Eco-Friendly Home Updates That Will Get You Top Dollar for Your Home
After months of cursing your neighbor’s yappy Maltipoo, you’re finally ready to hammer that for sale sign on your lawn. Mazols! You’re one step closer to bark-free serenity. But before you break out the Dom Pérignon and start putting in offers on your new abode, there’s still the matter of, uh, selling your home. Piece of cake, right? Not exactly. While it’s still a seller's market, the rules of homebuying have shifted—and so have the home features that potential buyers are looking for.
According to a recent Zillow survey, climate change is at the forefront of most buyers’ minds, and their research has found that eco-friendly features can help homes sell up to 10 days faster. “A previous Zillow survey found nearly two-thirds of young adults believe climate change will impact their homes or communities in their lifetime. Those generations are now aging into their prime home-buying years, conscious of their ecological footprint and making purchase decisions based on their beliefs, values and principles,” explains Amanda Pendleton, Zillow's home trends expert. Long story short? Investing in sustainable features can boost your home’s Zestimate by 2.4 percent or more—and attract a pool of untapped buyers in the process. So below, find five eco-friendly upgrades that’ll get you top dollar for your home, plus expert commentary on what to look for in each.
1. Solar PanelsWhile the report mentions that homes with solar panels can sell for 1.4 percent more, there are various ways this upgrade can pay off. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that home value increases $20 for every $1 reduction in annual utility bills (AKA: a 20-to-1 return on investment), and a solar energy system could add up to $4,000 to a home’s overall value. “The ROI on solar panels varies from project to project, depending on the system size and cost of electricity in each area,” Ornella Bianco, home and design editor of Fixr.com, tells us. “In general, most people find a return on investment of 20 percent the first year and a full recoup within 7 to 10 years. It is expected that 13 percent of U.S. homes will have a solar PV system by the year 2030.”
Searches for solar installation increased 47 percent in March 2022 compared to the same month last year, according to a recent Yelp report, which further underscores its popularity. Plus, provided you install a solar PV system by December 31, 2023, you could also qualify for a federal tax credit. (Just note that if you lease your solar panels, when you sell the house, you’ll typically have to either pay what’s left on your lease upfront or transfer the lease to the new homeowners.)
2. Double-pane windowsYet another buzzy upgrade designers are loving is double-pane windows—which, according to the report, can cause a home to sell a week faster than similar listings and for one percent more than expected. But its appeal to buyers isn’t the only reason this upgrade is worth the investment. Since double-pane windows are separated by two pieces of glass, the barrier can help control the inside temperature of your home (and prevent outside heat or cold from getting in)—and reduce your energy usage by up to 18 percent. “The flow of heat in and out of your house costs more than you think. When picking out energy-efficient windows, look out for frames and glass-labeled ‘energy efficient’ or ‘energy saving.’ They incorporate modern technology that more effectively insulates the home,” says Beatrice de Jong, consumer trends expert for real estate service Opendoor. “Make sure windows are installed properly (where a small gap can let out/in a lot of heat).”
To truly boost your energy efficiency, pair the windows with stronger insulating materials, Bianco says: “Some of the most sustainable options used include sheep’s wool, denim, hemp, cellulose, and fiberglass.”
3. EV charging stations“It’s no secret that electric vehicles are exploding in popularity. Purchasing an electric vehicle (EV) can be both exciting and perplexing, as the EV switch is still fairly new to many consumers,” Carter Oosterhouse, HGTV star and home design expert with Schneider Electric, tells us. Yet, while EV chargers might be new to some, Yelp cited that searches for “electric vehicle charging station installations” increased by 78 percent in the last year—and the upgrade can help a home sell more than nine days faster than similar homes, according to Zillow’s report.
“Having an EV charging station is also a great way to save money and cut down on pollution. The national average cost range is between $1,000 and $2,500, with most people paying around $1,200 for a 240-volt outlet, charger, and wall-mounted system. The cost to charge an electric car varies depending on the price of electricity in each area and the time of day during the charge. The most eco-friendly option would be to charge the car overnight,” explains Bianco.
4. Rainwater harvesting systems“I think harvesting rainwater is something that we will start to see more of in the near future. We are consistently noticing drought-like areas and plain old droughts. When we can capture rainwater or grey water for alt uses, it makes it a lot easier on the water table,” says Oosterhouse. Hence, why it should come as no surprise that the report found drought-resistant landscaping as a feature that can help homes sell more than nine days faster.
Bianco also cites a recent Fixr survey, which found that 49 percent of respondents wanted a rainwater collection system in their homes. “Rainwater collection systems [aren’t] necessarily good for drinking, unless the water is treated, but they can be used for watering lawns and gardens, flushing toilets and cleaning. These things can be necessary and useful in areas with low rainfall where capturing every drop can matter,” explains Cristina Miguelez in the report.
5. Programmable smart systemsLast (but certainly not least), a feature that everyone wants: Smart home technology. Indeed, according to the report, listings that tout programmable thermostats, smart sprinkler systems and smart lights can sell up to six days faster than expected. “Almost 40 percent of households have a smart home device...There is an increased interest in greener updates, which we can see in the prevalence of things like energy tracking, smart thermostats, smart switches and dimmers, etc.,” Oosterhouse affirms.
Bianco also mentions how 53 percent of experts from a recent Fixr survey reported that the most popular home energy features homeowners invested in 2021 were both smart technology for energy efficiency and solar panels, while Energy Star-rated appliances received 49 percent of the votes. Combined, they’re an easy way to save on your bills while you own your home—and earn a bit more when it comes time to trade in your keys.