A recent US Census study revealed 95% of homeowners rate COMFORT as the most important feature of a home! COMFORT is defined in the Webster Dictionary as “a state of physical ease and freedom from pain”. A remodeled kitchen, bathroom or addition of a deck does not rank higher than comfort. “Comfort” is not one of those visible features that you might notice when you are searching for your next home. You can “see” a remodeled kitchen, bathroom or outside deck when you are looking at a house but how can you “see” comfort to decide if that house will provide your most important feature?
In my 29+ years as a Realtor® and Broker I have taken Buyers through houses that have caused them to sneeze upon entering, make their eyes itch or water, their throats constrict or various other uncomfortable symptoms. Yes, sometimes it is new paint or room deodorizers and other “cover-ups” that cause those reactions but those “cover-ups” are just that…covering up an underlying issue. The underlying issue could be mold, recent pest spraying, off-gassing of toxic chemicals in the carpet, kitchen cabinets, etc., bad odors coming from another area of the house or worse! Many of these underlying issues are a result of a “leaky” house which is, again, not a visible (nor desirable) “feature” of that house. So what do I mean by “leaky”?
A “leaky” house is one that was probably built to minimum building codes the year it was built and allows the outside air to leak into the house as well as the heated or cooled interior air to escape to the outside. The best way to find out how “leaky” you house is to have a Blower Door test performed. A “leaky” house usually has a high humidity level which is a perfect incubator for mold, mildew and other unhealthy organisms. Make no mistake…this could be true of a new-built house also! Minimum building codes are just that…the minimum code requirements to be able to build and sell a house!
Sellers often do one of two types of remodeling before they put their house on the market. The first kind is the “lipstick remodel” which is mainly cosmetic. Fresh paint, upgraded granite kitchen countertops, new stainless steel appliances, bathrooms with spa features, an outdoor deck, fire-pit or pergola. Sometimes a new roof is added but not necessarily a good roof. Many “house flippers” do this type of remodel because they believe consumers are dumb and will “buy what they see”. You or your Realtor might say home inspections will reveal the defects of a house but they will not necessarily reveal those defects that affect a home’s “comfort” value.
The other type of remodel or new-built is called a “high performance” remodel or new-built house. This type of remodel or new construction places the highest value on the “invisible” aka “comfort” features of a house, which is mainly made up of “high performance” systems, those you really wouldn’t notice when viewing a property. These high performance upgrades or systems result in a “tight building envelope“. This means the house does not leak interior conditioned air to the outside and vice versa. Instead there is a controlled exchange of airflow i.e, the appropriate amount of outside air brought in to replace any stagnant interior air. A controlled environment with cleaner air is what makes us feel “comfortable”, promotes better health and reduces or eliminates many allergies. Obviously a house built to these standards is far above the minimum building codes! Shouldn’t it be worth more than a comparable house (same number bedrooms, baths and square footage) built to minimum building codes? You bet and an additional benefit is reduced utility bills because you are not heating and cooling the outdoors! Personally I would rather pay more for my house instead of paying more for my electric, gas and water bills that I will never recoup! I know I will get the money back when I sell my house…IF I know how to sell it for more!
Have you invested in systems like smart thermostats, smart lighting, a tankless water heater, heat pump water heater, recirculating water loop, metal roof, rainwater harvesting system, no VOC paint, formaldehyde free kitchen cabinets, solar panels, electric car charger, an air exchanger, Low E windows, smart window shades, Energy Star lighting, Water Sense plumbing fixtures or other systems to make your home more comfortable? If your answer is yes to any of these then you deserve to reap the financial benefits of your investments when you sell your home!
So what is the added value of “comfort”? Since “comfort” is related to your home’s upgraded systems that may have been added as part of a remodel or part of the original new-built home, the “value premium” is typically 8-10% above comparable properties. The added value of a “comfortable/healthy” home also depends on where you live. In the western states where “high performance/sustainable” homes are becoming the norm Sellers, Buyers, Realtors® Lenders and Appraisers understand the additional “value premium” and there are few problems with your home appraising at a higher price than other comparable homes.
So what about other parts of the country, like here in Florida, you ask? Well, there are FIVE critical factors to obtaining the highest “value premium” for your home!
5. Buyers are the smallest part of the equation since they may be coming from another state and are familiar with the added value of a comfortable home and the lower utility costs to operate that home or they depend on their Realtors® to educate them.
4. Sellers are a more important part of the equation…they usually know what upgraded systems they have added to their homes but may not necessarily realize these systems are an integral part of obtaining a higher selling price. They need to depend on their Realtor® to help them identify the value added upgrades.
3. Lenders are very important if there is a mortgage involved in the equation. If the Lender doesn’t understand the added value of high performance systems the equation falls apart here. Your Realtor® is the key to this part of the equation!
2. If the Appraiser doesn’t understand the added value of your high performance systems because he/she has not obtained a Green Appraiser certification or because those features are not properly identified in the MLS listing by your Realtor® then you can forget about receiving any “value premium” when you sell your house because the Appraiser will not be qualified to identify and add value for those systems!
Did you notice the common denominator in these five critical factors for obtaining the highest selling price for your home? That brings us to the most IMPORTANT, CRITICAL factor when selling your “high performance”, “comfortable” home!
1. YOUR REALTOR® IS THE MOST CRITICAL FACTOR! If your Realtor® has not invested the time and education to learn about high performance building/upgraded systems, able to identify these systems with the Seller, input the features correctly in the Multiple Listing System, can communicate the value of these systems with Buyers or other Realtors showing the property, can work with Lenders and Appraisers to obtain the “value premium” for your home then you cannot possibly expect to receive the true value of your home when you sell!
How can you determine if your Realtor® has the knowledge necessary to list and sell your property? If your Realtor® does NOT have a NAR (National Association of Realtors) GREEN designation, a USGBC® LEED AP designation or other 3rd party “green” certification, your Realtor® is NOT the right listing Sales Associate for your property! Not only that, your Realtor® is violating their Code of Ethics by listing a property they are not qualified to list due their lack of knowledge!
If your Realtor® has invested in the education to understand your investment in a “high performance/comfortable” home you can expect a smooth transaction that will recoup the highest price for your investments!