save energy

Housing demand is hot in Austin and homebuyers are savvier than ever when it comes to knowing what they want in a home. In addition to functional floorplans and new finishes and features, energy efficiency continues to top the list. Real estate agents who understand and can communicate efficiency benefits provide unique added value to the growing number of buyers who, whether they recognize it or not, want these features in their homes.  

Energy efficiency not only contributes to a healthier environment overall, but to a more comfortable home and lower monthly utility bills for the buyer. In a competitive housing market like Austin, buyers have simply come to expect these things. Whereas in resale homes features like this may come with an added cost, newly constructed homes have the benefit of these features being included from the start.  

Behind the scenes 

With new home construction, builders can offer a variety of energy-efficient features that start with the foundation and infrastructure of the home all the way through to the appliances and finishes. Depending on the builder, these features may include insulation, filtration, pre-engineered wood, LED lighting, and more. 

Builders that tout their energy efficiency and sustainable prowess will offer buyers a myriad of energy-saving and healthy living options and features that come standard with the cost of the home. Advantages include healthy living and cleaner air, less energy usage and lower utility bills, and features and landscape design help conserve water usage. 

More specifically, the technology, materials, and products typically used in new homes could include water filtration systems, low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint, low-formaldehyde carpet pads, insulating foam made with 20 percent recycled materials, low E2 glazing on windows, radiant roof barriers, and low-formaldehyde insulation. In water-parched Austin, offering buyers low-water features and amenities including faucets, irrigation systems with timers, water saving-washers and dishwashers, and region-friendly landscaping is a huge plus. These features all contribute to offering better energy solutions than most resale homes. This is a point of distinction that real estate agents can make to clients for the case of buying a newly constructed home.  

Selling points: new homes win

The advantages to selling your clients a new energy-efficient home is that you can offer clients increased comfort though temperature control (that 1920s bungalow might be charming, but does your buyer want to live in it during our hot summers?), greater savings through lower utility bills, healthier communities with lower carbon footprints, and in many cases, a higher resale value than older existing homes. Insulation and weather stripping may not be the sexiest amenities but they stop moisture and control the humidity in most new homes that are built. In fact, we take it a step further and employ a third-party thermography check to ensure that each home’s building envelope is tight and not inviting additional moisture. This also checks for electrical shorts, air leaks and missing insulation.

Know thy builder

To help buyers visualize how a home’s materials and energy-efficient technology perform, many builders have these features on display in a model home through cutaways in the wall and exhibits throughout the home. It helps to be specific with building materials that aren’t as obvious as a lighting fixture or stainless steel appliance. Agents should do their research and visit new home communities to see if they have these types of displays. Agents should also take the time to talk with the builder and/or sales representatives about the energy features in the home in order to educate themselves before they tour clients so they are better equipped to sell the options and value. 

Sustainability isn’t a fad – it’s all about performance 

Most of today’s homebuilders have discovered that building with sustainable and energy-efficient materials makes their homes healthier and less expensive to operate for the occupants. Homes built with these materials not only help differentiate the builders who use them, but can also help agents stand out in what they can offer a client. Sustainable builders keep the environmental impact of their homes in mind from start to finish and take great care in where and how they build homes so it is conducive to a healthy, happy lifestyle. Our new homes take it a step further and are independently certified to exceed local energy codes. We believe efficient homes are better-built homes.

By highlighting the energy-efficient features offered in new homes, one can differentiate oneself by showing value-add options to clients. Because most of the efficiency features offered are built into the overall price of new homes, it doesn’t feel like an added cost for the buyer. That is one huge selling point. 

Terry Shuffler is vice president and general manager of Trendmaker Homes’ Austin division.  RL