Most trends are just trends. But there are those that transcend just being “in fashion” and become a valued part of mainstream society.
Take natural food, for instance. Fifty years ago, it was something hippies ate on a budget. Now we have entire grocery chains dedicated to healthy eating, and consumers pay a premium for organics.
Weight training is another. It’s not just for jocks anymore: Go into any gym today, and you’ll find people in all walks of life — from their teens to their 90s — pumping iron or working out on the strength-training circuit.
Both of these trends have gone mainstream because of the real value they deliver. In real estate, a similar trend has emerged over the past couple of decades. It’s called “sustainability.”
Green homes are on the rise — and unlike many real estate trends, this one just keeps getting bigger. Green construction is the fastest-growing segment of the construction industry, and is expected to account for more than one-third of the U.S. construction sector by 2018.
Why have green homes become so popular? In a word: value.
Sustainable features are called “green” because they are good for the environment. But nearly every green feature also offers substantial financial, comfort and/or health benefits as well. This is especially true when it comes to energy savings. Many green features are an investment that pays back in the long run, while also reducing the homeowner’s carbon footprint.
Whether you are getting your home ready for market or looking to invest in a new home, here are some green home features to put on your radar screen:
• Energy-saving appliances. Homes equipped with energy-efficient refrigerators, air conditioners and other home appliances can save their owners up to $400 per year in utility bills. Look for the ENERGY STAR label when choosing appliances.
• Eco-friendly materials. There are many reclaimed, recycled and renewable materials available for green home construction. Some have energy-efficiency advantages. For example, straw bale homes can reduce heating expenses by 75 percent. Others, such as hardwood flooring, are in demand for their lack of chemical off-gassing and their aesthetic appeal.
• Solar energy. Solar panels on the roof may well be the ultimate symbol of a green home. A solar energy system allows the homeowner to run his or her home on clean energy generated by the sun. It can even be used to power an electric car. Solar is an investment, but it pays back in the long run. Rate of return for solar varies by location, but in many states it is far higher than investing in the S&P 500. In real estate, incorporating solar is proving to be an excellent way to increase home value; studies show that buyers are willing to pay a premium of about $4 per watt of installed solar, or about $15,000 for an average system.
• Energy smart features. Smart homes — homes that use technology to automate energy savings — represent the newest generation of green homes. Some examples of smart features include windows that automatically adjust the amount of light and heat admitted into the home, thermostats with occupancy sensors, and automated lighting systems. Many such features can be controlled from anywhere with a smartphone.
Green features are intrinsically valuable for their energy savings and other qualities. However, if you think you might sell your home in the future, it will set your mind at ease to know that studies repeatedly show that green homes sell for more and faster than their conventional counterparts.
Rest assured, this trend is here to stay. Whether you are selling or buying green features, chances are your investment will positively influence the value of your home.
Ryan McNeill is President of Renewable Energy Corporation, one of the largest residential solar energy companies in the Mid-Atlantic region. It is committed to providing homeowners with high-quality, American-made solar panels, solar water heaters, solar attic fans and many more products.