Real estate agents appear to be overlooking the benefits of solar as a selling point when homes hit the market, surprising research from RMIT University reveals.
While energy efficient technologies like double glazing and insulation may be regarded as selling points in real estate sales, environmentally and financially friendly solar installations are not on the radar.
RMIT property senior lecturer Neville Hurst said he was “perplexed’’ solar was not seen as a selling point for homes and warned that ignoring the technology came at financial and environmental costs.
“If there is market demand for solar from home buyers, it would be seen in advertising campaigns as real estate agents would promote technologies if they perceived a buyer demand,’’ Hurst said.
“Considerable efforts have been made globally to introduce solar technologies into the housing sector and, in Australia, Federal and State governments also introduced schemes to subsidise solar technologies,” Hurst said.
“Yet our research revealed that real estate agents don't seem to be referring to these features in house sale advertisements, and an inability or reluctance by agents or vendors to promote residential solar could impede long-term market and owner adoption of the technology.’’
Hurst examined the acceptance of housing energy efficient technologies with Associate Professor Sara Wilkinson from the University of Technology in Sydney, the pair scouring Melbourne’s real estate advertisements from July 2008 to June 2013.
They found that despite government support for solar technology in the residential domain, installation of the technology in homes was not promoted during the sales pitch.
This is despite Australia being one of the sunniest continents on earth and electrical energy costs in Victoria rising about 63 per cent for the average home in recent years.
“There are about 1.25 million solar photovoltaic (PV) installations in Australia, with close to 13 per cent of dwellings in Victoria fitted with the technology,” Hurst said.
“Yet our examination of real estate advertisements shows that agents and vendors believe they have limited appeal to prospective buyers.’’
Hurst said real estate agents were very adept at interpreting market appetites and this could be behind the lack of mention of such technologies in advertisements.
“Perhaps we need more direct government intervention.”
Hurst said real estate agents were in a unique position to monitor market behaviours and potentially influence them through their engagement with buyers and sellers.
“Historically, heating and cooling costs have not featured in the home-buying decision but that could change as ever increasing energy costs bite.
“It is expected as energy costs continue to rise, buyers will seek more energy efficient houses, helping drive greater market demand.
“But our research results show the market is not yet paying significant regard to solar technologies and is not responding to the government’s objective of a market led adoption of energy efficient housing.
“Real estate agents aim to promote the characteristics they believe will be most attractive to home buyers so if solar technologies were ‘front of mind’ to the buyers, phrases relating to the technology should be found within advertisements.”
Hurst said he believed government must take a direct approach to the residential solar issue typically seen in other countries which appear to be gaining more traction in this area.
“Further studies are needed to investigate what would make solar technologies appeal more to Australian home-owners,’’ he said.
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Story: Kelly Ryan