Agents: Buyers More Interested in ‘Green Features’

By Nathan Cobb

Panhandle Realtors note an uptick in interest for energy-efficient homes, but it comes with a downside: Many homebuyers can’t afford the increased cost.

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. – Local real estate agents say energy-efficient homes are becoming more popular.

However, the “green features” in these homes can be quite expensive, which could be a turnoff for some buyers since home prices in Bay County already are out of reach for many families.

According to the Central Panhandle Association of Realtors, there was a more than 30% jump from 2021 to 2022 in the number of real estate agents and brokers across the United States who said they helped a client buy or sell a “green” home during the past 12 months.

“Sustainability continues to play a growing role in consumers’ purchasing decisions, and this is becoming even more prevalent in the real estate market,” Leslie Rouda Smith, president of the National Association of Realtors said in a news release. “With the residential property market, in particular, home buyers have expressed increased interest in eco-friendly factors like solar panels and energy efficiency.”

However, Amin Delawalla, a real estate agent for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Beach Properties of Florida, said while solar panels can provide some serious benefits for homeowners, they also come with drawbacks that might limit their popularity in the local market.

In addition to solar panels, Delawalla said other popular green features include smart thermostats able to automatically adjust a home’s temperature based on if anyone is there, tankless water heaters that prevent homes from running out of hot water and showerhead faucets designed to save water.

“Solar panels are great, (and) they help you save on utility bills, (but) I think the (main) decision owners have to make is (if) they are going to pay for the solar panels upfront or finance them,” he said. “If you’re going to finance them, you have to be cognizant of (the fact) that if you sell your home before that loan is paid off, your new buyer might not be willing to take over that loan.”

That is especially true in Bay County, where it is almost impossible to buy a new home for less than $300,000.

Many local homebuyers don’t want solar panels because they make already high home prices rise even higher, Delawalla said.

According to Aric Bowen, operations manager for Sundew Solar in Panama City, the price of fitting a home with solar panels varies based on the size of the house and its electrical demand, but a good guess is a cost of $40,000 to $50,000 to fully equip a standard three-bedroom, two-bathroom home.

This is what is needed to practically eliminate an electric bill, he said.

Still, buyers would have to pay a monthly fee of about $10 to $30 to remain connected to the power grid, and those who finance the panels also would have an additional monthly payment that could range from about $100 to $150, Bowen noted.

He also said it normally takes 15 to 25 years to pay off a loan for solar panels.

Like real estate agents, Bowen said he also has noticed a recent uptick in demand for solar panels and other green features.

“It can save (homeowners) money,” he said. “It’s a sound investment, and whether people like it or not, it does lower your carbon footprint. … The technology, I don’t think, is going anywhere. You have a roof, (and) you have this surface that you might as well do something (with) that’s going to make you money or save you money.”

Copyright © 2022, News Herald, The (Panama City, FL), all rights reserved.

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Erica Plemmons is an economist and Director of Housing Statistics

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