green canopy homes

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. 

Marketing for Real Estate Made Easy

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Contributed by Krystal Meiners, Marketing Manager for Green Canopy, Inc.

Even though I am the Marketing Manager for a builder (AKA the Marketing GENIUS or self-proclaimed M-architect) – I don’t pretend to know the many nuances and facets of the WORLD of real-estate marketing and I don’t pretend to assume that we do a great job of it ourselves. What I do know is that we try really hard, and working with agents has given us a 1-up. From what I can tell marketing for real estate can get pretty complicated – and the rewards of your efforts are not always measurable.

To do it well, real estate agents have to be graphic designers, web designers, bloggers, social media gurus, public speakers, PR aficionados, salesmen(women), community activists, construction experts, design experts, neighborhood experts… the list certainly goes on.

What I also know – is that Agents have a world of tech at their fingertips to make their jobs “easier” (harder) and “less complicated” (super complicated). There are a million different ways to connect with clients and my feeling (totally un-researched) tells me that most of this is happening online.

In an effort to understand this phenomenon and to try and keep up with our Agent associates I have been trying to do more research. One of our Certified Energy Agents recently kicked this my way, and I have to say – I LOVE IT! These guys are apparently pretty hot in the real estate biz and they host an outrageous Google Hangout (yes people use Google Hangouts! WTF) about Real Estate Marketing. Their live video chats and interviews have been translated into iTune’s #1 Business Podcast - and for good reasons.

Chris Smith is entertaining and whip-smart i.e. not boring at all. So, take a minute or 45 and Watch/Listen/Learn about what you could be doing to boost your marketing efforts from these pros at the WaterCooler. Their live show airs every Wednesday evening at 9:15 EST and if you can figure out your Google+ Account, you can join them or watch them here.

You can also catch all of the past episodes on their Youtube Channel.

Our Pride. And Joy.

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Contributed by Sonja Gustafson:

This spring, after only 7 days on the market, G2B Homes entered into a sales contract for The Sequoia House!  The final sales price was within .05% of our listing price, so we essentially were able to command our price – an excellent indicator of market response to our product.

As a team, we couldn’t be more thrilled with the fruits of our efforts at taking a neighborhood eyesore and turning it into a lovely jewel of green and efficiency.  Not only is it aesthetically beautiful, the house was certified 4-star BuiltGreen and energy testing revealed a tripling of its per-square-foot energy efficiency!

I could go on and on about The Sequoia House (and encourage you to view our cool Before/After video here) and our innovative, sustainable approach to reviving homes in vibrant neighborhoods.

But what I’d rather reflect upon is the affect this project has had on our team and the full complement of specialists and tradespeople who worked on this wonderful home.  From our beginning “charette” meeting where we invited various experts to the house to give us their perspectives (captured in this KUOW radio story), to the local Eco-Building Guild seminar on air sealing, to the house color vote where 40+ votes were cast by engaged neighbors, the home became a place where people could come to imagine, design, learn, teach, and otherwise get involved in sustainable building. Some 86 tradesmen and women plied their skills during the course of construction, many of whom learned about advanced drywall approach, rain gardens, or solar hot water for the first time and can now employ these skills with future clients.

And it won’t be the last time.  Our team at G2B has proven to itself and to the market that our approach of turning existing homes green in healthy urban neighborhoods works.  It really works - seven days to sales agreement, solid pricing, happy homeowners, and energy savings of 15,000 kwH/year certainly support this point!

We are eager to get working on another home, and another, and another still.  Our team has spent the past weeks documenting best practices, finding ways to be even better next time, and getting ourselves ready to roll.  We are heading out to the investment community to raise the funds necessary to operate our company and bring it to scale.

And I just want to say what a joy it has been to work on this project with such talented and passionate people.   It’s a joy to make this one home consume a mere third of the energy it otherwise would.  It’s a joy to have created not just a house, but a home that a community has touched.  And it’s a joy to be working on sustainable, energy efficient housing in an era and community where these ideas matter.

The Energy Rebound Effect

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Contributed by Canuche Terranella:

Peter and Kristi live in a 1915 un-insulated Craftsman house.  In the first months in their new home they kept their thermostat at 68 degrees.  In December, with their first energy bill, they learned this behavior costs $350/month. Oh the financial pain!

Energy efficiency improvements are motivated by pain.  Energy pain comes in two varieties: financial and comfort.  Most energy models are based on customers like Peter and Kristi making energy improvements to reduce wallet pain.  As soon as they’ve insulated their home they will continue to keep their thermostats at 68 degrees but consume less energy.  These models point to great reductions in energy demand based on customers with financial pain installing cost effective weatherization and insulation measures.  If utility companies can use rebates and incentives to encourage customers like Peter and Kristi to invest in improvements to their homes it will be as good as investing in new power generation equipment to keep up with demand.   The assumption is that the pain of high utility bills will motivate investment in energy efficiency improvements and decrease energy demand.

Another possibility, however, is that their twins, frugal Keith and Patsy, might choose to put off the efficiency improvements and instead turn the thermostat down to 50 degrees and put on a hat and scarf for dinner.  This choice shifts the pain from financial to temperature discomfort, a challenge for the traditional energy models.  When utilities predict savings from improvements to homes incentivized by rebates they don’t usually predict what happens when Keith and Patsy finally make energy improvements and take off their sweaters.

After saving for a year frugal Keith and Patsy install attic insulation and weatherize their home. Now they can turn the thermostat up to 68 degrees.  Their energy bills are a much more reasonable $100/ month but they are consuming more energy than they were when the thermostat was at 50 degrees.

This results in what building scientists call the rebound effect. The rebound effect describes the difference between the actual society wide energy savings after energy efficiency improvements are made and energy savings as predicted in the lab models. Sometimes the rebound effect can be so large as to even result in an increase in energy used across the society. The UK Energy Research Center studied this effect and pointed to human behavior as the key component of the rebound effect. While seemingly counterintuitive, the examples above make the point clearly for residential customers.

The commercial impact is even more striking. If a local bike manufacturer invests in a new, more efficient, welding process and can therefore produce bike frames more profitably, then it will likely build more bikes. More bikes mean greater electricity use and a net increase in demand to the utility.

Does this mean we as a society should stop investing in energy efficiency? I’d say no.   The bike manufacturer is now making more bikes every month for less energy per unit. More bike production means more economic activity for the region.  Peter and Kristi have a higher quality of life in their home and are likely more productive members of society as a result. The utility company increased the efficiency of the energy used in both cases. Overall the demand for energy may be higher but the benefit to society per unit energy used is improved. Incentive decisions must measure society benefit in addition to energy savings to decide which new efficiency programs to fund.

G2B Homes makes smart efficiency improvements to homes to help families find the sweet spot where energy savings and comfort create lower operating costs and a higher quality of life.