Quantify the value of sustainability investments in your home

By Heather Elias, Pearl Certification

A recent Angi report shows that homeowners spent an average $13,667 on improvements last year—more than ever before. Renovations often enhance a home’s comfort or visual appeal, especially if the owners are considering resale value. But homeowners often overlook the value of high-performing, sustainable features. Untapped potential remains lurking within the walls of most residential properties.

Green building and energy certification programs provide a framework for comprehensive assessment of these performance features, such as insulation, HVAC, and solar energy. Home certification assessments then help homeowners take steps to make their home even more efficient, resilient, and comfortable. One consumer-focused program, Pearl Certification, uses an app, Green Door, to carry homeowners through certification, efficiency renovations, and then recertification—highlighting “hidden” sustainability attributes along the way.

Benefits of home certification

Home certification serves as a badge of honor, distinguishing homes with high-performing features from standard properties in the market. In fact, a recent appraiser study by Pearl Certification shows that when properly marketed, certified homes spend less time on the market, and sell for an average 4.75% more than comparable homes.

But home certification goes beyond preparing a home for sale. You’re creating a living space that is comfortable, sustainable, and efficient. By upgrading to high-performing features, current and future homeowners can enjoy a more stable and pleasant indoor environment, regardless of climate; plus healthier, cleaner air to breathe and ongoing savings through energy efficiency.

In Maine, Patrick Woodcock recently upgraded his home. He said he quickly started reducing energy use. “We’re seeing substantial cost-savings. I’d estimate that the air-source heat pump alone has offset our reliance on the gas furnace, and the associated costs, by about 40%,” Patrick proudly reported. “At this point, we really only depend on the gas furnace during the dead of winter.”

mini-split heat pump HVAC unit is mounted high up on the wall of a Pearl Certified Platinum home - photo
exterior view of suburban two-story home with solar panels among other energy efficiency upgrades; sunny winter day - photo
Mini-split heat pump in Pearl Certified home - photo

A Platinum-level Pearl Certification renovation in Long Island, NY, prioritized both comfort and cost savings. The homeowners installed heat pumps, ENERGY STAR certified windows and doors, advanced cellulose-dense insulation, as well as solar panels. Smart home technology helps them manage energy and monitor savings

Tracking home improvements

The journey towards a more sustainable, comfortable, and valuable home can be long and complex. In his renovations, Woodcock said he primarily takes advantage of Pearl Points, a scoring system designed to help homeowners recognize and track high-performing assets and potential improvements. “The scoring system is sort of addictive,” Patrick says. “By that, I mean it’s like the way you want to reach the next level in a video game.”

Pearl’s multiple certification levels present your home’s overall performance, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Plus, it deep-dives into specific categories of assets:

  • Building Shell, including insulation
  • Heating & Cooling systems
  • Baseload appliance energy use
  • Home Management, like smart thermostats and dashboards
  • Solar, EV & Energy Storage

A home that doesn’t reach Pearl Silver (yet!) can qualify for Pearl Asset Certification, highlighting one or more high-performing features: high-performance windows and doors, heat pumps, ENERGY STAR appliances, etc. Assets that interact more with your local climate will earn more points. For instance, a high-efficiency air conditioner will be worth more points in Phoenix than in the Midwest.

This helps identify the most impactful home upgrades, from temperature and humidity control to reducing energy bills and resilience in the face of climate change, including well-being issues like indoor air quality. These “hidden” systems have no curb appeal but do represent valuable, long-lasting home investments.

The Green Door app will recommend priority tasks and update your plan as you bring assets online, earning Pearl Points toward higher home certification. Maintenance reminders help you ensure your investments continue to save on your energy bill and retain their value. Finally, the app stores the documentation and warranties on upgraded systems.

ENERGY STAR washer and dryer dide-by-side in residential laundry room; tote bag sits on the tiled floor reads "How  green is your bag?" - photo
Exterior view of home from street; ranch home with EV in the garage and solar panels on the roof - photo
Black and stainless oven and range, Certified by ENERGY STAR, stands between kitchen counters and cabinets; counter holds decorative items and untensils/appliance - photo

To achieve Gold-level Pearl Certification, this renovation in Phoenix included solar panels, AeroSealing, an EV charger, and ENERGY STAR certified appliances. 

Contractor connection

Jan Green, a realtor and certified eco-broker, transformed her 1979 dilapidated Phoenix home, purchased in 2015, into a net-zero, energy-efficient residence, earning a Pearl Gold Certification. “A lot of people probably don’t know this—I certainly didn’t—but if the contractor who does your energy audit is also a certified contractor, with the capabilities to handle whatever fixes or replacements the audit revealed, it’s fairly standard practice for them to waive the cost of the energy audit as long as you contract with them for services,” said Green.

Homeowners can access Pearl’s network of contractors through the Green Door app. Importantly, any work done by a Pearl Contractor is automatically Pearl Certified upon successful completion. This ensures that the improvements contribute towards the home’s certification and overall value.

Green began with an energy audit, and then step-by-step upgraded her home with efficiency renovations: air sealing, LED lighting, energy-efficient appliances, and solar panels. She was able to offset some costs with a 26% federal tax credit and state incentives. Her approach aligns with the Inflation Reduction Act’s (IRA) incentives for high-performing home improvements. Homeowners can determine which specific funds are available for different upgrades utilizing Pearl’s IRA Rebates Calculator.

Woman holds smartphone displaying Pearl Home Certification app (achieving Platinum-Level); one hand holds the phone and the other points to the screen; the woman's torso is blurred in the background - photo

Looking to sell?

Pearl hosts a nationwide network of real estate agents who are trained to identify and certify high-performing home features. They can then leverage the marketing materials provided with Pearl Certification to highlight a home’s high-performance qualities and capitalize on their added value.

More and more new homes include high-performing features. And as more cities adopt stricter energy codes, this is where the market is headed. An eco-savvy real estate agent can ensure you get the most value for your efficiency renovations by optimizing the green fields in MLS databases and filling out the Appraisal Institute’s Green Energy Efficient Appraisal Addendum. They know how to market individual energy efficiency, home automation, and solar features, as well as connect whole-home performance to value and comfort.

Home certification is a gateway to a higher standard of living and a testament to the value of sustainability investments in our homes. In an evolving real estate market, Pearl Certification recognizes what’s already working and helps unlock the full potential of our homes to create a better, greener future.

The author:

Heather Elias, a seasoned realtor and broker with 20 years of real estate industry experience, currently serves as Vice President of Pearl Certification‘s Real Estate and Homeowner division. 

Our team researches products, companies, studies, and techniques to bring the best of green building to you. Elemental Green does not independently verify the accuracy of all claims regarding featured products, manufacturers, or linked articles. Additionally, product and brand mentions on Elemental Green do not imply endorsement or sponsorship unless specified otherwise.

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