Ongoing Running Costs

With electricity prices soaring, energy efficiency is already a hot topic. add to this the rising costs of water, fuel and food, and it won’t be long before the running cost of a home becomes a major selling feature.

In the near future, an abbreviated listing of a home for sale could look like this:
ESD Home, City Views $900,000+ 3BR, 2BA, DLUG, 5kW PV, 20kL TK, EM, N+8

You recognise the three bedrooms, two bathrooms and double lock up garage. In the not-too-distant future you might be adding the other, less familiar, abbreviations:
ESD: Environmentally sustainable design
5kW PV: Photovoltaic (solar) panels generating five kW power
20kL TK: Underground rainwater tank storing 20,000 litres
EM: Energy meter monitoring consumption and renewable energy production
N+8: Property faces eight degrees east of true north, with solar exposure all year round

Your detailed description might sound something like this:

‘As you enter this charming passive solar house, you bask in the sun-drenched northern glass doors and windows. Designed for year-round comfort, this desirable three bedroom residence is fully insulated, with double glazed south windows and smart glass to the rest. Add up the savings from the five kW solar panels and 20,000 litre underground water tank. Enjoy the comfort of the high thermal mass tiled concrete floor with hydronic in-floor heating. Five-star appliances and energy monitoring system reduce bill shock even further. Established veggie patch and slow-growing lawn for the kids. Easy walk to playing fields, shops, schools, community garden. Running cost for two adults and two teenagers approximately $7 per week.’

Currently there is a missing link between money spent on ‘greening’ a home and its market value. In the future there will be an important role for real estate agents in helping buyers and sellers make this connection between energy efficiency and property value.

When terms like orientation, insulation and thermal mass become familiar in the property market, there will be increasing demand on real estate agents to provide this information in a form their clients can understand.

Both vendors and buyers will want to understand the true value of the property. That includes sustainability, energy efficiency, the type of building products that have been used and how these affect the running costs.

This also means linking the character of the home to the lifestyle of the occupants. How many occupants are there? Do any of them work from home? Do they prefer a home that performs better in winter or summer?

To better serve vendors and buyers in the future, the agent will need to be prepared by being able to describe how the home will work and perform for the occupants, what products and technologies have been incorporated, or at least where more information can be found.

If mandatory energy rating disclosure comes through to the residential property market, this process will be accelerated.

How will the agents of the future deal with these new streams of information, and what tools will they have at their disposal? Some of the more important developments are likely to be:

  • Sustainability advisers who can rate a home’s performance and show how it can be improved.
  • Better information from new home builders, architects and designers.
  • Computer applications to identify the characteristics of the house and relate them to the lifestyle of the occupants.
  • Devices that help to control running costs, such as smart meters for electricity, water, gas and sewage that also connect to the internet and generate reports.
  • New technology that recognises occupants’ living patterns and can, for example, open and shut zones of the house so that it ‘breathes’ in unison with the occupants, modifying the performance of the home.

There is an opportunity for real estate agents in this new way of looking at property. In fact, it is a win for everyone involved. Vendors get the right price for their home and the investment they have made in it. Buyers know exactly what they are buying and are far more informed about running costs.

The agents are providing a higher level of service and adding value to properties. They are also using their key position to translate and filter information on thermal efficiency for their clients.

Agents can complete the missing link by becoming the central connection that brings together the tools, the expertise and the information required to ensure that energy efficiency is correctly factored into the property value.

John Civijovski is a building industry professional and developer of the Eco Easy Home app, which he designed in consultation with eco architect Gareth Cole. For more information see www.ecoeasy.com.

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