The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently released its 2021 residential sustainability report and found these three major things: 32% of Realtors say they helped buy or sell a property in the last year that had eco-friendly features, more than a third say their local MLS has fields specifically for those features, and 65% says promoting energy efficiency in listings is valuable.

“A growing number of consumers are seeking homes with features that are good for the environment and, by extension, good for their wallets by reducing utility expenses in the long run,” Jessica Lautz, the NAR’s vice president of demographics and behavioral insights, said in an April 20 press release.

Lautz added, “The pandemic has led to an increased focus on wellness, and sustainability is an important variable in that overall equation for some people.”

The survey results were based on 5,048 usable responses from a random sample of 65,471 active Realtors the 1.4-million-member trade group asked to complete an online survey in March, giving it a margin of error of plus or minus 1.38% at the 95% confidence level.

Smart homes, time on market, weathering the weather

One of the most apparent green features to even the casual observer is solar panels. The NAR survey found that 82% of Realtors reported them available in their market, and 40% said solar panels increased the perceived property value.

Another growing trend is the high-performance home — defined here as “a systematic building science approach to home improvements that enhance indoor comfort, health, operational efficiency, and durability.” A smart home like that was worth more than a similar home without those features in the eyes of 22% of survey respondents.

As for time on market, green certifications such as LEED, EnergyStar, or NGBS seemed to make little difference, with 45% saying such certifications meant a home spent neither more nor less time on the market and 46% saying the effect was unclear. That’s perhaps because such certifications are still relatively new and not common in older homes, but weather affects everyone.

One of the questions found similar ambivalence about a key question on that issue: A combined 39% of the respondents reported being either very or somewhat concerned themselves about the impact of extreme weather events on their market, while a combined 38% said they were either not very or not at all concerned.

Exterior features lead the list

Here’s a list of the features Realtors said were most important to their homebuying clients, with the percentage of those ranking them as “very important” and “somewhat important” combined:

  • Age, quality of windows, doors, and siding: 87%
  • Proximity to frequently visited places (schools, grocery stores, etc.): 85%
  • Comfortable living space: 76%
  • Utility bills/home operation costs: 75%
  • Commuting costs: 51%
  • Efficient use of lighting (EnergyStar fixtures, LED bulbs): 46%
  • Smart/connected home: 45%
  • Impact of extreme weather: 40%
  • Community features (bike lanes, green spaces): 37%
  • Landscaping for water conservation: 30%
  • Renewable energy systems (solar, geothermal, etc.): 25%

The Millionacres bottom line

What goes up must come down, but maybe not temperatures. The housing market, however, is likely to cool off, and when it does, sustainability is likely to remain a consideration for buyers. Properties that speak to that sensibility are likely to sustain a lot of interest and a good price for investors in rental properties and flips.

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