NEW ORLEANS - Most Realtors say a home's energy-efficient features make it more attractive to buyers. But there is debate about whether amenities such as solar panels, tankless water heaters and smart technology offer homeowners a return on investment when it comes time to sell.

"Buyers definitely want it, and more of them are looking for it," Carol Jambon Jr., of Latter and Blum said. "But it's not likely that any buyer would be willing to pay what the seller wants to make up for what was spent."

Jambon said such amenities do not make or break a deal, so they do not change the way he lists properties for sale. However, he makes sure sellers understand that much of their investment likely won't get a return.

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"If features like solar power or a tankless water heater were really important selling points, you would see more investors installing that sort of thing when they renovate or build new properties," Jambon said. "You don't see it because for them it isn't worth the expense. It's more often an investment for a homeowner who is staying in that home forever."

North Shore Realtor Bob Mack, also with Latter & Blum, said interest has been higher in the basic elements of energy efficiency, such as double-pane windows and weather stripping. But when it comes to more sophisticated upgrades, people sometimes shy away from it out of fear of complexity.

He singled out systems that offer smartphone connectivity to heating, cooling, lighting and other home-energy elements. While the convenience factor adds value for some buyers, there are often concerns raised with maintenance.

"Some of these systems developed in the last five years come with some technology baggage that can be a burden," Mack said. "Maintaining the equipment to keep it working properly can get expensive, because much of it is not standardized. More of the system might need to be replaced because of one outdated component."

The presence of energy-efficient windows, doors and insulation can make or break a sale, he said, but more complex elements just serve as another selling tool.

"The average buyer is just not looking for solar power or wind energy," Mack said. "It's not a strong element in the area. You don't find it on new homes, and there are very few on existing homes."

While Realtors say top-end energy features aren't on the average buyer's radar, some believe the next generation of homeowners is beginning to see the value of energy-saving technology.

"The younger buyers are more curious and more prone to look for and ask for all elements of energy efficiency," Claudette Reuther, of Gardner Realtors, said. "There was a property in Bayou St. John I sold recently to a young entrepreneur who I know is adding solar panels. Younger buyers are more conscious of that sort of thing."

Appraisers have become more educated when it comes to green homebuilding, she said. They have started to look for its components when determining home values.

State government incentives encouraged Rice to install panels on four properties she and her husband, Richard, own.

"It's actually something he has wanted to do since we moved here in 1986," Price said. "No, they don't look great and we are doing what we can to hide them, but they were affordable because we were able to get them with the tax credits. I think there will always be buyers out there who are less concerned about the look."


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