Add house hardening to ways to boost older home marketing  

Michelle Davis - 2024 NETAR President

Regardless of how much faith – or lack of it – you have in Punxsutawney Phil’s powers of predicting weather extremes are exerting a new effect on housing. At the risk of straining to put a silver lining on the recent snow and sub-freezing weather, consider this: It was a marketing lesson for homeowners and real estate professionals. 

NETAR President
Association Spokesperson

The Wall Street Journal wrote about it using the catchphrase “house hardening.” It dovetails with energy efficiency trend already high on consumers must have list. The Journal expects a demand spike for things like whole-house generators and solar systems as homeowners look for ways to keep the lights on and cell phones charged during a polar vortex and to protect themselves from things like frozen water pipes or damage or loss of refrigerated frozen food loss during a power outage. It’s also a lifesaver for those using CPAP machines and home oxygen.  

While it’s not as sexy as kitchen remodels or new decks, house hardening is something Realtors® should consider meeting the expectations of buyers prioritizing their home’s resiliency and ways to protect their investments. And it dovetails with the inventory niche of markets where older homes dominate. Areas like the Tri-Cities region.  

According to the Census, homes that are 20 years old and older dominate the NE TN and SW VA housing stock. That means sellers who give their older homes energy-efficient muscle have an edge. Especially now that polar vortexes and a weather “bomb cyclone” are frozen in everyone’s memory.  

One of the strongest new home selling points is improvements in energy efficiency due to new materials, better building standards, and advances in appliance technology. It’s a powerful selling point when the price of new homes is competing with existing home sales prices, but there are ways that homeowners can compete. 

Getting an energy audit is the first step. There are local firms that offer this service. Another source is power companies. Audits typically offer an upgrade to short- and long-view. The short view is lower-cost improvements that show immediate results. Big-ticket items need more consideration – especially by those who are or will soon market because there’s a return-on-investment consideration.  

  Some upgrades that should be high on that to-do list include:  

  - Insulating or re-insulating attic spaces. This can have a major impact on both heating and cooling costs.  

– New windows and doors score high on the upgrade wish list but can be a big-ticket item.  

- Many older homes can make big energy efficiency gains with new technologies. Digital controls are one example. They make it possible to automatically adjust heating and cooling levels in concert with peak need-and-use times. Another example is the ability to set those digital controls to heat a home’s downstairs during the day and upstairs at night.  

– Hot water heaters and piping are big energy users. While better insulation helps, tankless water-heating units can be good upgrades, but like the energy-efficient windows, this is an upfront investment. Then payback comes over time because the tankless systems only heat water when needed.  

– If an older home also has older appliances, consider newer energy-saving models. Compared to things like replacing windows and doors, this can be a less expensive alternative, and it results in some energy-efficiency eye candy.  

As with any home upgrade, it’s important to keep tight control on costs and return on investment expectations. If the project involves contractors, multiple estimates are prudent, and be sure to check out the contractors’ references. To expand on your library of tips and suggestions, check out the National Association of Realtors® sponsored House Logic at  

NETAR is the voice for real estate in Northeast Tennessee. It is the largest trade association in the Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia region, representing over 1,800+ members and 100+ business partners involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries. Weekly market reports and information for both consumers and members are available on the NETAR website at