'Labeling in the U.S. is a politically sensitive real estate issue.'
It has been a controversial question in the home real estate market for years: Is there extra green when you buy green? Do houses with lots of energy-saving and sustainability features sell for more than houses without them? If so, by how much?
Some studies have shown that consumers’ willingness to pay more for Energy Star and other green-rated homes tends to diminish during tough economic times. Others have found that green-certified houses sell for at least a modest premium over similar but less-efficient homes.
But now a new econometric study involving an unusually large sample of 1.6 million homes sold in California between 2007 and early 2012 has documented that, holding all other variables constant, a green certification label on a house adds an average 9 percent to its selling value. Researchers also found something they dubbed the “Prius effect”: Buyers in areas where consumer sentiment in support of environmental conservation is relatively high – as measured by the percentage of hybrid auto registrations in local ZIP codes – are more willing to pay premiums for green-certified houses than buyers in areas where hybrid registrations were lower.
The study found no significant correlations between local utility rates – the varying charges per kilowatt hour of electricity in different areas – and consumers’ willingness to pay premium prices for green-labeled homes. But it did find that in warmer parts of California, especially in the Central Valley compared with neighborhoods closer to the coast, buyers are willing to pay more for the capitalized cost savings on energy that come with a green-rated property.
The research was conducted by professors Matthew E. Kahn of UCLA and Nils Kok of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, currently a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley. Out of the 1.6-million-home-transaction sample, Kahn and Kok identified 4,321 dwellings that sold with Energy Star, LEED or GreenPoint Rated labels. They then ran statistical analyses to determine how much green labeling contributed to the selling price – eliminating all other factors contained in the real estate records, from locational effects, school districts, crime rates, time period of sale, to amenities such as swimming pools and views.
Energy Star is a rating system jointly sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency that is widely used in new home construction. It rewards designs that sharply reduce operational costs in heating, cooling and water use, and improve indoor air quality. The LEED certification was created by the private nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council and focuses on “sustainable building and development practices.” Though more commonly seen in commercial development, it is also available as a rating for single family homes. The GreenPoint Rated designation was created by a nonprofit group called Build It Green, is similar to LEED, and can be used on newly constructed as well as existing homes.