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6 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Green Home

When a buyer purchases a home, there are many questions to be asked; financing, neighborhoods, comparably sold properties and so on. But when a buyer decides to buy a green home, it’s wise to ask a few additional questions to make sure that the transaction goes smoothly and that they know exactly what to expect from these premium homes.

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Does the home have a certification? More and more homes are now getting certified for their sustainability either through a local certification or a national one. These can be very valuable assets to the resale of your home as well. It is proof that your home is green certified. Ask if the home is certified and ask to see the certification to verify the accuracy of the claim.

Is your real estate agent or the listing agent qualified and knowledgeable about green homes? Do they have a green credential?  Green homes have significant attributes and without qualified professionals, you may not be getting all or the proper information about the home. Check to see if your buyer agent or the listing agent has experience and even better a green credential to back up their knowledge of green homes. There are 3 leading credentials that real estate agents can earn: National Association of Realtor’s Green Designation, EcoBroker Designation, and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Associate or the advanced version LEED AP.

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Does the appraiser have an understanding of green homes? An appraiser who is not up-to-date on green homes may undervalue the home and cause significant problems for the transaction, including a loan denial. Green homes often sell for a premium price due to their advance building techniques and cost saving features. An appraiser who is not familiar with these features or building techniques may price the home similar to other traditionally built homes, which can put a wrench in a buyer obtaining the financing for the home at the contract price. Make sure your agent and lender both understand that the appraiser should have experience with green homes before they proceed.

How old are the systems or eco-features in the home? Believe it or not, some “eco” products, high efficiency systems, or building techniques that were considered very efficient or high tech ten, fifteen or twenty years ago could be less efficient than “normal” products or required local building codes of today. Many companies have increased the efficiency of their products so much so that a home built many years ago with “green features” could be similarly efficient to a newly built home to today’s codes and newer systems and appliances. For example toilets have become so water efficient at 1.28 gpf that a water saving “eco” toilet from a few years back may have the same water efficiency as most “regular” toilets sold today. Of course there are always the exceptions with some products that are more efficient still. Composting toilets, for example, are by far more water saving than anything else out there. Make sure that your soon-to-be eco-home’s products and systems are in fact actually still as “eco” as they once were considered.

Are there any tax incentives? This will apply mainly to newly built homes where the tax credit is applied upon installation of certain energy efficient or alternative energy products. currently has a Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit that is accessible to current homeowners or buyers of new homes, where one of the energy efficient products or systems have been installed. The good news, however, is that even if you don’t apply for a tax credit right away, if you install “eco” products and systems once you own the property, there are many options out there for tax credits and rebates. Here are some examples of potential tax incentives and rebates.

Do any of the eco-features need special care or maintenance? Eco homes may have features and systems you are not familiar with that often require different care than regular systems. For example, if there is a rain water collection system you may want to ask, “How do you maintain it and how often should it be cleaned?” With solar panels, knowing the dos and don’ts of cleaning them and whether inspections or other maintenance is required to help uphold their efficiency. Your agent or home inspector can help answer these questions for you or direct you to professionals who can.

Asking these 6 questions will help any buyer of a green home become an informed and more confident one. Happy house-hunting!

Kari Klaus CEO and Founder of Viva Green Homes April 2015 

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