Property owners keen to go green, banks and agents trail trend

South African property buyers may be late coming to the "green" party, but they are fast catching up with their overseas counterparts.

Research recently commissioned by Century Property Developments to gauge awareness among estate agents, homebuyers, architects and banks on the issue of green residential developments, suggests homebuyers and architects are more enlightened on this issue than estate agents and banks.

The research suggests there is a growing urge among homebuyers to move off the grid.

Estate agents and banks regard the initial costs of greening a home as expensive, and therefore a luxury for the wealthy. They also perceive green homes as aesthetically unappealing. Architects, bound by new energy efficient building regulations, are far more in favour of greening than other focus groups canvassed in the research, but they too see the costs as prohibitive.

The research by KLA canvassed 200 potential homebuyers, 100 estate agents, 15 architects and the major mortgage banks. Among homebuyers, energy efficiency and self-sustainability was the third most important attribute, after safety and security, and affordability in choosing a home.

The research highlights the gap between what homebuyers and estate agents regard as the important issues in home selection. Estate agents, driven by the imperatives of concluding the sale, are more concerned with the buyer's ability to afford the bond and the seller's transparency in pointing out potential defects, as this could negate a sale in terms of the new Consumer Credit Act. Bankers are more concerned about the risks associated with lending.

About 63 percent of homebuyers surveyed - versus 43 percent of estate agents - rated energy efficiency as the main reason for going green.

"This highlights a sharp perception gap between estate agents and homebuyers; the research shows that homebuyers are acutely aware of the rising energy and other costs associated with home ownership," says Dan Brown, deputy chief executive of Century Property Developments.

"There is a strong urge to move off the grid, so to speak, by selecting a home that offers energy saving facilities such as gas or solar heating, recycled water and energy efficient lighting."

Century Property Developments offers liquid petroleum gas as a source of heating at several of its estates.

Gas is currently 30 percent cheaper than electricity, and the savings will grow as Eskom hikes its tariffs in the next few years.

When other energy-efficiency measures are incorporated - such as doubleglazing, water recycling, use of natural materials and organic paints as well as energy-friendly architectural design - the savings can be substantially more.

(Saturday Star)

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