Agents should sell the benefits of the energy, greenhouse and water performance of a house as an increasing number of buyers want more information about the sustainability of homes, an academic has claimed.
Yet agents in the ACT have told Real Estate Business that the territory's compulsory energy rating reports have largely been ignored by prospective buyers.
“The leading real estate agents in Western Australia in this area have been doing training courses with us, and tell us that buyers want more and more information about the sustainability of their homes,” said Professor Peter Newman, director at the Perth-based Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute.
Professor Newman made the comment in response to the Real Estate Institute of Australia’s recent decision not to support a proposal that could see sellers and agents being forced to disclose of the energy, greenhouse and water performance of a house.
“A non-regulatory approach means consumers and real estate agents will not carry the unnecessary burden and costs of mandatory disclosure of energy efficiency ratings (EERs),” said REIA acting president, Pamela Bennett.
The REIA’s stance was part of its submission to the Consultation Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) on the Mandatory Disclosure of Residential Building, Energy, Greenhouse and Water Performance. The RIS, which was released earlier this month, was part of a Council of Australian Governments' (COAG) decision in July 2009 to introduce a national home environmental rating scheme.
The scheme would require home owners that sell or rent houses and apartments to provide information to prospective buyers and renters about the energy, greenhouse and water performance of the home.
“It is a pity real estate agents are not being led by REIA into the next century more effectively as there will only be a growing need for agents to provide this information to prospective buyers,” Professor Newman told Real Estate Business.
“Mandatory disclosure will happen soon enough and it needs REIA to be ready, welcoming the new challenge, not trying to slow down the change.”
Yet the claim that buyers want this information has been disputed by agents in the ACT.
REIACT president Micheal Wellsmore said his organisation’s members reported a distinct lack of interest from buyers in the energy efficiency of a home. This was despite ACT legislation that forced an owner to lodge an energy rating certificate at the point of sale, he said.
“What we’ve found though is the public in general don’t seem to be that interested,” Mr Wellsmore told Real Estate Business.
“When people are buying an established home, the energy rating of the house does not rate in their minds about the decision they make, nor is it for a rental property.”
“We make sure it’s done, we’re now used to doing it. It’s just that we find the public don’t make a decision based on that. That’s not to say that some people may [not be interested], especially with new houses where there’s a lot of promotion about houses that have a five, six or seven star energy ratings."
Mr Wellsmore rejected claims that real estate agents were against the promotion of energy efficienct homes, and instead suggested that the government might be better served bolstering the public's awareness of the benefits of energy-efficient houses.
“If it was something people wanted, aren’t we the type of people that would take a little bit of an idea and embellish it to present a house? If it was something that was really wanted by someone, then we would take it [and promote it].”
Ian McCubbin, franchise owner of LJ Hooker Kaleen, in the ACT, concurred with Mr Wellsmore.
“When they brought down mandatory energy efficiency ratings here on residential properties going back 10 years or so, the common thought was, if you’ve got a zero energy rating, and you’ve got a five, surely mine will sell for more.
“Well, it never reached the lips of the buyers. They really couldn’t give two hoots. It made no difference at all.”
He doubted buyers would pay more for an energy-efficient property, even if they were shown how much money they could save on energy costs.
Mr McCubbin did welcome changes that now forced new builders to construct more energy-efficient houses, and initiatives that helped bolster the installation of solar panels.
“It’s making the builders take note of orientation and materials, and building to a minimum five-star level.”