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Observations from a NJ Realtor

Following is a Q&A with realtor, Joan C. of Keller Williams. Joan shares her experience with homebuyers, sellers and their perception of energy efficiency.
 
How long have you been in real estate?

I’ve been a realtor for three years.
 
In your experience, what are some of the most common concerns of homebuyers lately?

Most homebuyers are concerned about the affordability of the homes they are considering.  Affordability is not just about the list price and taxes, but what it will take to maintain and/or upgrade the home, as well as current and future utility costs.
 
What percentage would you say are interested in sustainability and energy efficient homes?

Many homebuyers have an interest in energy efficiency, but don’t have a real understanding of how to achieve that, which inhibits them from pursuing it.
 
What is the age range for those that are interested in energy efficient homes or does it vary?

I think it varies. Younger buyers tend to be more aware of technological advances in energy efficiency and eco-consciousness is part of their vernacular, but there are many older buyers who grew up during the first wave of environmentalism in the late 1960s who want to incorporate it into their homes.
 
What do you find is the biggest roadblock for new homebuyers?

Two roadblocks come to mind.  The first is the perception that energy efficient upgrades are cost-prohibitive and may not provide a good return on investment.  The second is “analysis paralysis” – that is, not knowing how to start the process, not being able to define personal goals (lower energy costs, lower water usage, better indoor air quality, sustainability, etc.), and not knowing where to find credible resources.

How do you deal with overcoming this stage with your clients?  Once the client is over this stage, what is the experience of the client, do they begin to process energy efficiency better?

It depends on the individual and how receptive they are to change. I find that breaking it into manageable, inexpensive suggestions helps make the idea more palatable (suggesting low-flow toilets and faucets, programmable thermostats, purchasing an ENERGY STAR® certified appliance if they need to replace one).  I try to educate them about small life-style changes, as well (using the thermostat properly will reduce their bills and increase their comfort level in the home, sealing ductwork with mastic instead of duct tape will reduce leakage and make their HVAC system more efficient).  If they’re interested I will also make suggestions about long-range improvements (blown-in insulation, low-e windows, replacing an old furnace with a high efficiency unit).
 
Have you been able to promote the rebates New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program provides?

Yes, and I will continue to do so.  Many homeowners aren’t aware of the rebates.

Whether or not the client is aware of the program and or rebates, what is their perception?  Have they ever engaged with the program—or can they recall if they have seen the Clean Energy Program at an event?

Many people have a vague idea that NJ’s Clean Energy Program exists, but do not realize that it’s an ongoing program and what it can offer them.
 
How have you incorporated sustainable living and energy efficiency into your life? If yes, how so?
Have you had any energy efficiency upgrades done to your home? If so, what exactly?

In 2007 we did a gut-renovation of our home to make it more energy efficient and sustainable.  Instead of traditional framing for our addition we used SIPs (structured insulated panels), which have a high R-value; blown-in insulation was used for the existing structure.  We installed a high-efficiency furnace and hot-water heater, double-paned low-e windows, an ERV (energy recovery ventilator), which pre-heats or pre-cools air coming into the house, a coiled copper pipe in the main water pipe that recaptures heat from the shower, dishwasher and washing machine, as well as installing low-flow toilets, showerheads and faucets and ENERGY STAR rated appliances.  We also chose locally sourced materials wherever possible (concrete countertops that contain recycled glass manufactured in Brooklyn, oak flooring milled in Pennsylvania), and eco-friendly finishes (no-VOC paint and flooring finishes).  The renovation was carefully designed to allow for maximum daylight, multi-use, flexible spaces and passive solar.  The exterior walls of the great room are angled to capture east and west light, to help create a thermal mass which warms the space in the winter.  In summer, trees provide enough shade so that the room stays fairly cool.  As a result of our renovation, our heating costs have dropped about 30%, despite the house being 40% larger.  Sustainability is incorporated into the way we live: we automatically put paper, cans and jars into our recycling containers, all our lighting is either CFLs or LEDs, and we have a large compost bin in our backyard. 
 
When do you think is a good time during the real estate transaction process for a realtor to provide energy efficiency information to a customer?

I like to incorporate energy efficiency into the initial conversation with my buyers, to help them better understand existing features that might make a home more desirable and to educate them on how they can make a home more energy efficient, and what rebates and programs are available to them.

Are your clients open to the suggestions you make? Do they act on the advice and offerings? Do you run into circumstances where the client is completely against energy efficient upgrades and if so, what is that conversation like and how does it end?

My clients are generally open to my suggestions, but it really comes down to time and money. Buying a home, especially for a first-time buyer, can be an overwhelming process, and there’s often unanticipated costs once they move in, so incorporating energy efficiency may be low on their priority list. However, I have had clients call me later to ask for suggestions or my opinion on options they are considering. I have never had a client who was completely against energy efficiency upgrades; they just may not act on them.

What is your best advice to home buyers?

Don’t let the staging or “wow” finishes lure you into buying a home. Look deeper into how well the home will function for your current and future needs. Check for possible energy consumption red-flags: are windows single or double-paned, look at the exposure and tree-cover of the house, check around windows, doors and outlets for drafts, find out the age of wall insulation, and if possible, see if duct work is only sealed with duct tape.  Look at utility bills. Although high bills may be indicative of the owners’ lifestyle choices, they can also give you an idea of what costs will be. Check water bills too – high bills may indicate water leakage issues.
 
What is your best advice to home sellers?

I help them find small changes they can make to help their house be more attractive to potential buyers. This can include replacing toilets, faucets and showerheads with low-flow ones, tuning up furnaces and air conditioning units, cleaning duct work and making sure it’s sealed properly, and sealing around leaky windows and doors. Energy efficient features will help me to market the property.


Fridge/Freezer Recycling

Refrigerator Freezer Recycling $50 Rebate

Program Literature

Applications and Brochures - Download Program Materials

Commercial Food Service Equipment Rebates

Clothes Washer Rebate

Clothes Washer Rebate

Subscribe to eNewsletter

Newsletter

State of New Jersey Energy Master Plan


Follow Us: Become a Facebook Fan!Follow us on Twitter!


New Jersey State Seal