Green Home Buyers’ Guide: How to Buy an Eco-Friendly House E-mail
Monday, 17 March 2014 00:00  |  Written by Maggie Baxter | Article

Hand Unlocking a Door photo by adamknitsDeciding to purchase a house is one of the biggest financial and emotional decisions of anyone’s lifetime. As an eco-conscious consumer, in addition to making a sound fiscal choice, you’ll also want your purchase to reflect your environmental convictions. Factors to weigh as you begin your quest include types of green features most important to you, best locations for an eco-home, green home financing and choosing a realtor who knows about the green real-estate market.

Building vs. Buying
Different houses are green in different ways, but they all have one thing in common. “Efficiency is key,” says Columbus, Ohio, realtor Cindy Dunigan. Not only are energy-efficient features in a home the more eco-friendly choice, but they also save money. A new build may be more eco-friendly than an older home because it’s more likely to be outfitted with the most energy-efficient appliances, low-VOC paint and low-flow shower heads. Also, building a home instead of buying one means that you can choose exactly which eco-friendly features to focus on.

Eco Renovation
If a new build doesn’t appeal to you, buying a house that isn’t eco-friendly and renovating it green is also a possibility. However, “Either option is pricey,” explains Dunigan. Even though you will realize cost savings over time, you’ll pay more upfront for building or buying an eco-friendly home versus a standard one. Buying a conventional existing house—especially if it’s a foreclosure property—will cost less initially, but you should consider the cost and potentially burdensome timeline of an eco renovation.

Non-Green Priorities
Other priorities must be taken into consideration as well: Is residing in a good school district important to you? How about proximity to work, restaurants and recreation? What is your price range? If your dream is to own an Earthship, but you’re insistent on living close to downtown and your budget is rather limited, your dream may have to be deferred until retirement. There is no one-size-fits-all eco-friendly home. Do some research, including reading our “Green Home Glossary: Your Guide to Eco-Home Terminology and Definitions”, and shop around to determine what options best suit you.

Relocation Consideration
If an extremely eco-friendly home is your top priority in searching for a house, you may want to consider moving to another region. Long, cold winters and rainy springs in the Upper Midwest don’t exactly mesh with the solar-powered homes more readily found in California and Arizona. Dunigan has found that “interest in eco-friendly homes varies widely from region to region.” So if your search feels fruitless, consider setting your sights on an area that has more to offer, particularly somewhere in the coastal or southwestern states.

Finicky Financing
These days, it’s tough to secure financing for a home without a sizable down payment—something that many first-time home buyers lack. Unfortunately, it’s even tougher when the home you desire falls into the “unique” category, as is often the case with an eco home. You may love its solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling system, but a lender may not be eager to loan the hefty amount required to purchase a house with limited resale potential should they have to repossess it.

“Also, banks need comparables,” says Dunigan. If the home you want to buy has so many eco upgrades that there are no similar properties, it can be difficult to obtain an accurate appraisal. Without it, a bank won’t loan as much, “so you’ll have to put a lot of money down to get that type of property,” adds Dunigan.

Finding a Green Agent
It’s great to find a good realtor who will work hard to find you the perfect home. If that person specializes in eco-friendly listings, even better. A green realtor will talk your talk, knowing exactly what you mean when you indicate you’re looking for a home with a water-catchment system and in-floor radiant heating, for example. But where can you find an environmentally savvy real-estate agent? Dunigan suggests; the site’s “Find a REALTOR” search allows you to narrow your options to realtors with the professional designation of GREEN, which indicates advanced training in green real estate.

From zeroing in on a location to choosing a knowledgeable realtor, there’s obviously a tremendous amount of thought that goes into the purchase of a home. That goes double for an eco-friendly house. But if treading lightly on the Earth is something you value, finding a home that’s green or full of green potential will certainly be worth the effort. Once the keys are in your hand, you’ll feel good knowing you made a choice that reflects your convictions and protects the planet. Good luck!

Additional resources:
Green Home Glossary: Your Guide to Eco-Home Terminology and Definitions
Green Home Sellers’ Guide: How to Sell an Eco-Friendly House
Eco Remodeling: Green Home Renovations

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Comments (5)add
Written by Francesco Sortino , June 27, 2012

> Geothermal heat pumps;
> Air-water heat pumps;
> Exhaust air heat pumps.

They are energy efficient complete systems for heating and cooling which is both economic and environmentally sustainable.
This technology is available both for residential single/multi-family and industrial and commercial buildings.

The geothermal heat pump uses as a heat source the subsoil or ground water and allows a cost savings for the heating up to 80%.
You do not need to reside in a thermal area to enjoy the benefits of underground heat: from 10 m depth the soil temperature remains almost constant throughout the year, and around 100 meters the temperatures are around the 10-12 °C constituting a heat source for the optimum operation of the heat pump.

The air-water heat pump uses as a source of heat the outside air and allows a cost savings for the heating up to 50-60%.
It can produce hot water for heating or sanitary uses up to temperatures of 65 °C with only the compressor and work up to temperatures of -25 °C!

The exhaust air heat pump uses as a heat source stale air present in the house, allows a cost savings for the heating up to 50%.
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Written by keith112 , May 12, 2011
nice post, i think all homes constructed in the future should have Eco considerations and the more the better
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Written by Real Estate , March 02, 2011
Thank you for this informative post on how to include eco-friendly considerations in the home buying process. I had never considered the option of eco-renovation as a selling point for real estate before, but it seems like a good topic to take under consideration.
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Written by Jordan , April 26, 2010
Thanks for the ideas and tips on how to buy a greener home. The real estate market doesnt always cater to those that want to live greener. This really helps a lot.
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Written by EcoLove , February 10, 2010
Insightful (and very useful for realtors). The USGBC's LEED Checklist has more information on what elements an eco-friendly home.
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