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By Vlera Bajraktari, Sustainability Writer for Realty Sage

Whether you’re thinking of selling in the next six months or a few years down the road, remodeling using green features not only helps to get your best return on investment, it may also help you to sell your home faster.

Optimizing the Layout and Space in Your Home

Real estate agents who list homes for sale often emphasize the importance and attractiveness of open-plan spaces and good connection between outside and inside living areas. So, optimizing your home’s layout and orientation is a smart move.

Buyers love sun-filled living spaces. A home oriented and designed to maximize natural light will fill your interior with light and warmth, and may even help to reduce energy use. Take advantage of natural sunlight in place of artificial light or heating a home in the winter months. If you have dark colors or heavy window coverings, make sure that they don’t block too much light from a room. On the flipside, if a room is overly sunny and warm, buyers might see it as an uncomfortable space that may also cost a lot to cool.

As for the layout of your home, buyers today seek out homes with living areas that are flexible to maximize usage of spaces, accommodating work-from-home, play areas, and entertaining.

What to add?

Renovate your home with flexible living spaces in mind that incorporate natural light. Utilize natural light as much as possible in dark rooms and hallways, including skylights or solar tubes. Light colors will suffuse natural light throughout a room. Emphasize flexibility for spaces that house different activities that a future homebuyer or family may need.

Luxurious deck with outdoor dining set p and grill and sink, flows into upscale livingroom with wood floors and dark furnishings

Remember the Outdoor Spaces

First impressions are everything, and curb appeal is what potential buyers notice first. Good landscaping should ground a home, making it fit into its environment. Landscaping should also be functional as well as decorative and accommodate areas for relaxing and entertaining. Large mature trees provide shade in summer and are associated with higher-value homes. An experienced real estate agent will maximize your home’s curb appeal for listing photos and market your outdoor spaces as additional living space.

What to add?

Create an eco-friendly landscape with features like drip irrigation and native and drought-friendly landscaping. These are better for the local habitat and ultimately require less upkeep and water usage. Consider planting large canopy trees that can be enjoyed from inside the home. Use evergreen trees strategically to block year-round unwanted views, like utility poles or neighbors’ windows. Deciduous trees shade your home during the hot summer months and then lose their leaves in the fall to allow sunlight inside during the winter.

You can also spruce up the front by planting native trees and flowers and then properly illuminating the area with dark-sky-friendly landscape lighting.

Permeable patio pavers and swales let rainwater to soak into the ground, supplementing the local groundwater and decreasing storm water runoff. Smart irrigation systems can also save a lot of water by automatically adjusting the watering schedule to actual conditions of the site, convenient for you and a great resale feature for busy homebuyers!

Outdoor living spaces come in a tremendous variety of styles to suit every lifestyle. Get inspired! 

Cropped shot of woman vokking omelette in frying pan on top of black induction stove


For potential buyers, the kitchen is the room that can make or break the sale; 80% of homebuyers place the kitchen in their list of top three most important spaces. Real estate agents often showcase the kitchen photos in their marketing materials for their listings. But only agents that understand eco-friendly features can emphasize the energy and water saving efficiency of kitchen appliances and fixtures.

The National Association of Home Builders cited that 81% of buyers desire Energy Star-rated appliances. In fact, Freddie Mac research found that homes with high energy-efficiency ratings sold for 2.7% more than unrated homes. Buyers seek premium and eco-friendly fixtures and appliances in their dream kitchens.

Again, look for flexibility with entertaining and daily use. If you are undertaking a renovation, consider an open-plan kitchen with a large central island. Today’s homebuyers look forward to entertaining friends and family.

What to add?

Updated, eco countertops add value. Savvy sellers will look at upgrading dated countertops for a fresh look. There are many great eco-options out there. One favorite is adding the look of stone using quartz or sintered stone. When it comes time to sell your home, your real estate agent can market your kitchen as having beautiful, eco-friendly, non-toxic, and durable countertops. Quartz and sintered stone are antimicrobial, scratch-resistant, nearly indestructible Plus, there is minimal waste while it is being processed, which is so much better for the environment.

Choose both energy- and water-saving appliances. Induction stoves are more energy efficient than most other methods (around 84% vs 71% for a traditional cooktop). That’s because the heat is produced in the pan–not the cooktop–and much more of the energy goes into the food.

Energy Star labeled refrigerators, especially, are very important because refrigerators are one of the most energy consuming appliances you have in your home. Energy Star refrigerators are about 9% more energy efficient than the federal minimum standard for energy efficiency.

Laundry room

Having an easily accessible designated closet or room for your laundry is a bonus for most homebuyers. Going into a dark and dingy basement or to an unconditioned garage or shed to do laundry is not appealing. Consider carving out a laundry area near the bedrooms, if possible, to increase the resale value and desirability of your home.

What to add?

Definitely include energy and water saving appliances. Energy Star Rated Washers use 25% less energy and about 33% less water than standard washers. And having the prominent Energy Star label on appliances such as washing machines, dryers, refrigerators, water heaters, air conditioners, and light bulbs makes it easier for you to purchase highly efficient, quality products. It also makes it easier for buyers to recognize the value when they tour your home.

Digital tablet show smart home HVAC controls is held up and touched by man's hands; house in background

Smart Homes and Automated Features

Today, most people in the home buying market are aware that smart devices provide wide-ranging benefits. Adding smart home technology could mean that your house will have the advantage of getting sold faster and for a better value. A 2018 survey by Coldwell Banker Real Estate found that nearly half of prospective home sellers would investigate adding smart home technology in order to attract homebuyers.

What to add?

There are many product options on the market, both standalone with individual phone apps and highly networked: smart kitchen appliances, thermostats, lights, locks, sump pumps, smoke and carbon dioxide detectors, pool heaters, showers, and irrigation systems. These can make your home more comfortable, convenient, safe, and eco-friendly.

Smart thermostats are Wi-Fi thermostats that can save a lot on energy bills by automatically controlling a home’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Smart lighting relies on your home’s Wi-Ffi or Bluetooth connection to provide a truly customized, super-efficient home lighting experience.

High-Quality Insulation

Adding improvements behind the walls can be tricky for home resale values. Green upgrades are sometimes not as obvious in their appeal as a renovated bathroom or kitchen. But, adding fundamental features like highly efficient, eco-freindly insulation can reduce utility costs and provide a healthier home. And a green-savvy real estate agent can explain to buyers how such features enhance comfort by maintaining consistent temperatures throughout your home, in addition to lowering your utility bills.

What to add?

Consider natural wool insulation and recycled denim insulation because they are far more healthy and eco-friendly than fiberglass. Mineral Wool insulation offers fire resistance and is breathable, and yet it performs well in damp conditions.

Green Certifications

Your real estate agent can differentiate between the many green certifications (such as LEED, Earth Advantage, NGBS, etc.) and will advertise your green home accordingly. Homes with green credentials are in high demand by buyers. The Earth Advantage Institute found that in Portland, newly constructed homes with third-party certifications for sustainability and energy efficiency sold for 8% more, on average, than non-certified homes. Meanwhile existing houses with certifications sold for 30% more.

What to add?

While most certifications are applied only to new home builds, you can utilize a few options including the Pearl Certification and the Sage Score from Realty Sage. For a fee, the Pearl Certification includes an inspection of your home and a report. The Sage Score from Realty Sage is free and is DIY. Simply add your home as a listing and identify its features, appliances and systems. Include eco countertops, energy-efficient HVAC and insulation, smart sprinklers, etc. Realty Sage will provide you with a Sage Score, which you can display as part of your home’s listing. Add customized marketing materials to display throughout your home for a fee.

Mildew is revealed when peeling back old wallpaper

Preventing Problems Before They Arise

Easing a buyer’s mind about home maintenance issues is another way to present your home as more desirable, and therefore more valuable. The object is to make your home as worry-free as possible. Odors and evidence of water damage are definite turnoffs.

What to add?

Make sure all the systems and appliances in your home are up to date and fully functional. Ensure that filters are clean and warranties are transferable.

In rooms with high humidity or odors, ensure proper ventilation via vents and fans, which can prevent mold and mildew issues as well as reducing lingering odors. Use zero-VOC (volatile organic compound) paint suitable for kitchens and bathrooms to prevent paint odors and toxic fumes in the short term and peeling paint issues in the long-term.

Repair dripping faucets and hidden leaks that can waste water and stain sinks and ceilings. A professional real estate agent can spot specific maintenance projects that will bring up your home’s value before you put it on the market.

Adding Solar

Adding solar panels is proven to pay off both in resale value and in monthly energy bill savings. Not only is it often easily visible for marketing purposes, it is easily recognizable as a premium feature that benefits a future homeowner for years to come. Remember to add battery backup for use in emergencies. Elemental Green and Energy Sage have teamed up to offer energy advice and connect you with local solar professionals.

Estate agent showing a couple a housing development

Experienced Real Estate Agents Market Your Home’s Eco Features for the Best Return on Your Investment

If you’re considering selling, even well into the future, there really is no substitute for professional insight and knowledge. An experienced, green-savvy real estate agent will give you the most accurate valuation of your property. They understand your local home market and can advise you on the features that make the most difference when selling in your area.

As with most industries, certain real estate agents have additional expertise in valuing and marketing eco-friendly features and high-performance home construction. Look for  credentials such as the NAR Green Designation or a LEED credential. has a national database of real estate agents listing their professional experience and knowledge including their green credentials. The platform actually matches home buyers and sellers based on their unique real estate needs: i.e., selling a home with solar or Energy Star–rated appliances; or seeking a home with operating cost savings and environmentally friendly features.

By doing a little research and working with the right real estate agents, you can make sure that your investments not only make your home a wonderful place to live now, but a great investment when it comes time to sell.

Thinking of selling your sustainable home? Realty Sage can connect you with eco-savvy realtors in your area now.