Off-grid features can make your home R1m more attractive

A property with off-grid features will be more attractive and valuable to buyers than one without them. Picture: Kindel Media/Pexels

A property with off-grid features will be more attractive and valuable to buyers than one without them. Picture: Kindel Media/Pexels

Published Jan 11, 2023


The current electricity crisis and rising costs of utilities are providing major incentives for homeowners to take their properties off the grid – either partially or fully.

Not only will they benefit from the installation of generators, invertors, solar power, water tanks, and boreholes while living in their homes, but when it comes to selling one day, they could rake in quite a bit of extra cash.

This is because more buyers are searching for homes that offer such off-grid features.

Invertors and JoJo tanks are currently the most popular features on property buyers’ shopping lists, says Carol Reynolds, Pam Golding Properties area principal for Durban Coastal.

“We have seen a significant increase in green features in the past 12 months. Most homes now have invertors and many also come with one or two JoJo tanks.”

While she says it is difficult to qualify the actual value-add in monetary terms, having such installations make a property more sellable.

“If we have two equivalent homes on the market and one has green features, the green home will appeal to a wider market and will sell quicker than the home without such features.”

Hein Pretorius, owner/broker of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in Plettenberg Bay says “it is really advantageous” to have some form of power back-up, especially basic grid-tied systems – with or without solar panels – that are able to run TVs, lights, and fridges for the duration of load shedding outages. Buyers are “definitely” looking for properties with such installations.

“Most systems are grid-tied with invertor and lithium-ion batteries. People are less interested in generator back-up systems due to noise, fuel requirements, and servicing of generators.”

Depending on the type of system, its specifications, and size of batteries, a home’s off-grid features have, the value-add on sale could be anything between R50 000 to R1million, he says.

From experience, Pretorius notes that installations able to run basics like TVs and lights will add about R50 000 to a property’s value, while a full system that runs the entire house could increase its value by R400 000 to R500 000.

Although Cape Town currently has sufficient water, the city’s residents recently lived through a drought, and water scarcity is always a possibility, say Rouvaun McKirby and Joanna Thomas, Constantia area specialists for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty. A borehole will therefore “always be a very welcome additional feature”, they explain in a joint statement.

“With daily load shedding increasingly becoming the norm, a reliable electricity supply is more of a priority than water-related aspects, so solar panels or solar geyser heaters along with inverters and back-up batteries will always be a bonus.”

Some sellers have installed such features themselves, but the pair note that more developers are either installing energy-producing or -saving features in new builds or incorporating space/capability in the design for them to be installed at a later stage should buyers wish to do so.

“Water filtration systems and invertors with battery back-up are common options,” they add.

Aside from the urgency of the carbon footprint and clean energy debate as highlighted by the COP27 climate conference and Russia’s War in Ukraine, South Africans now have to deal with the reality of water and electricity infrastructure which is unable to meet the needs of the country, states Samuel Seeff, chairman of the Seeff Property Group. And as can be seen from the load shedding schedules and the escalation in power outages, it is becoming “increasingly necessary for homeowners”.

Although he says aspects such as off-the-grid and greening features are still often regarded as extras, these are now increasingly being seen as more of a “welcome addition”, especially at the price bands above R1.8 million.

“It adds to the marketability of a property and adds value.”

Seeff notes however, that it is costly to install solar/battery systems, especially those which are integrated, hence older lower income houses may not have these features, but they are increasingly part of new-builds.

“New builds tend to have features such as solar heating, or at least solar geysers and energy-efficient lighting and appliances. Existing houses are also increasingly listing with features that have been added by homeowners, ranging from solar geysers to back-up batter/solar power. Hybrid still seems to be most prominent with complete off-the-grid only in rare instances.”

He does state though, that home security and safety features are still more important than solar heating.

Currently, green and off-grid features most popular with buyers are:

  • Water tanks for rainwater collection, and recycled and grey water systems
  • Alternative energy supplies, such as solar and battery, and generators – these are increasingly integrated into the property’s electricity grid
  • Solar geysers
  • Gas appliances
  • Energy-efficient lighting and appliances
  • Indigenous/water-wise gardens

Fortunately, Seeff says, South Africa is generally not a cold country, and so we are not as reliant on electricity for heating as countries in Europe and North America, for example.

While there is no standard formula to calculate the value certain installations may add to a property, he estimates that a solar geyser and gas stove may increase a home’s worth by around R10 000 to R20 000. This will also depend on the property itself and the neighbourhood.

More substantial features, such as solar for heating the pool, those that are part of a back-up system for power outages along with energy-saving lighting and gas for cooking, would add more value.

“On a standard three-bed family house in a middle-class neighbourhood, priced at around R1.5m, it might add another R150k depending on the features, the property itself, the neighbourhood and market. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.

“At the upper-end of the market, it is far more prevalent that people will pay more, but again, not more than market-related pricing.”

In KZN, where devastating floods have formed part of recent challenges, Reynolds says it is not surprising that many homeowners are now considering implementing more sustainable green features in their homes, to ensure that they can literally weather the storms.

“If we look at current trends in residential developments, there is a strong emphasis on eco-friendly features. Most developments encourage solar panels, heat pumps, and some form of water reticulation.

“JoJo water storage tanks are a great cost-effective way to save water and provide a backup supply in the event of municipal shortages. For many, the idea is not to be fully off the grid, but rather to have water and energy back-up solutions for times of need, and to reduce the burden on the local infrastructure. This applies to homeowners and buyers in both freehold and sectional title properties.”

If you are just getting started in your quest to make your home more independent of Eskom and municipal water provision, she recommends that your property should have at least one JoJo taken with a pump that is connected back into the home to act as a reserve water supply. It will also become the primary source of water for irrigation and gardening purposes.

From a power supply perspective, many people are still relying on invertors.

“Generators are noisy and costly to run, especially with the increase in fuel prices, so most are opting for small invertor solutions that keep the essentials in their homes running during load shedding.”

Search IOL Property to find a home that offers off-the-grid features you may be looking for.