Monday, September 21, 2009

It's EASY Going Green!

Earlier this year Congress extended solar and alternative energy tax credits to take a bite out of the bill of upgrading your home energy systems. In addition, the EEM or Energy Efficient Mortgage is the new rage among borrowers needing up to 5% of your home's value to make energy efficient improvements..*

Since when is energy from the sun considered 'alternative'? Isn't the sun our main method of heating the earth? Even primitive adobe housebuilders and cave dwellers knew which way to face their walls for maximum solar gain.

The new 'alternative energy' credits mean that our federal government is providing a $2,000 credit paid to the builder on new homes whose space heating and cooling energy consumption is 50% below the annual consumption a standard home.

Ask your accountant to research your rebates! Heck one guy I know has an entirely 'alternative' net zero home and it's not the first one he has built so these are not new ideas folks. They are ideas whose time has come when we are looking around at the folly of ripping minerals out of the earth at great expense so we can send ships full of the stuff spilling their way to some refinery so another train or truck can haul it and at the end we get to pay three times what it actually cost to produce. Perhaps the new transparency is finally arriving just in time to start making sense. Like about the time we can't afford our gas bills this winter...that would be a good time. If you are like many of us seeing 50% higher energy costs, this tax credit is the perfect tipping point: Alternative thinkers are no longer the oddballs...they are the ones with real jobs climbing on roofs installing new solar collectors taking advantage of our new found enthusiasm for doing the right thing!

Energy Audits: If you plan to install a solar photo voltaic energy system, better windows, upgrades to insulation or other green features, you will need a home energy audit to verify the improvements are worth the effort. A HERS Audit is performed (approx $750 cost of which a portion is credited back in your EEM). Certified inspectors use techniques like infrared thermography and blower doors to test the energy efficiency of your home. These systems checks are part of LEED gold and BuiltGreen 4 star home certifications and are increasingly used by renovation specialists.

In some cases the product manufacturer can provide statistics of before and after savings to satisfy the underwriter's guidelines on yearly savings. Double or or triple pane windows and low-e glass are a no brainer in colder climates. One borrower installed a pellet stove to replace an older wood stove. The pellet stove manufacturer provided statistics comparing the savings of using a recycled easily sourced product and the heat btu gain plus dollar savings. Very convincing!

The bottom line is that your energy improvements must net dollar savings over time. Lenders appreciate that you will be paying less for energy going up in smoke, literally, and give you some credit toward a higher mortgage payment.

Who Can Help? Call your local Building Planning Department may refer professionals in the area. Contact your local chapter of American Institute of Architects or Building Designers. Seek out professionals in local building trades groups. City planners, universities and other business networks and sustainability groups may refer members who are experienced in these technologies. There's always Google!

Get a leg up on the renovation boom! Many folks are staying put and making lifestyle and health changes including improvements to their homes to allow aging in place...all good! Factoid: Most so called 'green loans' are a public relations ploy to get you in the door and the lender doesn't even know about EEM's and may not have a specialist construction department--borrower beware!

Get the Real Deal!
Your green project needs to realize more than good intentions. Invest in a designer or architect and builder who are certified under a green program. The two most recognized programs are: Built Green, rated by stars and LEED rated as silver, gold or platinum.

Built Green is run by our local BIA chapter: There are other programs in other regions.

LEED for Homes is managed by the US Green Building Council. this program was originally developed by commercial architects and has the most rigorous testing.

So remember the new mantra of our times: Green is Good!

Happy greening!

© 2009 susan templeton

Friday, May 29, 2009

PERFECT Time to Build Your Home!

What, are we crazy to suggest such a thing? Nope. Actually, like a good market contrarian, we can list a few very solid business reasons to build NOW.

1. Architects and Home Designers are either totally slammed working on major renovations for their top clients who may have decided to stay put or age in place... or extremely grateful for a nice plum ground up custom design to work on.
2. Builders are largely under-employed right now, so you will enjoy a choice of builders who are more willing negotiate your price and expect fantastic service.
3. Borrowers with high credit scores (720 or better) and sufficient assets to back up their project will have banks falling all over themselves to assist a custom project.
4. Builders can forget funding their own spec or custom homes (unless their client is taking on the financial risk) so you, Mr or Ms. Borrower will have all kinds of respect and control of your custom project coming your way.
5. Land values have plummeted due to the lack of developers able to fund construction projects so you will have more choice of lots going for rock bottom prices.
6. Materials costs are down for sheeting products, i.e., OSB board, plywood and other locally accessed products due to lesser demand.
7. Subcontractor labor costs are lower: $3.50 per square foot to frame a custom home now down from $6.50 psf last year (local source our region).
8. Green technologies are enjoying some very cool stimulus energy tax credits for solar and other alternative energy systems, so you can add some hot new upgrades to your home for great energy savings and better quality of life.
9. Energy efficient appliances are also enjoying local rebates from the appliance manufacturers as well as your local Public Utilities companies.
10. Better lighting design, including super efficient LED products are coming on the market that present huge energy and health benefits over current high efficiency models.

Whats not to like about all these advantages to building your home the way you want it for less $ per square foot? Just don't wait for the next wave of contrarians who can't find a nice spec home with all the perks of custom homes to get the message!

Happy custom building! 

© 2009 susan templeton