Sustainable Housing: The Green Movement
In today’s episode, James and Monica talk about the Green Movement in Sustainable Housing. They will discuss the ways we are seeing a growing interest in energy efficiency in homes in general, as well as the more specific ways people want to improve their way of life with varied energy methods. As REALTORS®, it is important to represent these features as the benefits that they are, and maximize the financial benefits that come with them. James will share his tips and tricks on sustainability in housing.
Green homes are becoming more mainstream, especially in the new construction world. Code has gotten more strict in creating healthier homes that use less utilities. More durable materials and features are being utilized that help to save people money. Some of these features include: tankless water heaters, CFL lighting, and Energy Star label mechanics — such as furnaces and windows. James and Monica bring up a good point that this movement is very regional; what works best depends on the conditions in that area. One thing that works regardless of region is wall systems. New construction homes have a lot more insulation and keep the air in the home condition longer.
Solar panels are one of the features that you can actually see on the house. It is a statement that in your house you stand for sustainability and leaving a greener footprint on the environment. There are different options for solar panels that REALTORS® should know about how they can add value for the seller and the buyer. There are several different ways to acquire them (lease, finance, or buy outright). Solar panels are an efficient way to create energy, but there are additional ways to save energy as well. There are a lot of different value points for going with solar, and money is just one of those. For REALTORS®, if solar panels are leased, that will need to be addressed in the contract for the house.
Most electric/energy companies will do a free or low-cost energy inspection of your house. If you’re considering making energy-efficiency or renewable energy updates to an existing home, the energy audit is the best place to start. It will tell you where your opportunities are to make these changes. These audits may also be required to get access to local rebates and incentives.
How can REALTORS® help their buyers see the value of these features in a home? As REALTORS®, you can learn what to look for, and where, on appliances, as well as certifications and guides so you can help your buyers understand what features are available, as well as what the benefits of those features are.
As sellers, you should definitely focus on the energy efficient aspects of your house. By listing energy-efficient features, or energy-star certification, you can increase the value of your home as well as the value of the neighborhood. Getting the information out there, and accurate, is a selling point as well as an education point for the marketplace and other REALTORS®. It is the job of the REALTOR® to communicate the value; REALTORS® are the key to progressing the green homes movement, specifically as existing homes start to get updated. Another important thing sellers (and REALTORS®) can do is show the savings gained from switching to energy-efficient appliances.
Some of these energy efficient features require a certain amount of higher-level explanation. As a REALTOR®, you have to be able to explain how newer technologies work, and their benefits, as well as providing information about maintenance costs and people who are able to work on them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your sellers as well! Their knowledge can help you learn more about the green housing movement and how to sell it. All of these help instill confidence in the buyer in terms of what they’re getting, and how it can work for them.
Working with appraisers is an aspect of the green housing movement that is still being worked out. There are local and national studies that examine the average value of a solar panel that’s owned, but there are other upgrades that aren’t as well known. James talks through some of the important points of working with appraisers, starting by talking with the lender to explain the unique features and get a competent appraiser. There is a document you can attach to the contract (Residential Green Appraiser Addendum) that can provide information about the features of the home. It is also important to document the energy savings that previous customers have enjoyed, as well as other documentation that shows the HERS ratings or energy audit and ratings, so appraisers can see the value as well. Once the appraiser approves it for the premium value, it goes to the underwriter. The underwriter also has to verify that they feel the energy features provide value as well.
What are some of the common things people are putting in existing homes to increase energy efficiency? Solar panels are a popular addition, and often spur the conversation for additional ways to create energy efficiency in homes. Insulation as well as air sealing are also some popular updates. Air sealing is one of the most important factors in keeping your home comfortable and decreasing cost of utilities. Many of the smart-home technologies help provide additional comfort and convenience — you can track and manage usage from your smart phone!
There are loan options and energy-efficient mortgages for green homes. REALTORS® can help their clients by finding lenders that have programs that help people buy older homes and include costs for energy efficient upgrades. With these mortgages, it’s a traditional home loan that lets you borrow more money so you can put in energy savings measures. To obtain these loans, you have to have the energy audit to show the current condition, as well as to determine what measures you can do. This will also help to figure out the savings and what the new value would be. An item is approved if you will save more money over the time of the mortgage than you put in. There are a few extra steps, but it’s important to know about these things to help your client. These loans create opportunity to put in features that are going to provide longevity for the house.
If you don’t have your Green Designation, it’s a great place to get educated so you’re aware of what exists out there and how you can use that information as a REALTOR®. Start small and continue to educate yourself and experience these things, so you can talk about them with your buyers. Green housing is a great opportunity to pay it forward.