Realtors and Lendors

As homebuyers become increasingly aware of the ecological footprint of their lifestyle and the operating costs of a home, the market is shifting toward green building. According to the EPA, ENERGY STAR® certified homes represented 17% of the new home market share in 2008, up from 12% in 2007. The $2,000 to $4,000 premium for such a home pays itself back within a few years of purchase, and the increase in the monthly mortgage payment is offset by savings of up to 30% on utilities compared with a code-built home. While ENERGY STAR® remains the most widely recognized green building program, other national, statewide, and regional programs such as the North American Home Builders National Green Building Program and NC HealthyBuilt Homes are gathering steam as well. These programs incorporate ENERGY STAR® as a starting point, and then further decrease energy consumption, install renewable energy systems, build with environmentally friendly materials, and reduce the impact of the building process on the home site.

With a glut of nearly 10 million homes for sale in the U.S. due to the recession, the potential to retrofit energy efficient measures at the point of sale is at an all-time high. Even in shaky economic times, consumers are willing to shell out more for an eco-friendly home if it will reap savings in the future.

According to a survey conducted by the Shelton Group, 32% of homeowners have already installed programmable thermostats in their homes, and 44% are likely to in the future; figures for additional insulation and more efficient water heaters are similar. Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® provides certification of energy efficient remodels, verified by utility savings.

As lenders roll out energy efficient mortgages, homebuyers find it even more desirable to improve the efficiency, indoor air quality, and comfort of their homes. It makes great sense – the cost of the retrofits can be incorporated into the mortgage, allowing the homeowner to save on energy bills and pay down the cost of the upgrades with the savings rather than spending thousands of dollars out of pocket. Furthermore, working in a vacant home is easier for the crew and more convenient for the buyer. Home energy audits are now required at the point of sale in some cities, notably Austin, Texas; and this trend is spreading.

By embracing these trends in the new and existing housing market, realtors can increase their triple bottom line – earning money while positively impacting the environment and helping clients live cheaper, healthier, and more comfortably.

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