For months now, climate demonstrators have been taking to the streets for better climate policies. Remarkably, the same realizations are getting through to Belgians and their homes. More than 8 out of 10 Belgians (85%) would be prepared to spend more to live more sustainably and energy-efficiently. Another finding is equally remarkable: despite the impact of sustainable living having sunk in with many people, more than 1 in 10 Belgians—about 15 percent—still don’t think energy-efficient housing is important. Or, more precisely, they may think it’s important, but it’s out the question budget-wise.

If there’s anything getting in the way of the ecological efforts, the Real Estate Trust Barometer has found, it’s often the financial aspect. Those who indicated in the survey that they didn’t think energy-efficient housing was important, invariably pointed to the higher cost of sustainable living as the chief reason. 84% of those who set very little store by it, also state that far too little is being done to make housing affordable.

Belgians are clearly enthusiastic about sustainable housing. Partly for climate reasons, but definitely also because it pays off financially in the long run. It’s just that for many Belgians many of those extra investments are difficult to make, money-wise. Especially at the time when they purchase their property. In that sense, it’s up to the government and the industry itself to provide more and better information about possible renovation costs, subsidies, potential savings, and energy loans.

Dajo Hermans, Managing Director Bereal

Everything for liveability, but not in my backyard 

The Real Estate Trust Barometer also shows that more than half of Belgian—56 percent, to be precise—would still “rather” buy an existing home than build a new one. The reasons for this are quite obvious: the possibility to spread renovation costs over time and the somewhat lower purchase price. Lower registration fees and the 6% VAT rate for the purchase and renovation of an existing home (versus 21% for new-builds) are another crucial factor when choosing between purchasing existing real estate and building a new home.

And what’s equally remarkable: more than half of Belgians (61%) acknowledge that we need to construct higher, more compact buildings in town and city centres to keep things “liveable”. Here, too, the moral effect is in play. That is to say, as long as we’re not affected too much personally: 54% would rather not see higher, more compact construction in their front or back yards.

More and more people agree with what the Flemish Government Architect is saying. Until everything gets too close and they have to personally adapt. That’s when things get a bit more complicated. That’s why it’s still important for real estate players and local authoritieswhile complying with the rulesto work together and to better inform the neighbourhoods concerned.

Dajo Hermans, Managing Director Bereal & Pascal Steeland, WES.

Trust in real estate sector remains stable

The Real Estate Trust Barometer also scrutinizes the reputation of the real estate sector and its professionals. What we see is that trust in the different real estate parties has decreased minimally compared to the year before. More than half of Belgians (53%) still have most faith in notaries, perception-wise. Just like in the previous poll, architects and surveyors came second and third. For the first time, we also assessed the image of property managers. More than 1 out of 4 Belgians (27%) have a very positive attitude towards the manager of their co-owned properties.

Real estate agents are still struggling with their image, just like real estate developers. A mere one in three Belgians have reasonable to strong trust in them.

The entire real estate industry has been struggling with a bad rap for years, even though it’s improving piecemeal. You can’t just change perceptions. You have to keep working at it constantly. That’s why it’s essential that real estate player keep sharing the expertise they have and keep informing all relevant stakeholders.

Pascal Steeland, WES 

The attached overview provides a more detailed look at the latest results of the Real Estate Trust Barometer.

The Real Estate Trust Barometer is a representative yearly survey into the image of the real estate sector and the trust Belgians place in the market. Last year, Bereal, a communication agency specializing in real estate, and WES, a market research and consulting agency, polled a representative sample of 1,500 Belgians from all over the country.