Fifteen years ago, the term “going green” didn’t mean much. Today, more home developers than ever are embracing “green” and building communities that boast eco-friendly amenities. Homeowners are also retrofitting homes with solar panels, low-flow faucets and energy-efficient appliances to make their homes more green.
To find out which U.S. neighborhoods are leading the way in sustainable living this year, Redfin data scientists analyzed real estate listings for all of the homes in Redfin markets that mentioned one or more “green” features like “energy star,” “LEED,” “solar,” “green built,” etc. The 10 neighborhoods with the highest percentage of green homes earned a spot in the ranking, with Main Line in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, topping the list.
The analysis also revealed that homeowners can earn green by going green. Homes with green features sold for $33,894 more than the median sale price of all homes in the cities Redfin analyzed. With record-breaking droughts and high temperatures across the country, more house hunters are looking for these amenities.
Julie Jacobson, a Redfin real estate agent in Southern California, has seen the increased demand for sustainable living firsthand. “As the rainy season draws to a close with a sad fizzle of predicted El Niño storms in Southern California, we now have five years of consecutive drought on record,” she said. “The utility companies have mandated cutbacks, local building codes have adjusted and most homeowners and buyers are aware of the impact of home water consumption. I am either asked about these features or am able to point them out on maybe a third of my home tours.”
Here are the 10 neighborhoods for green homes:
1. Villanova (Philadelphia, PA)
Green homes: 57%
When we crunched the numbers to see which neighborhoods had the most homes with “green” features, we had to do a double-take. Several communities within Philadelphia’s Main Line topped the list, with Villanova coming in first. The Main Line conjures thoughts of sprawling historic estates with “French Countryside” architecture…not exactly hip, modern eco-friendly homes. It turns out that Main Line residents are updating their homes with energy efficiency in mind.
“Most homes in the Main Line were built before 1965, which means they’re in need of upgrades,” said Blakely Minton, a Redfin real estate agent in Philadelphia. “Over the years homeowners in the area have replaced aging roofs, windows, plumbing, heating and cooling systems with newer, energy-efficient materials and designs. In renovated homes you’ll find ENERGY STAR® appliances in the laundry rooms and kitchens, high-end foam insulation in the walls, double-pane windows, energy-efficient tankless water systems and smart home technology that monitors light and heat use.”
Alex Dews, Executive Director of the Delaware Valley Green Building Council, says that in addition to several rebate and incentive programs that homeowners have taken advantage of, market demand is a driving force behind the green home trend in the region. “When buyers are comparing similar properties they are certainly looking at the greater long-term value and savings of a more energy efficient home.”
While people often think of green building in new construction, Dews says that many older homes are excellent candidates to be retrofitted with energy efficiency in mind because older building practices, including stone and brick construction, provide a solid foundation.
“Green building doesn’t just help lower utility bills, it’s about health too,” says Dews. “In the last 10 years, people have become more aware of how the materials used in home construction – including the drywall, flooring and paint – can impact interior air quality and health. We spend a lot of our time in our homes, so it’s no surprise that homeowners are prioritizing materials that keep the interior environment as healthy as possible.”
“Green building is a team sport, requiring demand from consumers and the specialized offerings of builders who pride themselves on sustainable techniques and products,” said Bernard Dagenais, president and CEO of The Main Line Chamber of Commerce. “Office builders here are heavily committed to gaining LEED certifications and homeowners want to do their part for the environment.”
2. Villages of Irvine (Irvine, CA)
Green homes: 56%
Two communities in Irvine – Orchard Hills and Portola Springs – made the top 30 list, with Orchard Hills coming in at #2. Both are part of the Villages of Irvine, which make environmental stewardship a top priority.
The landscaping around the Villages is irrigated with recycled water, with smart irrigation controllers and low flow irrigation systems that reduce water waste. The homes are built using the latest in insulation and efficiency techniques to be as energy-efficient as possible. During construction, jobsite materials are recycled, and homes are built with specially engineered materials and sustainably harvested lumber to protect old-growth forests. The builders also avoid certain adhesives, paints and floor finishes that can pollute indoor air quality.
“Irvine is home to many large planned communities, which have hundreds of homes that have been built with energy-efficiency and water conservation in mind,” said Rob Brandon, a Redfin real estate agent in Irvine. “In other cities, homes need to be retrofitted with green features, but with these newer planned communities, all homes have those features from the start.”
3. Downtown (Santa Monica, CA)
Green homes: 51%
The City of Santa Monica offers a variety of water and energy rebates for homeowners who plant drought-resistant landscaping, use rainwater collection systems, have energy-efficient appliances, and more. But it’s new eco-friendly condo developments that put Downtown Santa Monica on the list. According to our analysis, 96 percent of the green listings in Santa Monica were condo units.
“Thanks to programs like Solar Santa Monica, the City of Santa Monica has been recognized as a leader in green building initiatives, and the residents here really care about the environment,” said Alec Traub, a Redfin real estate agent in Santa Monica. “New condominium developments like the Village at Santa Monica, which is LEED-certified, have given residents more options for sustainable living.”
4. Newton Centre (Newton, MA)
Green homes: 49%
Newton residents have many resources available to help them make their homes more energy-efficient, which likely played a key role in landing Newton Centre on the list. The Newton Solar Challenge offers residents a free home solar evaluation, preferred pricing on solar panels, and “Solar loan” financing options to encourage residents to install solar panels on their home. The initiative is supported by Green Newton, a non-profit organization that works to create sustainable solutions for the city.
In addition, Mayor Setti Warren, Green Newton, and the Newton Clergy Association have launched the Newton Energy $avers initiative, which offers homeowners free energy assessments that will help them identify ways they can save energy at home. Since 2009, more than 2,600 Newton homes have had Home Energy Assessments, saving those homeowners an estimated $760,000 annually and reducing carbon emissions by about 2,000 tons per year.
Massachusetts also has programs that promote energy efficiency, including Solarize Massachusetts, which seeks to increase the adoption of small-scale solar electricity in participating communities, and Mass Save®, an initiative sponsored by Massachusetts’ natural gas and electric utilities that offers rebates for installing energy-efficient features.
“While Newton may not be building lots of new green homes like other cities, they have started initiatives to help residents learn how to live more sustainably,” said Nancy Schiff, a Redfin real estate agent in Newton. “Home inspectors actually include information in their reports regarding the Mass Save® program. It provides homebuyers with valuable information and money-saving ideas to help them make their homes more energy efficient.”
5. Tremont (Cleveland, OH)
Green homes: 49%
There are several communities in Tremont that have been designed with sustainable living in mind. Tremont Pointe, the first multi-family green development in the State of Ohio, consists of 190 housing units that were built with sustainable materials and energy efficient features for mixed-income families. The redevelopment project was developed by the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority under the Enterprise Green Communities Initiative.
The Tremont West Development Corporation, a non-profit organization, has been working with residents, business owners and other community partners including the City of Cleveland on several environmentally-friendly developments. The Tremont Duck Island Development Collaborative is an urban redevelopment effort implementing sustainable community enhancement.
“Tremont is one of Cleveland’s oldest neighborhoods, a highly desirable place to live just south of downtown where you can hear buzz saws and nail guns behind pub chatter and espresso machines,” said Joe Rath, a Redfin real estate agent in Cleveland. “Its established builders have an eye for sustainability, commonly constructing LEED-certified townhome units to fit the neighborhood aesthetic while highlighting features like reclaimed hardwood flooring, tankless hot water heaters and low VOC painting.”
6. Terramor Village/Ladera Ranch (Orange County, CA)
Green homes: 48%
Ladera Ranch, a community on 4,000 acres in south Orange County, is nearing completion of 8,100 homes, ranging from single-family homes and semi-custom homes to apartments and townhomes. What makes the community so unique is that it has one of the largest concentrations of “green” homes in the U.S. Terramor Village, just one of six villages, has a special focus on sustainability. Features of homes there, which are often south facing to reduce energy costs, include shade canopy overhangs, tree canopies, drought-tolerant landscaping, ENERGY STAR® appliances and more. The nearly 1,600 acres of open space that surround Terramor Village are proposed to be protected through a conservation easement, meaning the diverse habitats will be preserved. The community also has several parks, trails and shared gardens.
“Ladera Ranch is a one-of-a-kind community,” said Steve Polito, a Redfin real estate agent in Orange County . “Not only have they implemented green features in their homes, they’re preserving the land around them. In addition to parks and trails, residents have access to two gated gardens where they can grow their own fruits and vegetables.”
7. Belltown (Seattle, WA)
Green homes: 45%
In Belltown, Seattle’s most densely populated neighborhood, a commitment to sustainable practices has led to a rise in modern, eco-friendly condos. Aspira Seattle, the first 4-Star Built Green high-rise apartment building, focuses on creating “a community atmosphere with the lowest impact possible on our environment.” Units are equipped with energy-efficient appliances, operable energy efficient windows, water-saving toilets, showerheads and more.
In 2014, Seattle was awarded the 5-STAR Community Rating for national leadership in sustainability. It’s only the second city in the U.S. to reach the 5-STAR certification level.
“Seattle is often recognized for being a ‘green’ city, but in Belltown, especially, you’ll see lots of condos that boast eco-friendly amenities,” said Adam Heater, a Redfin real estate agent in Seattle. “We Seattleites are surrounded by breathtaking forests, mountain ranges and bodies of water—and I think that leads to a desire for a more sustainable lifestyle. Residents want to preserve the beauty of this city, and not see those things disappear. Belltown is leading the charge on that.”
8. Kerrigan Ranch (Yorba Linda, CA)
Green homes: 45%
Yorba Linda, a suburban city in Orange County, California, is the birthplace of Richard Nixon and known as the “land of gracious living.” Earning the #8 spot on our list, we can’t help but assume residents of Kerrigan Ranch have adopted that motto in many aspects of their community—including graciousness toward the environment.
Kerrigan Ranch is a luxury housing development on 257 acres in Yorba Linda. Homes feature green amenities like solar panels and energy-efficient appliances, and residents have access to hundreds of acres with walking and equestrian trails. While many neighborhoods in Yorba Linda boast eco-friendly amenities, you won’t find any quite as luxurious as Kerrigan Ranch, with stunning views of the mountains, golf courses and city. But you’ll need more green to live in this green community. While the median home sale price in Yorba Linda is $822,000, homes in Kerrigan Ranch sell for an average $2.2 million.
“Yorba Linda is one of the richest cities in the U.S. and you see that when you drive through the Kerrigan Ranch neighborhoods,” said Vickie Melin, a Redfin real estate agent in Yorba Linda. “The homes are impeccable and the lots are massive, but they’re incredibly sustainable, and that’s what makes this community so unique.”
9. Downtown (Dedham, MA)
Green homes: 41%
Dedham, MA, located just 30 minutes outside of Boston, was named in 2012 as one of the 100 best communities for young people in the U.S. Their mission is: “to care for our youth, invest in our future, and protect our environment.”
The New England town has made huge strides toward sustainable living. Eager to become a green community, they launched the “Sustainable Dedham Initiative” to teach residents about sustainability and encourage energy conservation—addressing issues like pollution and climate change resulting from the long-term use of fossil fuels. Since the initiative was launched, the town has installed solar arrays on the local high school and town hall, teamed up with Next Step Living to launch a residential energy efficiency program and converted to single-stream recycling and automated trash collection.
“Dedham’s investment in ‘green’ educational and operational initiatives shows how committed they are to being a more sustainable community,” said Nancy Schiff. “They go beyond just installing solar panels, and take the time to educate their residents.”
10. Del Sur (San Diego)
Green homes: 39%
Del Sur, a “green” community in the Black Mountain Ranch neighborhood northern San Diego, received the first Platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification in San Diego for new construction in 2007; it was built using local and recycled materials.
Today, Del Sur continues to lead the way in conservation, offering residents 1,000 acres of open space, 18 miles of trails and six private parks with five solar-heated pools.
Victoria Mazon, a Redfin real estate agent in San Diego, has sold homes in the neighborhood and seen all the sustainable features they offer. “The new construction homes in the Del Sur area are all equipped with high energy efficiency features like tankless water heaters and dual pane windows,” she said. “Some even have grey water systems, which recycle home water usage to use toward irrigation!”