Buying, building or remodeling green
In <i>Your Eco-Friendly Home: Buying, Building or Remodeling Green</i>, Sid Davis takes readers through the tricky process of finding a green real estate agent and hunting for your soon-to-be sustainable home.
Tue, Jan 19, 2010 at 04:57 AM
MO' MONEY: Federal, state and local tax credits and rebates are available for installing energy-efficient appliances. (Photo: Matt York/AP)
Buying a home is a scary prospect: You’re entering into a relationship with a lending institution that requires you to pay huge sums of money for roughly 30 years in exchange for the privilege of having a dwelling you can call your own. But, of course, it’s more than that. It’s an opportunity to turn said dwelling into a canvas for your own lifestyle — specifically, a space where everything operates in a truly green manner — from the flooring to the roofing and everything in-between.
Your Eco-Friendly Home will calm your nerves as you navigate the tricky process of acquiring funding, shopping for a green-savvy realtor, hunting for your soon-to-be sustainable home (or the lot on which you’ll build it) and/or upgrading it to embrace both eco-friendly design and function. Writer Sid Davis assumes (probably rightfully so) that most readers aren’t necessarily financially savvy and takes us step-by-step through the home-buying/altering process chronologically, beginning with an explanation of mortgages and the importance of a low APR. For those not blessed with analytical left-brain reasoning, Davis simplifies the process in easy-to-understand language.
Although the author does get bogged down in basic real estate advice (i.e. get everything in writing, make offers subject to inspections, and the realty mantra “location, location, location”), the book lays the groundwork for the aspects of this handy manual that address “green” properties.
In fact, introducing readers to the little known Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) and the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) report as elements which will work in your favor when pushing for a green loan is incredibly valuable. Davis advises you to network to find eco-friendly agents, LEED-certified builders, designers and contractors who will ultimately provide you with discounted loans and an increased likelihood that your home winds up as envisioned.
He reminds us that there are federal, state and local tax credits and rebates for installing energy-efficient appliances and insulation, as well as EnergyStar programs, and utility company plans. Purchasing an “as is” house with the intention of upgrading it to “green” status allows buyers to either resell at a likely profit or live in the home with lower utility costs. Ultimately, this is a cost-saver, a potential profit maker and a great choice for a healthy environment in which to live.
The author advises that if you rebuild, do it literally from the ground up and be sure that green function overrides design. He also points out that a green home is defined as one that’s at least 15 percent more energy-efficient than standard construction (which is relatively easy to do with the advent of more advanced technology), wastes fewer resources during construction, uses sustainable and recycled materials, recycled water, creates a healthier and more comfortable environment and reduces the home’s carbon footprint.
By the time you’re ready to undertake either the buying, building or remodeling of your dream green home, you’ll know the right questions to ask professionals, how to properly position your home to maximize solar or wind power, the importance of green insulation that doesn’t release toxic gasses (like formaldehyde), how to ensure whole-house ventilation that increases your house’s “breathability” and the seven elements of eco-friendly xeriscaping (composition, balance, scale, proportion, color, texture and harmony).
Davis has even provided prospective green homeowners with appendices containing Web sites for nearly any information needed during the process, along with a list of the 10 biggest mistakes one can make (allowing moisture into crawlspaces that will allow mold to grow — doh!), and tax incentive details.
Arming yourself with this guide will make the whole experience a lot less scary and will likely turn you into a green home expert by the time you’ve applied its advice.