Although energy efficiency and “green” construction have been making inroads in the U.S. market, it has taken a while for consumers to understand the benefits in long-term use and enjoyment of a green home. Several recent initiatives have made the benefits of building and buying green housing more tangible.

Green MLS
Realtors in several regions are participating in the My Green MLS program, which offers real estate brokers the opportunity to identify the green, sustainable, or energy efficient features of a home. Though not in widespread practice, the program is growing as real estate professionals understand the significance of green features to their buyers and sellers. For example, in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, the local MLS system has entries in the listing form for such green items as Energy Star Home ratings, EPA WaterSense plumbing fixtures, geothermal systems, and xeriscape landscaping. The National Realtors Association is also stepping up their green certification program designations for members.

Green Appraisals
The Appraisal Institute, the largest professional association of real estate appraisers, has developed a form that helps appraisers analyze values for energy efficient/green home features. The form is an optional addendum to the Fannie Mae Form 1004, which is the standard appraisal form accepted for government home financing. Homeowners who have invested in such features as solar panels, windmills, geothermal systems, air filtration devices or LEED certification will now get a valuation credit noted so that appraisals more accurately reflect the energy features of the home.

Green Mortgages
One company, MyEnergyLoan™, recognized the special nuances that green building incorporated and formed a network of mortgage lenders who recognize and reward energy efficiency and renovations. We spoke with MyEnergyLoan president Jeff Cole, who noted that green building was being avoided by lenders who didn’t understand the process. Lenders, Cole said,  “didn’t understand that a green constructed home is generally a better constructed home than a conventionally built home.” The company provides a network of lending professionals who include green certifications, practices and renovations into the loan package to provide a better mortgage product that meets the needs of the green consumer. The website has a locator page to identify local green lenders in your area.  Not all states have lenders noted, but the website directs inquiries to Cole, who can offer guidance on locating a green lender. Some of the benefits of MyEnergyLoan lenders offer can include: funds to make energy efficient upgrades; an efficiency credit to reduce closing costs; the opportunity to lower borrower’s long term interest rate; and reduced monthly utility bills.