Homeowners miss link between energy efficiency and home value

A recent study reveals that when it comes to making energy-efficient upgrades to their homes, Americans just don’t think it’s worth it.  

The study, conducted by Shelton Group, shows that 26 percent of Americans say they prioritize energy-efficient home improvements over aesthetic ones, yet projects planned for the near future indicate higher propensity for remodeling kitchens and baths than for energy efficiency improvements like adding insulation or replacing HVAC units. 

“We know the housing crisis has made homeowners sensitive to impacts on home values. One of the biggest barriers to making energy-efficient upgrades is a perception that it’s just not worth it – that the investment will not result in higher resale value for your home,” said Suzanne Shelton, president and CEO of Shelton Group. “Yet Americans are sold on the idea that kitchen and bath remodels allow them to command a higher price. The challenge is convincing Americans that the same is true of energy-efficient upgrades.” 

The national survey, Shelton’s ninth annual Energy Pulse study, also found that 81 percent of those surveyed said energy efficiency would have somewhat to very much impact on their selection decision when comparing two homes. Additionally, a recent UC Berkeley/UCLA study of 1.6 million home transactions found that green labeling improved selling price. Controlling for all other factors, such as location, school district, crime rate, time period of sale, views and amenities, researchers found that the 4,321 homes sold with Energy Star, LEED or GreenPoint rated labels commanded an average price premium of 9 percent. 

“Most homebuyers expect to make improvements, but they want to spend their money on ‘sexy’ improvements like paint and new countertops,” said Shelton. “They do not want to upgrade the HVAC, add insulation or buy a new water heater, so it might actually keep you from selling your home if you haven’t made energy-efficient improvements.” 

The study also found: 

  • When hypothetically given money for a home improvement project, homeowners consistently prioritized remodeling a kitchen or bathroom. Replacing windows, a project with dual benefits (aesthetic and energy efficient), was a consistent second priority, which has edged out flooring upgrades for the past few years. HVAC or furnace replacements rounded out the top three responses. 
  • Higher income homeowners were less likely to prioritize energy efficiency (20 percent of households earning $100,000+, compared to 33 percent of those earning less than $25,000). Prioritization of comfort, on the other hand, was significantly correlated to age. Thirty-four percent of homeowners aged 45+ chose comfort, compared to 26 percent of younger homeowners. 
  • Only 11 percent admitted that “making my home more beautiful” was their top priority. But in a later question meant to double-check honesty about home spending priorities, it was revealed that 55 percent were likely (with 19 percent of those “very likely”) to make non-energy efficiency improvements to their homes (e.g., kitchen or bathroom renovations, new carpet, tile or hardwood, etc.) in the near future. This is significantly higher than the overall average likelihood (12 percent) for making energy efficiency improvements in the same timeframe. 
  • Homeowners’ primary barrier to undertaking more energy-efficient improvements continues to be cost. When asked why they haven’t done more to improve their homes, most (44 percent) said, “It would be expensive.” “There are other renovations I want to do first” was the second most common answer, while 9 percent selected a new option, “I’m not willing to replace things that are working fine.” 

So what’s the solution? According to the study, new messaging directions that elicit stronger, more emotional responses rather than “save money” messages should help encourage homeowners to prioritize energy-efficient improvements. 

“Linking energy efficiency to home value is a powerful messaging strategy,” said Shelton. “It seems we have work to do to convince homeowners that energy-efficient improvements are worth the investment, both for lower utility bills and increased resale value.”

Visit www.sheltoninsights.com/product/energy-pulse to learn more about the survey. 

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