A Greener Approach to Home Buying

By Sarah Brock and Bobbi Dagger

The kickoff meeting of the Green Real Estate Network was held on January 9th, bringing together real estate agents, appraisers, lenders, home inspectors, and home energy professionals.

The kickoff meeting of the Green Real Estate Network was held on January 9th, bringing together real estate agents, appraisers, lenders, home inspectors, and home energy professionals.

Energy bills are often the second highest cost of homeownership, after mortgage, taxes, and insurance. This comes as no surprise to those of us who survived that recent cold snap. High energy costs and cold, drafty living spaces go hand in hand and can make homeownership a drag in winter months.

So why is it so rare to talk about energy efficiency when buying or selling a home?

Probably because energy efficiency is largely invisible. Most homes lose heat for two reasons: air leaks and insufficient insulation, especially in the basement and attic. Signs of energy efficiency can be hard to spot unless you know what you’re looking for.

Fortunately, with a professional home energy assessment it’s not hard to identify cost effective ways to stop air leaks and improve insulation. In many cases, a modest investment can have a major impact on heating costs and home comfort.

And still, we don’t often talk about energy efficiency at time of sale.

This year, a group of local real estate professionals is hoping to change that.

The Upper Valley Green Real Estate Network held its first meeting in January, a gathering of over 50 Realtors, lenders, home inspectors, appraisers, and home energy professionals. The group is coordinated by local nonprofit Vital Communities and will be developing ways to help home buyers and sellers benefit from better information about home energy use.

The group will be exploring several topics over the next year.

To begin, the Green Real Estate Network aims to help homeowners who have made energy efficiency improvements to their homes and now are planning to sell. Network members will have access to the tools they need to demonstrate the value of energy efficiency to potential buyers.

Of course, the reality is that most homes on the market are relatively inefficient when it comes to home heating. So the group also hopes to empower buyers of inefficient homes to invest in energy improvements during their first year of homeownership.

According to Efficiency Vermont, an investment of less than $10,000 can reduce energy costs by more than 25%. Not to mention rebates and financing programs offered through Efficiency Vermont to reduce upfront cost to residents. Buyers who prioritize energy efficiency improvements enjoy significant monthly savings and improved comfort for as long as they own their home.

Many members of the Green Real Estate Network have already made strides on their own to help clients reduce their energy costs. Thirteen Upper Valley Realtors have completed the national Green Designation training, and a handful of local banks offer loans specifically for home energy improvements.

However, no one realtor or lender or home inspector can do this alone. Finding a greener approach to home buying will require collaboration across a network of professionals who understand energy efficiency and can work together to help clients minimize the impact of energy costs on their overall cost of homeownership.

The Upper Valley Green Real Estate Network is just getting started, and all are welcome to take part. Interested real estate and home energy professionals can contact Vital Communities to get involved. Residents seeking to buy or sell a home can also contact Vital Communities for tips and resources related to energy efficiency. More information at VitalCommunities.org/GreenRealEstate.

Do Just One Thing: Ask for a real estate agent who has the Green Designation through the National Association of REALTORS to get informed about energy efficiency.

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