10 Star energy rated house, Cape Paterson, Victoria, Clare Cousin Architects, & The Sociable Weaver

Houses marketed with sustainability features such as solar panels and water tanks sell for at least 10 per cent more than properties that do not market sustainability, and sell on average 13 days more quickly.

These are the findings from a three-year study led by PRD Nationwide’s national research manager Dr Asti Mardiasmo, which has culminated in a 37-question online scorecard that can be used by anyone to assess the sustainability of a house at purchase.

“It is deceptively simple and can be done in minutes by the average person anywhere,” she said.

“Although we did not want to write a dense 400-page thesis which would intimidate people, it is also academically rigorous and not a marketing tool.”

The research, which received grant funding from the Australian Research Council and the help of two PhD students and other “industry players”, analysed data on more than 3000 houses marketed in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, and looked in detail at over 200 homes in Townsville, as well surveying over 400 real estate agents about what features buyers said mattered.

Most obviously, Dr Mardiasmo said, people think about solar panels and water tanks, but that was not what people placed most value on. Cross-flow ventilation was most highly valued, as was a good balance between the house and land so that kids could play outside.

The 37-point Green House Scorecard, she said, could be used by the layperson and real estate agents, and also encapsulated what architects, developers and builders could do. It was, she said, a “call to action” document to create an industry standard.

“We’ve been able to prove that houses that do have sustainability features do fetch a higher median price, higher resale value and are on the market approximately 13 days less,” Dr Mardiasmo said.

The scorecard has similarities to the Liveability framework created by Cecille Weldon, which features a 17-item checklist of liveability features, though is designed for real estate agents.

Ms Weldon, former head of sustainability at LJ Hooker, and now the Centre for Liveability’s Real Estate program director, has trained over 100 real estate agents on how to assess home sustainability and convey that to clients. The framework was created as real estate agents were seen as a major barrier to sustainability features being communicated and thus valued.

The checklist measures values such as cross-ventilation, insulation, glazing and energy efficiency of lighting and heating. Bought from LJ Hooker, the checklist is now owned and “verified” by the CSIRO, Ms Weldon said.

“Agents can be accused of misrepresenting things,” Ms Weldon said. “People will forgive them if they say it is a two-bedroom apartment, and it’s one bedroom and a sunroom. But it’s another issue if you say it has an energy efficient hot water system and it doesn’t. That’s why they need the verification of CSIRO.”

While there has been concern that multiple sustainability ratings could cause confusion, Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council executive director Suzanne Toumbourou said “any pathway highlighting sustainability is a good one”.

Ms Toumbourou said the council has been calling for a nationally consistent approach to rating residential housing sustainability since 2012, but that the online assessment and real estate training would help to further awareness.

State governments are also getting involved in making residential sustainability more transparent.

Victoria has its own Residential Efficiency Scorecard and a new government scheme with qualified and accredited assessors who Ms Toumbourou said could be relied on to understand the “real performance” of a home along sustainability parameters. The ACT too has adopted an environmental standard for energy use in residential buildings, the mandatory Energy Efficiency Rating scheme.

ASBEC has urged the states and territories to work together to see how this could be applicable nationally, she said, and it was good that “we are starting a conversation”.

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  1. It’s really good to see (some) real estate agents taking sustainability seriously. They are typically the missing link.

    Let’s hope this information – and especially the training that Cecille Weldon / Liveability does – is spread far and wide