The 411 on The Eco-Friendly Real Estate Market

Everything you need to know about buying, creating, and selling a sustainable home

In a recent Trulia survey, 79% of Americans said they considered themselves environmentally conscious. When it came to acting on their desire to be more environmentally friendly though, it was another story. Whether you are thinking about buying your first home or making environmentally friendly improvements, here is exactly what you need to know about eco-friendly choices and your home value.

What Makes an Eco-Friendly Home

An eco-friendly home is a home that is designed to be sustainable, usually making efficient use of energy and water, and using environmentally friendly building materials. Homes made from biodegradable or recycled glass, wood, plastic, or metals can be billed as eco-friendly. Wind power systems, solar panels, plant-based products like carpeting made from corn or soy-based paint, low-flow water fixtures, and energy-efficient lighting are all common eco-friendly features.

How Eco-Friendly Homes Fit Into the Real Estate Marketplace

People make home upgrades like installing energy saving appliances or triple pane windows to be more eco-friendly, but also to save on their utility bills. Upgrades to more efficient appliances generally save money in the long run, but their impact on the real estate market is less clear.

“People do upgrade [for energy efficiency], but the problem is, a lot of that information on what they’re doing doesn’t get to the marketplace, doesn’t find its way into the real estate transaction,” Maria Vargas, who directs the Better Buildings Challenge program at the Department of Energy, told the Washington Post.

According to a study of the real estate market in Washington, D.C., eco-friendly homes sold for 23% more than conventional homes from 2008 to 2013. The study found that buyers were willing to pay more for sustainable homes because they would save money in the long run, and because of the environmental benefits. During the time of the study, demand for eco-friendly homes was on the rise. Similarly, a 2013 study in California found that green-certified residences sold for 9% more than houses that were not certified.

How to Make Your Home More Eco-Friendly

Some eco-friendly features need to be built into a home during construction, while others can be added later. Effective wall and floor insulation, solar panels, and high-performance windows are easiest to add during construction. Pulled recycled paper, for example, is a popular, sustainable roof insulation option and also prevents any risk of asbestos.

Things like efficient heating and cooling systems, energy-saving lighting, and efficient appliances can be added to almost any home. Look for Energy Star qualified lighting and appliances, meaning they’re certified as efficient by the Environmental Protection Agency. Homeowners with large yards may want to consider a biological wastewater treatment option, which can collect and recycle rainwater for use in the garden.

If you’re buying a new home, it’s smart to make sure it’s energy efficient from the beginning. Whether you’ll make back your investment if you sell your home is yet to be determined, but overall eco-friendly homes are almost always better for your wallet and the planet.

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