It Doesn’t Cost More to Buy an Eco-Friendly, Green Home

I already knew this from my EcoBroker course and the research I’ve been doing, but now my (new) favorite channel, Planet Green, has show after show confirming it – you don’t have to spend a lot more money in order to buy eco-friendly housing. If you’re building anew or remodeling, follow the three R’s – reuse, renovate, and recycle – and you’ll spend maybe even less than your original budget to be eco- and energy-friendly. In both cases, you’ll more than make up for it on the back-end with reduced utility bills, greater home comfort, and improved personal health.

Wanna do it? Wanna buy an eco-friendly home and reduce your ecological footprint? Here’s how to go about it:

  1. Shameless self-promotion first – hire a qualified real estate agent with a green designation, such as the Certified EcoBroker or NAR’s GREEN designations. We’re trained to help you deal with issues and find expert resources in areas such as indoor air quality, moisture/mold/mildew, asbestos removal, and we can even help you find lenders who are familiar with the extra mortgage features for energy-efficient homes that are available in the market today.
  2. Next, if you’re buying, go out and find a home you like. Your Realtor will be able to help you find all the homes in your area with the eco-friendly features that are important to you.
  3. So now you’ve found the home you want to buy, or you want to rehab/remodel your current place, the first step in the formal process is to have an energy audit conducted. The audit will list, in priority order, what projects should be undertaken to make the home more energy-efficient. You can find a list of qualified home energy raters at the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) web site.
  4. Follow the recommendations as outlined in the energy audit – be sure to have professionally trained contractors perform the work where necessary (such as asbestos removal). Even something as simple as using low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints can help make your home greener by eliminating many of the chemicals emitted from standard paint.
  5. If the work has required the use of contractors, they will be paid by the mortgage company out of the escrow funds your lender setup when you got an Energy Efficient mortgage. What? Don’t know about EEMs? See my previous blog post for more info.
  6. If your plans from the audit didn’t include solar, geothermal, or wind power, you can still take advantage of green power by switching your electricty source with your local provider. Just call your provider and tell them you want to buy a portion or all of your electricity from green sources. They can give you all the details when you call.
  7. If you did install any of the alternative power methods noted in #6, also be sure to check with your state for appropriate rebates and incentives. You can find a database of the state rebates and incentives at the DSIRE web site.
  8. After all those inside improvements, it’s time to look outside to see what you can do – try some landscaping to help with natural heating and cooling patterns of the seasons. Deciduous trees (those that lose their leaves in the fall) are best planted along the southern side of the home – this way they provide shade from the heat in the summer and they allow the sun in during the winter to add some heat to the home. Plant firs and pines to the north-northeast to act as windbreaks, especially during those winter nor’easters we’re all familiar with (most of us anyway).
  9. Don’t forget some composting or even water reclamation. In my hometown of Arlington, MA, the town annually sells blue rainwater barrels for homeowners to use to collect the rain, which is then used for watering gardens, washing cars, etc.

Ha! I’ll bet you thought I might end with a “Top 10” list here, but I like to be unconventional and I’ll stop at #9.

But where’s the money savings? First, your utility bills will be reduced, keeping more money in your pocket every month. Next, many energy improvements are eligible for federal and state tax incentives or rebates. For example – in Massachusetts, the portion of land on which a solar array or wind turbine is located is not subject to state property tax for 20 YEARS after installation! Imagine covering your backyard with solar panels and not paying any tax on your yard! Well, don’t imagine that maybe – your neighbors wouldn’t like you and you’d never be able to have a cookout. But you get the idea.

See? Not so hard after all, is it? For more ideas and links to Eco-Friendly partners in the Boston/Cambridge/Arlington Massachusetts area, visit my web site at CyberGreenRealty.com.

Until next time, Peace!

-TMC

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