first time homebuying

Is your Dream Home a Green Home? The Challenges of First Time Home Buying

Leah Missik - The new Director of Built Green talks to happy hour guests about the Built Green program.

Leah Missik - The new Director of Built Green talks to happy hour guests about the Built Green program.

Last month we had the honor of hosting Greendrinks with a fantastic group of organizations. The Youngstown Cultural Arts center was buzzing with folks from Built Green, Sustainable Seattle, Green Canopy and the Washington State Housing Finance Commission; all there to answer one question for the happy hour attendees - "How can we make green homes more accessible to first-time homebuyers?"

Promoting green building in the retail, real estate market is a paradigm shift in the way we have traditionally shown and sold homes in the past. Value in real estate has always been determined by location, price, amenities, neighborhood, school districts, etc. with little thought given to long term investment in things like utility bills or walkability.  However - as we see the Millennial generation step into the homebuying arena - a generation known for their values-based consumerism -  we can and should expect these individuals to be more interested in long term savings from resource conservation, healthier and local materials that benefit the local economy, and access to amenities in walkable locations that will keep them out of their car. It's not just the Millennials making these decisions though. Today, the typical homebuyer is tech-savvy and non-traditional. They tend to research more or their own and, while decisions still weigh heavily toward cost and location, energy efficiency is topping the charts on the "Must Haves" list for new buyers.

That being said - there are still not a lot of resources to help first time buyers get exactly what they want from the traditional real estate market - and certainly not many incentives to help aid in that decision to go green. Speaking from my own home buying experience, you tend to throw your values out the window when things start to get competitive!

Greendrinks was a perfect opportunity to explore the ideas and programs that are currently at the intersection of the market and values. Folks left the following comments on our interactive ideas board - and conversations circled many of these topics and solutions all evening.

  • More education - many people do not know where to start when it comes to homebuying for the first time. Green homes can quickly become less of a priority as bidding wars heat up the market and first time buyers are forced to keep searching when product is scarce.

  • Incentivize green building - making it worthwhile for builders to actually build green product is a huge part of the equation. Programs like WSHFC's Energy Trust and Built Green - make it easier for builders to finance projects and adapt green building practices that make an impact in our market.

  • Incentivize green home purchases - Green mortgage loans and new products like WSHFC's Energy Spark program are paving the way for buyers to experience real financial relief on their mortgages for purchasing a green home. Additionally, programs like Green Canopy's Energy Performance Guarantee give buyers the peace of mind that their home will perform as it was modeled. This 3 year guarantee means the builder will pay any utility bill that exceeds the amount modeled in the Energy Performance Score.

As mentioned above - the Greendrinks event was an opportunity to talk about a new program from Washington State Housing Finance Commission that was launched just this month. We were especially excited to be alongside WSFC as they revealed Energy Spark - a program that works hand in hand with their down payment assistance program for first time buyers. This incentive comes in the form of an interest rate reduction for mortgages on energy efficient homes. You can learn more about it in this short clip from Kiro News. 

Green Homes, Green Builders & Built Green

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Recently I was asked by a neighbor if I knew any custom green builders. Ahem! I proclaimed - I just so happen to work for one! What can I do for you? They were interested in building their very own green home in the near future and were currently saving to buy property on Bainbridge Island. Great! Let me know when you're ready, I said - and I can get you started. 

My neighbor's next question is one that we get often. How do I know if a builder is a green builder? Do they have to be LEED Certified? To which I replied... first of all - buildings are certified, people are accredited. What you really should look for when searching for a green builder is whether or not those sustainable business practices are embedded in the culture, their people and their product. But also - LEED, while it is an incredibly robust program, is not the only green building guideline out there. In fact - Built Green carries many advantages in our region. It's tailored to the needs of the Pacific Northwest - and is incredibly in tune with the builder community here.

Of course my neighbor had never heard of Built Green - which goes to show that the USGBC has a great marketing budget and a good hold on the market. Still - any green builder should be familiar with both - and that was my point.

In light of the conversation with my neighbor - I decided that I would post our latest Built Green Case Study that was submitted to their newsletter. Every Green Canopy Home is Built Green Certified, but this one was a particularly amazing rehab project that presold in Ballard. We were happy to work with Evergreen Certified to get the job done and truly believe that Built Green is a critical brand and program in the Pacific Northwest.


CASE STUDY
ARABELLA: 6527 5TH AVE NW

What can you do with a harsh, stucco-clad bungalow in Ballard? This 1911 home was thoughtfully reimagined by Green Canopy Homes and reconstructed into a charming yet modern home with light and bright spaces, a stunning communal kitchen addition and vestiges of reclaimed features throughout.  

This 4 star Built Green Home, nicknamed Arabella, was gutted and rehabbed – maintaining 75% of the original structure. The project was carefully deconstructed, with building materials source separated and recycled on site. This process allowed the team to harvest framing lumber to reuse as a feature wall – highlighting the history of the original home. 

Arabella was in desperate need of systems upgrades and originally tested in at an EPS score of 37,000kWh per year – nearly 10,000kWh over the Seattle average. Green Canopy replaced each system, incorporated a ductless heat pump, rigorous insulation and air sealing as well as spot Energy Recovery Ventilators to maintain fresh air in the new super tight envelope (3.7 ACH @50 Pascals). The project finished out with and EPS score of 16,000kWh, reducing energy costs by over $1,400 a year!

In addition to deep energy efficiency upgrades, Arabella exemplifies intelligent site design and finishes. Drywells and a rain garden infiltrate 100% of storm-water on site, and the new addition’s low impact, post & pier foundation minimizes site disruption.  Arabella’s stylish “pickled” cedar siding was dipped in a natural wood treatment that never has to be reapplied and patinas for protection. Better for the environment, and less hassle for the happy new homeowners!

Whether you are in the market for a green home, interested in building your own - or just looking for builders - it might be important to know whether that builder is leading the movement - or just following market trends. All green builders in the area should be keenly aware of the certifications, accreditation, and sustainable business practices such as deconstruction and recycling. The kinds of homes we build and the intentions of the people who build them impact our community, so ask questions