Monday, April 5, 2010

Why “green” is important to real estate investors

There are a lot of reason why green is in the news so much. Many of those reasons are going to become very important to everyone involved in real estate or real estate investing. Green is not just about trees and polar bears but about making homes more affordable and salable. Home buyers are interested in green and investors should remember this when doing rehabs.

Homeowners in all areas of the country benefit from living in energy-efficient houses. Well insulated walls and ceilings, thermal-barrier windows and no air leaks reduce heating and cooling bills for everyone. Installation of modern, efficient furnaces, air conditioners and electrical appliances also leads to reduced emissions, reduced raw materials extraction, reduced transportation costs and less waste in general. There are many programs at all levels of government to help homeowners pay for these types of improvements on older homes. More incentives also need to be made available for purchasing energy-efficient new homes.

Water contributes to the monthly cost of home ownership. Making a home more water-efficient can both lower operating costs and benefit the environment. Reduced water use can even delay or prevent sinkhole formation in areas prone to sinkhole activity. Low-volume toilets, shower heads and faucets all help reduce water usage. Native-plant landscaping watered with captured roof run-off can greatly reduce irrigation needs. Where available, recycled water can be used for irrigation. Tankless, or on-demand, hot water heaters save both energy and water.

Solar water heaters are an ancient and proven technology that is easily and cheaply installed and can also be adapted to heating the house. Passive solar home designs can reduce demand for air conditioning by limiting indoor direct-sun exposure during summer days and allowing cool night air into the home. Solar electric has become much more efficient and affordable than ever before and can supply much of a home’s needs during the day but storage is still a problem. Wind electric generation is just starting to trickle down to the individual home level and should become much more affordable and available during the next few years.

All of these “green” upgrades will lower monthly bills and increase salability of a home. These are not “fringe” ideas limited to the granola & chai crowd at the co-op. Mainstream home buyers are now looking for “green” features because they benefit everyone.

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