Figures will vary over time and because every home and every community is different. Since these homes were built, the cost of solar PV has come down significantly and is projected to fall up to 50% further. Rebates and tax credits also vary from state to state. And cost-savings on development homes will be greater than on custom homes. But these examples demonstrate how affordable zero energy homes can be. Builders and designers are making every effort to learn new techniques that will make these homes even more affordable, and mass adoption of the involved technologies will bring prices down further, just as we are seeing with LED light bulbs and solar PV.
Lower Foreclosure Rates
A study by the University of North Carolina and the Institute for Market Transformationof home energy efficiency and mortgage risk shows that the more energy efficient a home is, the lower the foreclosure rate. Thus an energy efficient home can make the difference between foreclosure and maintaining mortgage payments. This is another indicator that highly energy efficient homes, such as zero energy homes, are truly affordable in the real world.
Higher Resale Value
Another reason that zero energy homes are affordable is that they are a positive investment. Not only do they hold their value because they are built to the standards of the future, they have a higher resale value than similar homes built to code. Increasingly buyers are looking for homes that are airtight and well-insulated with low energy bills and, increasingly, realtors are finding that energy efficiency features positively affect the value of a home. In fact, a 2012 market study by Yahoo! Real Estate shows that 50% of Americans now consider green and energy efficient features a part of their “dream home.” And 27% of potential home buyers say that “looking for a greener, more energy efficient home is a significant reason they want a new home.” According to a recent Smart Market Report survey, over 60% of green builders reported that their customers are willing to pay on average 6% more for homes that are energy efficient. A study conducted by Vanderbilt University Law School found that on average buyers were willing to pay 5% more for a green labeled home, provided the green label indicated actual energy savings. More highly-rated houses commanded an even higher premium.
Measures that establish a high degree of energy efficiency, such as those found in zero energy homes, influence buyers and add to the desirability and price of a home, making them a more valuable asset than similar homes built to code. For example, in King County, Washington, Ben Kaufman of Green Works Realty reports,
“In Seattle… certified [energy efficient] homes made up 33 percent of the new home market, sold for a 9.1 percent premium per square foot and were on the market for 24 percent less time. Further, from November 2009 through January 2010, King County non-certified homes continued to decrease in value as certified home values increased. Remarkably, green homes carried a $92,175 price premium, were 12.3 percent smaller and continued to sell in less time than a non-certified home. In Seattle, third-party verified homes, which are often a ‘deeper green’ home, sold for 23.5 percent more per square foot in 10 percent less time and make up 6 percent of the market. The difference is notable and growing.”
After minimizing the cost differential, zero energy homes will clearly cost less to own, making them affordable for every home buyer. And these high performance homes will remain affordable forever because they have zero energy costs no matter what the price of fossil fuels and electricity is in the future and because they are built to last.