26 Jun 2011

U.S. real estate listings are spotlighting renewable energy systems and high-performing homes

Written by Jim Pierobon

Homeowners choosing to generate some of their own electricity with renewable energy systems are benefiting from how the Multiple Regional Information Service (MRIS) spotlights these features in homes it lists for sale in the Mid-Atlantic U.S. region.

While home searchers have been kept in the dark about such features by the initial form online that selling agents prepare about their clients’ listings, owners now can check off whether their homes have solar, geothermal, small wind and other ‘green’ advantages such as solar hot water heaters.

This 'tool kit' is poised to make major strides for efficient homes for sale, especially those with renewable energy systems. Image credit: Green Resource Council

However small this change may mean, it is one of several important steps by a tradition-bound industry to reflect investments that make homes more sustainable and enhance the marketability of a property. More real estate appraisers and market experts are concluding the more energy efficient a home is the higher the price it can fetch at sale.

> The ‘movement’ toward green home features adding market value is gaining momentum in the U.S.

If a prospective buyer or buyer’s agent knows where to look  on the MRIS system — which can be a challenge in itself — shoppers can determine how the “cooling fuel,” “heating fuel,” and water is heated. While renewable energy systems won’t ever trump location as the leading discriminator, this movement toward green home features is gaining serious momentum.

In the past this has been difficult to assess a home’s energy performance because appraisers have difficulty finding comparables to assign a market value to the high performing home. The National Association of State Energy Officials and Energy Rated Homes of America founded the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) to develop and launch national a system to rate a home’s energy performance. In addition to a higher resale value, a high performance rating can lead to a more affordable energy-efficient mortgage.

MLS is already in Alaska, Florida, Vermont and Washington state with this product. The Appraisal Institute is trying to make this a national trend.  The Institute recently launched a resource that will help real estate appraisers provide more reliable valuations on homes with energy efficient features called the Green Multiple Listing Services Tool Kit . It provides guidance for enhancing MLS data, to empower appraisers to make well-supported comparisons, analyses and adjustments.

The Institute also has educational materials about appraising homes with green features, the link to which is here.

An often-quoted article from a study conducted by the Appraisal Institute in 1999 helped ramp up the discussion about the savings to homeowners on comparable homes with lower utility bills.

There have been attempts in some states, including Maryland and California, to require energy audits AND certain energy efficiency standards to complete the sale of a residential or commercial property. But  REALTORS® thus far are beating back such proposals due to the costs they would impose on buyers and / or sellers and the weakness of those states’ housing markets.

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