From First Tuesday
Homebuyers, sellers and builders
see Green in lawn-free houses
Drought has brought California’s envied water distribution system to its knees, but not for lack of ingenuity in grandeur and effectiveness. It is the crisis of the drought that has made conservation and rigidly controlled water distribution the new normal for the next fifty years or so.
For a more prudent use of water, a new restriction for new homes built after December 1, 2015 cannot have more than 25% of the homes’ lot covered in grass. The purpose is to greatly reduce the use of water for lawn care.
A buyer of one of these newly constructed homes will save approximately 12,000 gallons of water per year. Driven by a multi-year lack of snowpack and rain, California is learning to conserve water with a long-term plan to cut domestic home usage of water.
Homebuilders’ plans to roll out new housing are not hampered by this lawn restriction. In a preemptive move, builders have already adopted xeriscaping on new properties to eliminate or greatly reduce the need for irrigated water. As you might expect, homebuilders’ early adoption of xeriscaping came not in response to California’s drought, but to consumer demands for low cost maintenance of landscaping.
Buyers demand energy efficient homes
Once perceived as luscious and bucolic, homebuyers’ perception of lawns has withered in recent years. Lawns are now a huge environmental concern and logically perceived as a waste of time by many homebuyers. 20% of Americans report lawn maintenance as their least-liked chore.
Nine billion gallons of water daily are used to keep California’s lawns green, which is to say nothing of the cost of fertilizer, lawnmower gas pollution and other lawn products nurseries are eager to peddle.
In the current market, homebuyers are searching for a “green” home, meaning a home with the right type of green – in their pocket, not in the landscaping.
Today’s homebuyers are motivated by a green home due to:
- lower operating costs;
- the minimal impact the property has on the environment; and
- the social approval of landscaping without a lawn.
In anticipation, an increasing percentage of sellers have made their properties more environmentally friendly to increase its value and take the opportunity to make their property more marketable.
Going lawn-less has grown to be a huge selling point for those looking to sell their homes. Making green improvements increases a seller’s chance of luring a buyer with a preference for a green home. In turn, buyers will pay more for a home with energy efficient improvements which produce lower long-term operating costs than less energy efficient properties.
Strategies for marketing a Green home
Sellers have to keep in mind modern homebuyers’ more eco-conscious attitude to get them to purchase their property.
One way listing agents may attract potential buyers to their clients’ homes is to encourage their sellers to obtain a home energy audit through the California Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Program. An audit from HERS will help the seller market their property as green by:
- informing buyers of the home’s existing energy efficient improvements;
- giving an estimate of the property’s annual operating costs; and
- disclosing the property’s low greenhouse gas emissions and energy use.
Including a home energy audit within a seller’s marketing materials will inform a buyer of the property’s factual monthly ongoing operating costs. With an energy disclosure, the property is differentiated from other qualified properties which are not as energy efficient and therefore require higher long-term operating costs.
Sellers may also refer to a booklet provided by HERS which contains additional information on topics such as:
- making improvements to their property; and
- finding financing for energy efficient improvements.
A proactive buyer’s agent will encourage their homebuyer to fill out a comparable market analysis (CMA) worksheet and analyze the property’s operating costs. Seeing a side-by-side comparison of the costs and savings of a green home will inform the buyer of the benefits of purchasing a green home compared to one without the upgrades, making the property one that buyers will covet. [See ft Form 318]
Agents help create better-looking and California-friendly yards
A California-friendly yard includes drought-tolerant plants that thrive in California’s arid climate, but also serves an aesthetic purpose, which doesn’t require the wasting of water or constant mowing.
Seller’s agents wisely advise their sellers to create California-friendly yards and increase the property’s energy efficiency and marketability by:
- informing sellers about turf rebate programs sponsored by local governments;
- installing artificial turf instead of real grass;
- switching to a drip irrigation system; or
- using native plants such as desert marigold, coyote brush and evening primrose.
Knowing what homebuyers expect from their new energy efficient home enables agents to better market their sellers’ homes, conform to public preference and, most importantly, find a willing and able buyer.
Further, agents may give their sellers tips for creating a stylish space outside their front doors. Sellers may reclaim the space once reserved for mowing-only activities by expanding the options for their use of the yard. Not only are these new spaces eco-friendly, but they offer potential buyers a unique feature not found in many other properties, which is another selling point. In place of resource-wasting lawns, innovative sellers are installing:
- rock gardens;
- sculpture gardens; or
- other yard features or spaces such as fire pits or an outdoor kitchen.
A California-friendly landscape now replaces green lawns as a Californian homeowner’s point of pride. It is also a wonderful marketing tool for forward-looking sellers who will one day seek a buyer for their property.