As Mike and Caroline Lindberg read over their latest home appraisal last winter, they learned that new countertops and curb appeal are no longer the only ways to determine a home’s worth. These days, upgrading a home’s energy efficiency can also improve its market value.
Like many homeowners, the Lindberg’s decided the time was right to refinance their early 20th century home in the Laurelhurst neighborhood to take advantage of historically low interest rates. They also had signed up for Clean Energy Works Oregon in hopes of taking care of a couple issues with the house. There was the upstairs office, for instance, a popular place for the couple that was very difficult to heat, even with a space heater. And, like many older Portland homes, there always seemed to be a draft in the house.
That’s when Marshall Runkel of Ecotech jumped in to do a little detective work.
“His house was like a lot of other Portland houses,” Marshall said, “It had no wall insulation.”
The furnace was in good shape and the insulation in the attic was adequate, but when Marshall tested their house for leaks, it was twice as drafty as recommended.
“The obvious things were done,” Marshall said. “But the difficult stuff wasn’t.”
That cold upstairs office? Marshall found that there was an interior door that opened directly to the attic space.
Marshall built a hatch to seal off the attic, re-insulated the walls of the house and also found a defective electrical panel that needed to be replaced. The Lindbergs decided to install a tankless water heater and Marshall fixed a few other small leaks throughout the house.
When he was done there was a significant reduction in the amount of airflow in the house and the Lindbergs even got rid of the space heater in their office upstairs.
Mike Lindberg, a former Portland City Commissioner knows a thing or two about the benefits of energy efficiency. He helped write the city’s first climate action plan. And his assistant, Margie Harris, is now the Executive Director of Energy Trust of Oregon.
Mike said he appreciates how CEWO is making a difference.
“As a long-time public servant and homeowner, I’m really happy with the CEWO experience. Not only is my house more comfortable to live in, but the investment in energy efficiency paid for itself immediately – the cash value of the upgrade was included in our recent appraisal,” he said.
Marshall said the repairs he made were pretty typical of those needed in most older homes.
“That’s kind of the story of Portland’s housing stock,” he said. “There’s a lot of beautiful early 20th century houses, amazing places that document the history of the state. And they were state of the art buildings in 1910,” he said. “But at that point there was a completely different expectation of comfort.”
Back then, Marshall said, houses were often heated with oil or had sawdust burners. Oil was about a nickel a gallon, so homeowners didn’t have the economic incentive to live in better-sealed houses.
But with today’s energy and environmental concerns, Marshall said it just makes good sense – and good cents.
“Living in uncomfortable homes and paying more than we should on energy, while creating dangerous (environmental) conditions for others isn’t where we should be,” he said.
But while there were no big mysteries in the Lindberg’s home, the couple did get a pleasant surprise in their home appraisal.
“When the appraiser came to do the house,” Marshall said. “He literally took pictures of the CEWO documents and added the value of the improvements to the value of the house.”
Marshall said there is a movement in the appraising industry toward valuing efficiency upgrades much the same way you would value new granite countertops or remodeled bathrooms.
The Appraisal Journal recently reported that “energy efficient homes have an increased market value by as much as $20 for every $1 they save on annual energy costs.” Their research went on to show that while these homes may be priced higher, they still sell more quickly than other comparable homes.
“I think there is a tipping point ahead of us,” Marshall said. “Having appraisers consider the value of energy efficiency improvements creates the environment where the market correctly values efficiency.”
Mike Lindberg has been working toward that tipping point most of his career. And now CEWO has helped his family realize its potential right in their own home.