Climate Considerations Every Homebuyer Should Know

Four considerations for climate-responsible homebuying.

By Asiyah Choudry

July 10, 2023

gray wooden house

A home purchase is one of the largest investments you’ll make in your lifetime. Integrating climate considerations into your home purchase is financially prudent and a way to use your money for climate good. Approximately one-fifth of US emissions come from residential energy use, and without deep cuts in emissions, we cannot achieve the Paris Agreement target of net zero emissions by 2050.


Let’s look at four factors to consider when buying a home, focusing on reducing emissions and safeguarding the value of your investment.

#1: Is the property exposed to climate risks?

The physical risks of climate change (i.e., extreme weather events - floods, fires, droughts) mean that some properties are vulnerable to physical damage. For example, between 8 and 10 billion dollars worth of property in California could be underwater by 2050 due to climate-related sea level rise. More and more data is available to assess a home’s exposure to climate-related risks. For homes listed on or Redfin, you can find risk statistics including a flood factor, a fire factor, and a heat factor (e.g., for one San Jose home, the wildfire factor is “moderate - wildfire risk increases in the next 30 years”).

View from below of sky through tall trees

Climate risks can affect the long-term valuation of your home. An analysis by found that flood risk is reflected in home prices, concluding that “the cumulative price growth of low [flood] risk homes consistently outperformed the rate of high [flood] risk homes…”.

#2: Walkability and access to services

When essential services aren’t walkable, car travel becomes necessary. In the US, transportation is the largest source of emissions. Walkability reduces the need for cars to get from place to place. The 15-minute city is a concept in urban planning where services like education, work, hospitals, and grocery stores are within a 15-minute walk or bike ride. If you input an address into, you can find city and neighborhood-level walk scores from 0 to 100. With a walk score of 89, San Francisco is rated the most walkable city in the US.

Suburban subdivision viewed from above

In addition, cities with well-connected public transportation systems mitigate emissions from cars. Public transit use reduces nationwide carbon emissions by 63 million metric tons each year. In addition to walk scores, you can find transit scores for cities and neighborhoods on Access to transportation infrastructure is also positively associated with home prices.

#3: Green building design, certifications, and standards

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers a voluntary labeling program called ENERGY STAR. ENERGY STAR certifies new homes, buildings, and products that meet the EPA’s energy efficiency specifications. Another certification is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, issued by the U.S. Green Building Council. A home with a residential LEED certification uses less energy and water, producing fewer carbon emissions than a typical building. If you want to purchase a new build, consider finding a home with the ENERGY STAR or LEED stamp of approval.

plants overhanging building balcony

Climate considerations can also be incorporated into home design and construction. Passive solar is a design method that uses solar energy to meet a home’s heating and cooling needs, minimizing the need for energetically-intensive appliances. Another option is prefabricated (also called modular) homes. Building components are prefabricated off-site before assembly. Some potential benefits of prefabricated construction are reduced waste, reduced cost, and lower energy use.

#4: Find a home outfitted with energy-efficient appliances, or consider retrofitting

ENERGY STAR recommends six home upgrades to improve energy efficiency for existing homes. These include switching to a heat pump, installing a smart thermostat, and ensuring there is adequate insulation. If you don’t know where to start, Wildgrid can help you create a plan and a budget for energy-efficient home upgrades.


Additionally, a home energy audit can help you understand your home’s energy inefficiencies better so that you can decide which upgrades to prioritize. There are federal and state incentives you can use to reduce the upfront cost of these upgrades. If you want to know more about the different incentives available, check out IncentiFind.

Although energy-efficient upgrades may be expensive in the short-term, energy efficiency can help you save up to $500 annually on your energy bills.

solar panels with purple flowers in the foreground

Net zero and the buildings sector

In conclusion, buying a home is a significant investment that should integrate climate considerations. Factors such as walkability and climate risk have the potential to affect a home’s valuation, in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Globally, the buildings sector accounts for 39% of emissions, and reductions in building sector emissions will be essential in achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

If you’d like to find other ways to support the decarbonization of the built environment, check out our recommended list of investment funds, which includes funds that support green building development.

More articles you'll find interesting

Disclaimer:  GreenPortfolio aims to keep all information on the site current and accurate. However, you may find differences between information listed here and information listed on a financial product provider’s website. Opinions expressed here are not those of any bank, credit card issuer or financial institution, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Please complete your own due diligence before making any financial decisions.

Advertising Disclosure: This article/post may contain references to products or services from one or more of our advertisers or partners. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products or services but this compensation does not influence our reviews or opinions. Read about our methodology to learn how we choose financial products to include on our platform.

©2023 GreenPortfolio Inc.