What’s Green in Realty?

As we begin this year with a new president on the horizon and a slow market, we wonder how this year will progress. I think this is going to be the year that sustainable building and living green takes center stage. You may think that it already has, but there are still so many builders and people who do not think it is cost effective to build green and it is inconvenient to live green. In fact, you may have seen news articles that represent green building as too expensive for people to afford in this market and green builders that are losing money on building green. Well, show me a builder who is not losing money right now and I would bet that they are building more green than others who are not.

In the real estate market, we have seen a trend over the last 18 months or more in people wanting to purchase properties that have been green rated by the city or that have green features built into them. It is more than just the latest trend, “it’s a cultural shift that helps protect our environment and reduces our carbon footprint”, says Laurie Loew of Give Realty Austin, a philanthropic realty company. She says that “sales of “green” homes increased by 88% from 2007 to 2008. The national projection is there will be a 10 fold increase in green construction between 2005 and 2010, with green construction making up $20 billion of the new home market (national level) by 2010.”

Buyers are specifically looking for energy star rated appliances, a clean air environment with low VOC content and natural materials used and water conservation features. The biggest thing a buyer wants to see is the annual cost of energy savings and how quickly they’ll see a return on their “green” money investments.

This is where it can differ from home to home. If a home is built with a total fill insulation like open cell spray foam and a sealed attic, the energy star rated appliances and high seer rated HVAC will add great value to a very efficiently built home. Otherwise, the quality equipment may not be enough to show the savings they want to see. From a real estate perspective, the visible energy features of a home make a big impact on the buyer. But the way a home is designed and built is even more important and is often overlooked and hidden from the buyer eyes.

Laurie advises for a buyer who wants a green home; “If new construction is not an option, fairly simple modifications can be made to help reduce energy costs and increase efficiency. If you do major remodeling and finance the updates, weigh the cost of the upgrade vs. the money that will be saved over the life of the improvement.”

Whether you are buying new or used, or building your home, it pays to take advantage of the many incentives through Austin Energy. “Realize that small changes can have a very positive impact on the environment and your pocketbook!” Laurie Loew specializes in green and has recently completed her elective course and is anxiously awaiting the ability to use her new GREEN designation from the National Association of Realtors®. She can be contacted through her website at www.giverealtyaustin.com.