Renovations & maintenance

An environmentally friendly rental home saves money and attracts tenants

Converting a house into an environmentally friendly structure does not necessarily require installing an elaborate solar array on the roof or adding space-age construction materials — though expensive projects have a bigger impact on the environment and can bring significant savings on energy costs over time. 

In many cases, small improvements and some changes in behavior can help a property owner go green, and save money, around the home.

Landlords in the single-family rental market are wise to take steps to attract the younger demographic that is their target market. Surveys show that “younger generations are more likely to feel ashamed (‘very often’ or ‘often’) about living

compared to their older peers. 

So a rental property that has a compost bin in the backyard, or a clothesline hanging alongside the house, offers visual clues early on to prospective tenants that the owner is thinking about the carbon footprint and is taking steps to make it smaller.

Inexpensive environmentally conscious fixes around the house

Window surrounded by plants

Plants are always a way to facilitate cleaner air around an investment property. If other tips in the article are incorporated, the plants can also signal to potential renters that a property is environmentally conscious. (Credit: Getty Images)

  • Save water by fixing all leaky faucets
  • Install energy-efficient light bulbs
  • Put a compost bin in the garden
  • Recycle paper, metal and glass.
  • Install a smart meter.
  • A clothesline uses a lot less energy
  • Conduct a home energy audit
  • Put in window treatments
  • Plant native species in the garden
  • Install an epoxy floor in the garage
  • Encourage tenants to use eco-friendly cleaning products

Moderate spending can save a lot on water and energy costs

In some cases, especially when a rental is turning over or an owner is preparing a new property for rent, there are some renovations that can be done for a reasonable cost that will push energy savings higher, and raise an owner’s green credentials among prospective tenants.

Spending anywhere from a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars on a project can have a significant impact and pay for itself over time. For instance, showerheads installed before 1992 rain down from 5 to 8 gallons a minute, but the industry standard is now 2.5 gallons per minute.  (California has the strictest standard in place with a limit of 1.8 gallons a minute.) 

Today’s low-flow showerheads, which dispense 2.0 gallons or less per minute, can cost about $30 upward to $300 for the fanciest and most energy efficient, and decrease water consumption by up to 40 percent a year. (There are various online guides to the best low flow showerheads.)

If a home is located in a state or city with expensive water rates, and again California is among the leaders in this category, the cost of buying new bathroom fixtures can be quickly recouped. Also, a home with energy and water saving upgrades can be marketed as environmentally friendly, which appeals to young renters.

Here are a number of moderately priced investments that will make a home more eco-friendly: 

  • Install low-flow showerheads
  • If a home needs new appliances
  • Install a tankless hot water heater.
  • Insulate, insulate, insulate.
  • Invest in double-paned windows
  • Skip the hardwood floors
  • Hire a sustainability consultant.

More expensive improvements, and a bigger bang for the bucks

Substantive changes to a property to turn it into a true eco-home can be expensive and cause disruption. This is especially true when retrofitting an older home. For new construction, incorporating an environmentally conscious approach can be part of the planning process. For instance, it’s easier and less expensive to install a maximum amount of insulation as a house goes up as opposed to retrofitting insulation into an older structure.

These choices depend on what a homeowner can afford as well as calculations about how long it will take to recoup the investment on major projects. With that in mind, consider these questions:

  • Is it time to go solar?
  • I
  • Is reclaimed as good as new?

You might also like