary in cost and difficulty.
What Meets the Eye
Green upgrades the buyer can see in an existing home make a difference. If you are upgrading, you can go more sustainable and energy-efficient in these areas:
- Non-toxic paint: The volatile organic compounds (VOC) in some paint can damage air quality and lungs. Choose a low-VOC paint to get that fresh, neutral look buyers want.
- Sustainable flooring: Replace worn-out floors with highly renewable bamboo, with responsibly grown and harvested hardwoods, or with natural linoleum products.
- A cool roof: Renovate the roof with light-colored materials that reflect heat.
- Energy-efficient appliances: Update the kitchen with appliances, and even faucets, that run on less energy and/or use less water.
- Native plants: Refresh the landscape with plants native to the environment, that will need less specialty care products and that will support local ecology.
Green changes that make a home energy-efficient will attract buyers and also give sellers the ROI of an eco-friendly home. Because they save money, these improvements also make money and bring return on investment.
- Update to a Smart Thermostat: A programmable thermostat ensures heating and cooling meet your needs without waste.
- New windows: The U.S. Department of Energy reports that 25-30% of energy costs literally get sucked right out of old windows, where leaks in both directions waste resources and money. New windows also beautify a home.
- Weather protection: If new windows are not an option, caulking and weather-stripping are also efficient.
- Tankless water heater: Upgrade an old water heater that needs to go anyway with a tankless one, that heats water as needed. Why waste energy heating gallons of water all the time?
- Recycled water: Systems for catching rainwater, or holding water from sinks and tubs (greywater) can save waste and money. This water can flush toilets and water gardens, among other uses.
- Renewable energy sources: Depending on the climate, solar panels and/or wind turbines can provide energy in place of using other, non-renewing resources.
Before making green improvements, research is the seller’s best tool. Understand the options, costs, and benefits. An experienced real estate agent can advise on what green improvements are most wanted and bring the best ROI in the local market. Also make sure the home is appraised by someone experienced with green features, to make sure their real value is represented in the appraisal.