Working with Cody Wolfe to buy a home
From electric cars and meat alternatives to eco-friendly fanny packs, it’s tempting to chalk sustainability off as just another trending buzzword. But that would be a mistake. Sustainability is here to stay, especially in the housing and real estate arena. Around the world, demand for energy efficient homes is on the rise. And industry innovators are rising to the challenge. This week, we’re catching up with Resident founder, Cody Wolfe, to talk about key players shaping the future of sustainable homes.

How Phoenix is ahead of the curve

The Phoenix Metro area has been one of the most energy efficient cities in the U.S. since the population exploded mid-century. Why? The area’s widespread air conditioning use. As Resident founder Cody Wolfe notes, “Air conditioning here isn’t really an option, it’s a necessity. And that forced Arizona to be mindful of energy efficiency early on. I think it will continue to be pervasive in Arizona as more and more people move to our lovely state.”

These days, the energy efficiency mindset has moved beyond central air. A few of the current trends include solar panels, systems to capture and reuse rainwater, and installing Energy Star-rated appliances.

Arizona has the highest market penetration: 48% of homes built in 2015 were Energy Star certified. That’s 10 percent higher than the next highest state, Maryland, according to

Benefits of the energy revolution

Energy efficient homes are better for the environment, plain and simple. But they’re also better for your bank account. According to the Pembina Institute, living in an energy efficient building can lower your heating bill by 50%. Plus, studies are starting to show that energy efficiency can have indirect health benefits by reducing pollution and improving outdoor air quality.

So why do people resist energy efficient and sustainable upgrades?

According to residential solar professional Anthony Fiorino, “Sitting across the kitchen table can be a hallowed arena where you battle with homeowners over the benefits of rooftop solar for their homes.”

Cody confirms that this is also the case in the Phoenix Metro area. “The early barriers to entry are almost always cost,” he says. “Fortunately, technological improvements and economies of scale have provided for prices to fall over time, in turn making them more affordable for the average homeowner.”

Cue advances like the TESLA Powerwall. The Powerwall is an aesthetically pleasing alternative to solar paneling. It essentially functions as a solar battery for your home, storing energy and kicking on in the case of grid outages. Easy to install and minimally designed, many are predicted the Powerwall represents a critical turning point in residential clean energy.

Cody is excited about the Powerwall’s potential. “It’s super cool because of its flexibility. It’s essentially a big battery, so you can save extra power if your neighborhood power goes out. You could use this power to charge your car or light your home. But you can also sell excess power back into the grid and never pay for electricity again.”

As solar and battery tech prices decrease over time, Cody imagines that more and more people will implement the technology.

There’s also the problem of gentrification. “Unfortunately,” Cody acknowledges, “energy improved homes are going to be more expensive to build. That means increased asking prices, which might outprice whole swathes of buyers.” It’s a complicated issue with no easy answer.

Cody Wolfe demonstrates energy efficiency

But the sustainability tides are continuously shifting

As Resident’s Designated Broker, Cody Wolfe has watched this shift firsthand. In recent years, he’s noticed that more and more folks consider the energy costs of living in a house, not just its sticker price. “People are, at the very least, more cognizant of how expensive a particular home will be to, say, cool compared to another,” Cody explains. “Buyers are considering not just how much the property costs, but also what the so-called operating expenses are, and how that affects the environment.”
What to look for in a sustainable home
“We’re living here in sunny Arizona,” Cody explains. “So, obviously, state-of-the-art air conditioners are top of mind for a lot of folks.” But that’s not the only important metric you should be focusing on.

The Home Energy Rater Score (HERS) should also be on your radar. The HERS index assesses a home’s energy efficiency giving it a performance score. This nationally recognized rating system is the gold standard for measuring energy efficiency.

Cody cautions, “A good rule of thumb is that if a home is not advertising its HERS score, the homeowner either has no idea what that means, or the home has a very low score.”

And while a lot of the focus is on state-of-the-art features like solar panels and powerpacks, it’s just as important to consider the energy efficient basics. “Think about homes with excellent insulation and dual pane windows. Not only do these things help AC systems last longer (because they don’t need to work as hard), but they help save money, too.”

Predicting the next sustainability trend

When asked about the future of energy efficiency and sustainable real estate, self-proclaimed tech nerd Cody Wolfe had a perhaps surprising confession.

“I personally think that the next push will not be so much technological but more ecological.” He went on to note the havoc that landscaping with non-native plant species has wreaked on local ecosystems. From the breakdown of symbiotic relationships in nature to the loss of native fauna and flora, Arizona’s population boom has forever changed the area’s ecology.

“I think luxury homes and hotels will start to have ecologically conscious—and even locally sourced native species used for landscaping. And they’ll be able to charge a premium for it,” he predicts.

Building a sustainable housing future

These days, it’s hard to imagine living without electricity and indoor plumbing. In another 50 to 100 years, things like solar panels and energy packs could be as everyday as light switches. As demand for sustainability continues to build, technology firms are scrambling to keep up. And the result is sure to be better for people, the planet, and the natural world around us.