By Jeffery Hammerberg
So-called “green building” practices have been around for years, but mostly on the fringes. But lately the trend is going mainstream.
Newer and more efficient building technologies and architectural materials are brought to market each year. And the innovations are not only capable of saving us energy in unique and different ways, but they can also save us some serious cash.
While sustainable building practices have always been welcomed as common sense policy, they have traditionally been more expensive, at least in the short term, compared to conventional construction. Many consumers who would prefer an energy efficient home have not been able to justify the cost, in much the same way that many who would like to drive an energy-saving automobile have not been able to afford a hybrid car.
But a significant shift in favor of the planet (and those homeowners who are concerned about conserving natural resources) is underway. Responding to demand, commercial builders are working to lower costs without sacrificing quality or efficiency.
If you are in the market for a new or existing home, there are ways to go green without depleting the green from your bank account. Here are three cost conscious tips to help you get the most for your money:
Energy efficient mortgages
Many banks now offer special Energy Efficient Home mortgages, with special perks. They like lending “green”, because lenders are mostly concerned about two things when it comes to mortgages:
1) They want to know that the borrower can repay the loan: If you buy a home that has lower utility bills, you are more likely to repay your loan on time, because you’ll have more money in your household budget. So energy efficient homes make sense to lenders from this perspective.
2) They want to know that the home is valuable, in case they have to foreclose and resell it: Appraisers are still on a learning curve regarding the value of “green-built” homes, because many of the money-saving features are new and not yet familiar to them. But more and more appraisers are willing to add value to homes based on the recognition that green built homes generally reflect sound, high-quality building practices.
Look for tax incentives
When shopping for an energy efficient home, look for government backed programs that offer tax incentives or rebates. Many states now offer these in order to encourage builders and homeowners to conserve energy, and if your home qualifies, you can take advantage.
Check utility bill history
If you are buying an energy efficient or otherwise “green” home, ask the seller or REALTOR(R) to provide you with data on the utility bills and energy consumption. If you study the averages for a few years, you can calculate the actual cost savings compared to similar properties in the same neighborhood that are less energy efficient.
Use those figures to extrapolate your savings based on how many years you expect to live in the home and predict how much money you’ll save.
The real savings for energy efficient homes are realized over time. One home in a relatively cold climate, for example, reported annual heating bills of $80 per month–a fraction of what neighbors in conventional homes paid. Savings of $2,000 or more per year in utility bills added up quickly, and could be used to leverage even more savings, by paying off the mortgage or investing elsewhere. And with tax advantages added in, the cost per square foot of this green-built home was close to–or below–the price of traditional construction.
As gas prices continue to rise, so do construction costs and homeowner expenses for such things as heating and air conditioning. According to recent data, those who invest in green homes are rewarded not only with personal feelings of satisfaction for “doing the right thing,” but with cash savings that endure and continue to compound over time.
With a global energy shortage dominating the news headlines, everyone is looking for ways to trim energy bills. Many of us begin to adopt an environmentally friendly outlook when we are at the gas station, confronted by unfriendly prices that gouge a hole in our wallets. And more and more of us are starting to bring that attitude home, where simple steps like conserving electricity or water can contribute in a positive way to help curtail the energy crisis.
As the savings begin to show up at the cash register, more and more consumers–and those companies who supply them with products–will compete to provide less expensive and more sustainable sources of energy. One of the most important places they will concentrate those efforts is in the housing industry, where going green is already relocating from the fringes of the real estate market into mainstream neighborhoods and developments.