Here’s why more homebuyers want resilient features
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Steve Goldbaum has been selling real estate in Los Angeles and Ventura counties for 23 years. Before that, he was an award-winning plumbing contractor and one of the founders of Contractors 2000, now Nexstar, the residential service industry’s largest membership organization. Which is to say, Goldbaum knows homes inside and out.
“I’m bringing value to my clients, sharing what I know, so that they can make the best decisions,” says Goldbaum, a licensed broker, agent, and owner of Value One Real Estate. Increasingly, those decisions involve grid dependence versus a more resilient approach.
Homes featuring any combination of solar panels, home battery systems, and backup generators are increasingly attractive to buyers in Los Angeles. Earthquakes, extreme heatwaves, wildfires, and the occasional natural gas leak are realities of living in the country’s second-most populous city.
Recent events drive interest in resilience
You don’t have to go back as far as the 1994 Northridge earthquake that caused $20 billion in damage and claimed nearly 60 lives to understand the appeal of resilient home design and backup power. (Though Goldbaum remembers the disaster well; he lived just several miles from the epicenter.)
More recent events such as the 2015 natural gas leak in the Santa Susana Mountains — the largest single release of methane in U.S. history — shook residents’ confidence in the infrastructure on which they so depend. Then there are the devastating wildfires that erupt almost yearly, such as the 2018 Woolsey fire that destroyed more than 1,600 structures, killed three people, and evacuated 295,000.
While not even the most resilient home could withstand a wildfire, just the threat of this destructive force can cause disruptions in service. For example, some utility providers shut off power to homes to prevent transmission lines from igniting fires, and they’re incentivizing consumers to reduce electricity use to avert blackouts during triple-digit temperatures.
Goldbaum says all these are reminders that we can no longer take our gas, water, and electricity for granted.
“For years, nobody thought about it. It was a set-it-and-forget-it attitude,” Goldbaum says. “When they learn there are so many miles of piping that aren’t inspected, they begin to consider alternatives.”
That’s why a growing number of homebuyers want secondary power sources to help maintain their comfort and safety during adverse conditions.
Resilient living in Los Angeles
So, what does resilient living look like in sprawling suburban Los Angeles? Goldbaum says clients want the assurance of keeping the power on with a standby generator. According to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which oversees greater Los Angeles, the number of residential backup generators increased 22 percent from 2020 to 2021. And where code permits them, homebuyers are interested in installing propane tanks to keep furnaces, cooktops, hot water, and outdoor amenities running. Solar panels and battery systems are in the mix, as well.
Another advantage of resilient homes: You can live anywhere. Goldbaum is seeing the trend of homeowners leaving the city for the country, where they’re not dependent on a third party to keep the lights on. It’s telling that even the Golden State’s former Gov. Jerry Brown is living off the grid.
“People are putting in solar; people are putting in propane. They’re even putting in septic tanks in rural areas. And once they understand how that works, they realize they’re independent,” Goldbaum says.
He’s helping clients make the transition. One of his clients recently moved from Granada Hills in the San Fernando Valley to the rural high desert community of Agua Dulce.
“He’s got propane and he loves it,” Goldbaum remarks. “He’s off the grid.”
How to talk to clients about resilient homes
You don’t need to have decades of experience as a plumbing contractor, like Goldbaum, to have informed discussions with homebuyers about energy alternatives. It just takes doing a little homework.
“It takes more work to know about this. But so what?” Goldbaum asks. Realtors, he adds, owe it to themselves — and their clients — to get up to speed on the latest technologies.
Get started with your education on resilient living by checking out our e-book on Power Generation.