“It’s a logical progression,” Lento, a Red Oak Realty real estate agent specializing in the East Bay, said. “More and more people are getting EVs and that starts a fury of ‘what else can we do? I’m not paying for gas, how do I not pay for electric?’”
As these types of sustainable home features increase in popularity among homeowners, they’re starting to become something that buyers are putting top of their list of amenities they desire. “I have buyers that are targeting homes with solar power specifically and/or solar generators, or what’s more common is the Tesla power battery,” Lento said. “It’s not only from an ecological perspective, which most people are very mindful of, but also with blackouts being more popular every year and air quality being more of a problem every year, people are looking for those features so they can breathe when the power goes out.”
The sellers of that Oakland home told Lento that during the 2020 blackouts they were able to live three full days without power and never even turned off their air conditioning. They also didn’t feel bad about their carbon footprint.
Lento said it’s also being taken into consideration on the seller’s side. He recently had clients interested in selling their home, and the property had many of these features and he advised them to put the house on the market in September. “It’s going to be smoky and really hazy and really hot,” he said he told them. “People are going to walk into your air conditioned house with no electrical to pay for and have clean air. I think in the next three to five years, if not sooner, as these events become more intense, it’s only going to become more and more top of mind as fire season gets longer. It’s great for the environment, but it’s also a livability thing.”
East Bay Redfin agent Katy Polvorosa said she has had to learn more about these eco-features as they become more common, as well as educate clients more about them and their considerations in the home buying process. “I’m more in tune to them, too [as an agent]. It’s something you have to consider if you already have an electric car and you’re purchasing a house. You want it set up pretty much right away because you need to be able to drive your car,” she said. “It’s definitely part of the conversation, and it will probably grow as more and more people get electric cars.”
While Polvorosa said she has had a few clients that wouldn’t buy a home without an EV charger installed, she said these and other eco-friendly amenities are mostly bonuses for buyers and not necessarily a non-negotiable. If clients are particularly interested in these features, she often reminds them about their ability to be added later on. She also has had to add in more education for clients about the difference between solar panels that are fully owned and solar that is still part of a lease, which would then have to be transferred to the buyer. “In the Bay Area with power outages and fires, it’s definitely something people are thinking about,” she said. “They are wants but aren’t necessarily needs. They are pluses.”
Polvorosa said she’s even personally thought about adding a Tesla battery in her own house, assuming it would add some value to her home.
While many buyers get excited about these “eco-features,” Lento said if a home ticks every other box except that one, it’s something clients are more likely to give up on if a house has everything else they’re looking for. “Eco-features tend to be the kind of thing where buyers are very intent on it, but because good inventory is hard to come by, it’s the kind of thing that buyers are willing to concede on,” he said.
Lento said it’s also not yet gotten to the point where realtors are recommending sellers add these features into a home to increase the ability to sell a house. The most common recommendation is still a new coat of paint or to refinish the floors first. If he was to recommend a buyer do something to appeal to someone who wanted a more eco-friendly property, he’d simply say to pop on a Nest thermostat.
“As the world is shifting to electric vehicles, we’re definitely seeing a trend develop in San Francisco with our buyers. About a third of our buyers are going to either have an electric car already or want the ability to install a charger,” San Francisco agent Aaron Bellings said. “… They are definitely a selling point for buyers, and good value adds, but sellers aren’t proactively installing them just yet for a sale from what we’ve seen.”
This desire for eco-friendly amenities is definitely not a passing fad, said Jim Walberg of Compass, as he said he’s seen them as more of a focus in the past three years, particularly among millennial home buyers. “The return on investment for adding energy efficiencies to a home are proven by higher resale prices and also the speed of the sale of the home,” he said. “New home builders have jumped on the bandwagon by creating energy efficient upgrades.”
Walberg also said he’s hoping to see a continued emphasis on water saving devices like graywater systems and smarter irrigation systems. Lento said drip irrigation systems — which use less water than traditional irrigation systems — are also becoming more common in Bay Area homes and are often advertised when selling a home.
The demand for amenities like solar and Tesla batteries is clearly increasing, Lento said, as he is seeing anecdotal evidence that the wait times for these items have skyrocketed. While some of that delay can surely be attributed to COVID-19-related supply chain issues, it also shows that more people around the Bay Area are adding on these amenities.
Pricing on these features can vary — a Tesla Powerwall plus installation is likely to cost at least $10,000 in the Bay Area — so how much these features add to the actual value of the home is still hard to estimate, Lento said. But that doesn’t stop it from being enticing when you see it. “Once [buyers] see it, they say, ‘We really want to seek out homes like that.’”