Monday, August 10, 2009

Keeping America Green

Although today’s economic environment has a lot of Americans seeing red, many are still thinking green when it comes to housing.


According to the National Association of Home Builders, the green homes market is expected to increase to 10 percent by 2010.

Ninety percent of recent home buyers believe energy efficiency is a very important factor when shopping for a home. Buyers who placed a priority on energy efficiency were also more likely to value other environment-friendly features, such as proximity to parks and public transportation, and existence of sidewalks in the neighborhood.

Smart Green Growth…

green31A contrarian’s point of view, one broker I spoke with felt that unfortunately if a home is green that this equates to also mean expensive. He stated, “I would like to hear from builders or providers to green home building what the return on investment is for each feature. “

Regardless of popular sentiment, he commented, “people in the green movement honestly believe that if it is green regardless of the payback it will sell.” He also stated, “I do not believe that the green movement will succeed unless it has a reasonable return on investment. In my humble opinion the buyer’s want a return on what they invest.”

A forensic review appraiser, Rachel Massey, chose to “go green” a much more cost effective way. She stated that her way of going green was moving from a 2,400 sq ft house into a less than 1,100 sq ft house. She commented that the move into a house with better windows than the previous home, lower fuel costs which were about half that of the large house were for her a great way to go green and save money all at the same time. She commented that she and her family would like to include solar and/or wind as a power source, but the costs seem prohibitive. She states that for now, simply going smaller was a good way to go green.

Greening of Older Homes…LEED Certification

Dan Melman, a Realtor at Long & Foster Companies provided a great perspective on older homes. He comments, “My market includes older homes (100+ years) thru new construction. Green equates to renovated, and even if the renovation is not to LEED standards, it is certainly more efficient than what was replaced.”

“By default, most of the new construction has green elements, most typically energy star appliances and natural light. While some buildings have marketed themselves as LEED and therefore ‘green,’ the initial appeal was hampered by bad design, which may have actually been a result of LEED standards. Poor design choices resulting in awkward spaces or rooms that are just too small meant that the units did not have the utility of competing buildings. When a bedroom is too small that you have to think about bed size, that is not a great option for the consumer.”

“Older homes certainly benefit from ‘greening’. Looking at my area’s “Cost vs. Value Report” from, our return from unglamorous projects like replacement windows is quite high. Having replaced all my windows, we saw a huge energy benefit. We also pumped in insulation while the wall cavities were open because it was easy to do.


But while low VOc paints and eco-friendly plywood are great concepts, we still have lead paint, radon and asbestos which are more pressing concerns.”

Dan echoes others regarding pricing. He continues by stating that when you are starting with a rehab or a gut, the incremental differences to make green choices are smaller. “I believe the true green niche is just too expensive in this economy. While savings on electricity and heating oil are helpful, it will not come at the cost of hugely more expensive homes,” according to Dan.

Home Choices….Not Fads

An Ann Arbor Realtor weighed into the discussion by pointing out, in her opinion, some of the “green” focus it irrational. She feels that, for example, by choosing a flooring material simply because it doesn’t require cutting down trees is not logical. “Oak trees are not an endangered species. And a number of the cork floors I’ve seen don’t look like they will be usable after 15 years of household traffic. What is the point here,” she counters. She finished her comments by pointing out that they work to help home buyers understand the long term impacts of their home choices, not just the current fads.

In the end, the best low cost way to green your home is through increasing weatherization your homes by making the home tighter through caulking, insulation, and weather stripping at the very least. Is the greening of American housing a fad? Some thought the Web to be a fad, and only a few years ago no one had heard the term “blog” yet here we are today!

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