Think Ahead and Flip Sustainably

April 12, 2022

Many home buyers want money-saving, eco-friendly touches in their next home. Here’s what to include in your flips to catch their attention.

When you’re flipping a home for resale, it’s paramount to keep in mind what your ideal buyer is looking for. By rehabbing a home into something buyers want, you’ll get more interest in your flip and increase the chances the renovated property will sell for over asking.

Pay attention to demographics

According to the 2021 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trend Report from the National Association of Realtors, millennials make up the largest share of homebuyers at 37 percent. It’s a continuing trend — millennials have been the largest share of buyers since the NAR’s 2014 report.

One sure-fire way to appeal to the large millennial buying block is to add eco-friendly finishes and green home amenities to your flip. It’s possible to flip a home into a Zero Energy Home. Or at very least an on-the-grid home that is air-tight, insulated, and energy efficient property. You can create a situation where it produces as much renewable energy as it consumes. Such a home offers its occupants a net zero energy bill, and a carbon-free home.

Keep in mind that more than three-quarters of millennials want Energy Star-rated windows and appliances in their homes. There are many ways you can quickly and easily incorporate eco-friendly appliances and finishes into your fix and flip. An easy place to start is by upgrading kitchen appliances.

Kitchen appliances to upgrade

Dishwasher

Energy Star-rated dishwashers cost less to operate due to lower energy use and lower water use. In fact, the U.S. government estimates that it costs only $35 a year to run such a dishwasher. Over a lifetime, an eco-friendly dishwasher will save 3,870 gallons of water. With the average household running a dishwasher about five times a week, the savings really add up with this upgrade and that appeals to millennial buyers.

Oven and stove

There aren’t Energy-star ratings for ovens, but you can look for oven models that use less electricity. One option to consider is an induction stove cooktop, which are electric stoves that use magnetic technology to heat special pans made specifically for induction cooking. They have several benefits, including low energy usage when compared to electric or gas stoves and safety (you can put a hand on a cooking surface and not get burned).

Refrigerators

Energy-star rated refrigerators save more than $220 over the 12-year lifetime of the product, according to Energy.gov. These refrigerators utilize high-efficiency compressors to require less heat and less energy, and have improved insulation that keeps food cold. Upgrades such as temperature and defrost mechanisms mean these refrigerators are more efficient in their energy use. An upgraded energy-efficient refrigerator is an upgrade buyers will notice.

Faucets

Look for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) WaterSense label to find low-faucets. These faucets use a maximum of 1.5 gallons per minute according to the EPA and “reduce a sink’s water flow by 30 percent or more from the standard flow of 2.2 gallons per minute without sacrificing performance.” As water prices rise across the U.S., little savings like this can add up to big ones over time. This is a big selling point for potential buyers.

Sundae project manager, Sami Wendee added that “some states, such as California, have heavy regulations in place to monitor gallons per minute in order to pass inspections. Because of this, when you shop online for new fixtures in California specifically, one will notice that you can’t even buy a water fixture unless it meets the California guidelines. This should make a low flow faucet a no brainer. Even if you don’t live in a state that is this heavily regulated, installing low flow fixtures are helpful for your wallet and the planet.”

Bathroom appliances to upgrade

Faucets

Just like in the kitchen, you can replace bathroom faucets. This saves water, especially in homes with multiple bathrooms.

Shower heads

Don’t forget to upgrade shower heads with low-flow options, looking for options that flow at less than 2.5 Gallons Per Minute. They come in all types, including the popular rainfall shower heads. According to EPA estimates, showers account for nearly 17 percent of indoor water use for the average household — about 40 gallons per day.

Toilets

You might not guess that toilets use up to 30 percent of a home’s water use, but that’s what the EPA estimates. When upgrading, look for the WaterSense label on toilets — it indicates the eco-friendly toilet helps to save water and energy. Such a toilet can help the average family reduce water use for toilets by anywhere from 20 to 60 percent, up to $140 per year in water costs, and $2,900 over a toilet’s lifetime.

Both millennials and other environmentally conscious potential homeowners want to save money on bills and to help the environment. Upgrading the bathroom for low-flow options adds selling points.

Eco-friendly building materials to work into your flip

Consider incorporating green, eco-friendly materials into your flip. Things such as using bamboo for flooring, smart glass, solar panels, wool insulation, and other green materials can catch a buyer’s eye. You might also consider reusing materials where you can, whether it’s refinishing original cabinets or shopping at a building reuse center or architectural salvage store. Working with a contractor familiar with eco-friendly building materials and techniques can also make this easier.

Other eco-friendly home improvements to upgrade

LED lighting

Outfitting your flip with LED lighting can have a big impact on energy efficiency. Residential LEDs with Energy-Star ratings use at least 75 percent less energy and last up to 25 times longer than incandescent lighting, according to Energy.gov.

Sami elaborated “one of the most overlooked details in a home is the lightbulb; the very thing that Thomas Edison invented so many eons ago. These days, this small item seems insignificant to most, however it can have a significant impact on your bills and the aesthetic of your property. We recommend LED lighting: our favorite is the ‘Edison,’ a stylish choice.”

Another point she made that’s worth noting is that “even though we won’t typically install a full solar system, there are little solar things that any flipper can still install during a rehab. Solar powered lights are becoming very popular and can be found almost anywhere light fixtures are normally found. You can even install a dusk to dawn photocell on a normal light fixture, to convert it to a fixture that only turns on at night and automatically turns itself off during the day to preserve energy. Save on that electricity bill!”

Washer and dryer

There’s a lot of allure to buyers on energy savings when you install an Energy Star-rated washer and dryer. The U.S. government estimates that the average American family does about 300 loads of laundry per year. Clothes washers with the Energy Star certification use about 25 percent less energy and 33 percent less water than regular washers. Clothing dryers also use a significant amount of electricity, so outfitting a home with an Energy Star-certified dryer can have a big impact on energy bills and the overall environment.

Landscaping

Landscaping your flip for minimal water use can be an attractive selling point. This is especially true if your flip is in drought-prone areas such as California. There are plenty of ways to xeriscape a yard that don’t involve rolling out fake grass or dumping a load of crushed stones down.

Here’s what Sami had to say: “Adding patches of mulch along a home helps balance out large spans of grass and also helps save on that water usage. Drought resistant plants are also a great way to conserve water while creating curb appeal.”

Among the characteristics of a good xeriscape project are rainwater collection, use of native plants, and use of plants with low water needs. Local nurseries can help guide you with what works best in your flip’s climate. Another benefit of such landscaping is that it’s usually low-maintenance, another selling point for a potential buyer.

Find your next flip

Whenever you’re doing a flip, take the time to accurately predict the renovation costs of an environmentally friendly flip. You can do this by taking into account the types of finishes including, the cost of permits, and other details. Even small changes can make a huge difference for the environment and your bottom line.

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Erin B

Erin Behan is a writer and editor covering real estate investor strategy for Sundae. She's lived in L.A., New York, and Atlanta and currently resides in Portland, Oregon, where she writes and edits for a number of outlets, including WebMD, Farmers Insurance, and Vox Creative. She spends her free time hiking with her two boys, snuggling with her cat, and enjoying the best of the Pacific Northwest.