It’s likely that most – if not all – of your clients are looking for ways to save money, especially those who face the prospect of selling a home in a down market. One particularly painful area of most household budgets is the rapidly growing line item that’s earmarked for energy costs. What many sellers don’t realize is there are new ways to save money on energy costs while boosting a home’s marketability and decreasing the time it takes to sell.

And, when it comes to the cash, we’re not talking about small change here.

Here are just a handful of the reasons your sellers might consider making energy upgrades:

1. Lower utility bills increase cash flow immediately

Energy-efficient home upgrades save homeowners money immediately on monthly utility bills.

Take, for instance, the gas bill associated with a household’s hot water use – it’s the second-largest energy cost for the average home. A traditional water heater is powered up and keeping that huge vat of 80, 100, even 120 gallons of water hot 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  By installing a tankless or on-demand water heater, homeowners can expect to see a 24% to 34% reduction in water heating costs – immediately!

Same with installing a solar energy system, which most homeowners don’t realize they can do for a small or no down payment.  With a solar power service , homeowners have the ability to lock in low electricity rates without having to own or maintain the panels.  A solar service provider does it for them and they enjoy the benefits of solar power that’s less expensive than traditional dirty energy. One solar power service customer calculated that if his regular utility continues increasing rates at 6% per year he’ll save about $24,000 over the 20-year solar power service agreement.

If your sellers push back on the costs of your painting, landscaping, and staging recommendations, suggest these improvements instead. They can reduce a home’s operating costs immediately with little or no upfront cost.

2. Green improvements increase sale price and offset losses

A spate of recent studies indicate that green home improvements actually boost the value of a home:

  • The Appraisal Journal reports that a home’s value increases by $10 to $25 for every $1 decrease in annual energy bills. For a 3,000-square-foot home, green improvements could increase the value by $8,000 to $25,000.
  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory compared solar homes to comparable homes without solar panels and found that an average-size solar system can add around $17,000 to a home’s value.

Last month Bloomberg reported that American homeowners lost roughly $7 trillion in home value over the course of the housing market recession. While these macro market dynamics may be out of the individual homeowners’ control, green home improvements offer a rare opportunity to offset such market losses.

For example, two separate home builders have done the math and reported that, all other things being equal:

  • The value of solar homes increased 20% faster than that of the comparable non-solar homes in the same time period, and
  • A community of solar homes had a sales rate double that of a similar community of non-solar homes in the same area.

Home energy upgrades can offer a great opportunity to get market-beating appreciation.

3. Energy upgrades can earn sellers tax credits and rebates

The federal tax credits for buying a home are a thing of the past, but there are still a number of federal, state, and local tax incentives for making energy-efficient home improvements. Some of the most overlooked tax credits, rebates, and other governmental incentives to go green are actually offered on the local level, where your sellers might qualify for tax credits for energy upgrades like:

  • Basic energy-waste minimizers like energy-efficient weatherization, home insulation, and sealing
  • Dual-paned windows
  • Tankless water heaters
  • Low-flow toilets and shower heads
  • Rainwater and greywater conservation systems

Encourage your sellers to visit local city and state Web sites and look for a tab or link to Homeowner Resources for more information on credits. Better yet – position yourself as an expert resource of these little-known programs by posting the links on your own website, blog, or Facebook page, as well as emailing them to sellers you know who might benefit from this knowledge.

4. Decrease Days on Market [DOM]

Sellers stress about the challenge of differentiating their homes from all the competitive listings on the market and getting them to move quickly when the market is slow.  Greening things up is one way to speed up the process. According to the US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, a solar home will sell twice as fast as a home without solar panels – even in a depressed market.

Suggest green improvements like solar panels and water tanks to your sellers who are looking for serious ways to stand out. Some of these upgrades hold the power (pardon the pun) to save them and, in turn, the buyers attracted to green homes, tens of thousands of dollars.