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Green Homes

Feb 19

Real Estate Values - Think Green

by Mary Teresa Fowler
Energy Efficient Home

Doug Overholt of BC (British Columbia) Hydro's Power Smart New Home Program is the latest official to encourage home owners towards energy-efficient products. Overholt points out the benefits of 'green' homes and insists that energy-efficiency is a factor in resale real estate value. The greener the house, the higher the resale value.

Think Green

Of course, saving energy also translates into more comfort, extra savings in the short and long term, and taking care of the environment. The BC Hydro representative makes a point that we discussed here previously at estaterebate.com. Despite the fact that almost everyone understands the benefits of being green, sometimes we get sidetracked with other purchases. Our earlier post referred to them as "eye candy." Several home owners would sooner pay extra for the gorgeous granite countertop than high-performance windows.

Are 'Green' Homes Worth The Price?

Overholt says that green homes are worth the price. He explains how rising energy costs will cause more homeowners in the future to look for energy-efficient homes. Even though if a homeowner makes simple alterations, they can save on energy bills in the meantime.

"Sometimes new home buyers overlook two important aspects of energy efficiency. First, an efficient home is going to cost you less to operate every month. That's money in your pocket - you can pay down your mortgage faster. Second, we live in an era of rising energy costs. Down the road, a house that's an energy pig won't sell as easily, or appreciate as well as one that costs less to operate," says Doug Overholt of BC Hydro's Power Smart New Home Program.

Sometimes people get off track because they think that green homes will cost more. No doubt, certain features such as heat pumps can come with considerable initial cost. Yet these smart purchases pay for themselves with savings in the long term.

Anyway, everything 'energy-efficient' does not have a high price tag. Usually, extra insulation or air sealing will not break your budget. As well, there are energy-efficiency grants out there to help Canadian and American homeowners. With high energy costs and an economy emerging from a downturn, many people need help and providing energy grants goes in the right direction.

Energy-Efficient Programs

Sometimes the programs may not go far enough, however, in the right direction or the path may be too complicated for certain groups. For example, specific programs encourage homeowners to buy energy-efficient products and receive reimbursement from the government. That plan does not always work for families living on low incomes because they cannot pay the upfront cost. That won't be because they are spending it on "eye candy." Their income covers only (or maybe does not even cover) the basics.

Yet everyone should check with state (provincial in Canada) and federal officials to see if there is an energy-efficiency program to suit your needs. Thinking green can save you money today and in the future.

For resale real estate value, think energy efficiency

estaterebate.com has also provided information in another post about Prince William's new 'green' home at Harwood Park Estate. A few interesting green details here! Let us not forget, however, that every family, regardless of income, should be able to live in a comfortable and energy-efficient home.

At Home with Prince William & Kate Middleton

Are You Planning Energy-Efficient Improvements?

Image courtesy of immaterial-labor.com

Feb 8

Real Estate Values – What Do You Value?

by Mary Teresa Fowler
Real Estate Values

Everyone knows that neighborhoods affect real estate values. When it comes to property values, location, location, location, seems to be a true statement. ZIP codes matter in the real estate game.

Positive and Negative Factors

Living close to a beach or residing in the trendy part of town can be considered a plus. Having a home in a flood zone or near major traffic will not be viewed in such a favorable light. The market value of your home will reflect the location. Your neighborhood can affect property values in a positive or negative manner.

Generally, people can agree on whether specific factors are good or bad for real estate values. Usually, the decision does not require much thought. A high crime neighborhood harms real estate values. Being voted 'the city's best neighborhood' would be an asset.

Confusing Factors

Sometimes though it can be difficult to decide whether a factor is a benefit or a detriment to a neighborhood. Even the official spin on the story can be confusing for homeowners. For example, wind turbines are an addition to a neighborhood that can cause intense debate.

Of course, most homeowners will never be faced with decisions about wind turbines in their neighborhood. Yet for those homeowners who encounter this circumstance, the situation can be confusing on many levels. Of course, environmentally-conscious homeowners can recognize the green benefits.

Be Green or Be Gone

Questions surface, however, even for the 'greenest' homeowner. Do I want the wind turbines in my neighborhood? How will they affect the look of the area? How will they affect my property values? On the other hand, isn't a green project a positive development for a neighborhood?

Looking for answers can be as turbulent as the wind itself. Green groups will welcome the development. Other parties will worry about the possibility of the turbines causing harm to birds. Health associations could be concerned about possible health risks associated with living too close to wind turbines.

The municipality in question might be pleased with the extra revenues. The company in charge of the turbines will claim that there is no negative effect on real estate values. Will wind turbines be an advantage or disadvantage to a neighborhood?

Sometimes it is not so easy to figure out how a factor is going to influence a neighborhood. Most likely, a homeowner's individual position will be determined by one's own values and the information at their disposal. People will be forced to debate issues such as green vs. aesthetics, revenues vs. animal protection, and much more.

Real Estate Values

In the meantime, how would wind turbines affect real estate values? The answers to that question are a mixed lot. Yet the National Association of Realtors has recognized that the issue is of utmost importance to many homeowners. The association has organized a wealth of resources on the topic. There were enough wind turbines in operation in the U.S. at the end of 2009 to generate electricity to power 10 million homes.

Field Guide to Wind Farms and their Effect on Property Value

Will Wind Turbines Affect Property Values?

Do You Think Wind Turbines Would Affect Real Estate Values?

Image courtesy of claycreekdecor.com

Dec 29

Global Real Estate Trends

by Mary Teresa Fowler
Global Real Estate Trends in 2010

As the current year winds down and 2011 approaches, readers can expect reports and articles about real estate trends to pop up everywhere. With so much trend-related content out there, our eyes can sometimes glaze over and we tend to ignore the latest list. Yet we should rethink our reaction to the barrage of year-end statistics.

Tracking Trends

Examining trends helps us to zone in on where we've been, gives us an idea of where we're going, and arms us with the knowledge to navigate the system. Real estate revolves around statistics. It is worth consumers' time and effort to examine the numbers and keep up-to-date about real estate trends.

Global Real Estate Trends

The Global Real Estate Trends report released by Canada's Scotiabank tracks housing markets in 12 major economies. The December report states that global residential property markets in 2010 experienced a modest but uneven recovery.


Australia fared the best with its housing demand and low unemployment. Slower sales and price appreciation, however, are expected for this thriving market in the coming months.


Meanwhile, Japan’s twenty-year property slump continued in the past year. In 2011, Japan's economy is expected to experience a further slowdown.


Stability is returning to U.S. markets. Housing demand is expected to rise with increasing employment numbers and continued low interest rates. Yet the Global Real Estate Trends report warns that housing demand might not translate into home sales. Within a recovering economy with a high unemployment rate (although shrinking), individuals and lenders are feeling uncertain and cautious about major financial commitments.


Despite a volatile market in 2010, Canada ranked high in the Global Real Estate Trends report.

Read about all 12 housing markets in the Global Real Estate Trends report.

Local Real Estate Trends

Potential home buyers and sellers should keep informed about state and local trends. Varied media (print or online) across the US and elsewhere publish information regularly about the latest real estate trends. The Washington Post tracks housing sales and prices in the Washington area. Each Saturday, the results are posted in their 'Real Estate' section. Information is collected for every residential zip code and the data is compared to the numbers during the corresponding period in the previous year.

Green Building Trends

'Green building' trends will make a noticeable difference to the real estate industry in the coming year. Regardless of uncertain economies, 'green building' is expected to rebound in 2011. New commercial start-ups will opt for green alternatives. Existing businesses will be making energy-efficient improvements.

This decision makes sense on many levels for businesses. Besides being environmentally-friendly choices, green businesses impress the modern customer. As well, residential buildings will follow this trend. Home owners want to live in a safe and healthy environment.

Parents and educators will also be advocating for 'green' schools. As part of the LEED system, the number of Certified Green Schools should increase as more people embrace the health and educational benefits of these buildings. By the middle of 2010, certified schools made up almost 40% of all new LEED projects in the US. In 2011 and beyond, the real estate industry will be seeing more 'green' buildings in all areas - commercial, educational, and residential buildings.

Green Building’s Top Ten Trends for 2011

What Do You Think Will Be The Top Real Estate Trends in 2011?

Image courtesy of hcrealty.com

Nov 19

At Home with Prince William & Kate Middleton

by Mary Teresa Fowler
Prince William's and Kate's House

Media and royal watchers were fascinated this week with Britain's most famous, newly-engaged couple – Prince William and Kate Middleton. Everyone was abuzz about the engagement ring and love-struck photos but then it was back to practical issues – but on a royal scale. As with all engaged couples, the question arose – where will the couple live to start their new life? Let us look at the homes at the center of this royal announcement.


At Home with Kate Middleton

Although the royal engagement was announced outside the Middletons' five-bedroom home in the village of Bucklebury, this house was not Kate's childhood home. Kate spent her childhood in a four-bedroom home, known as West View, in the neighboring Bradfield Southend – just two miles from her parent's present house. The Middletons moved in 1995 when Kate was 13; they had purchased the home in 1979.

Described as a "charming Victorian villa," Kate Middleton's childhood home was available for rent in 2009 at £1,250 per month. With "light, airy rooms and views of the countryside," this cozy home down a country lane was not expected to remain unoccupied for any length of time. The house has changed hands a couple of times since the Middletons moved to Bucklebury, Berkshire.

Yet Kate's home is much the same today as when she was growing up in West View. The house has been updated somewhat but the basic layout is the same. Kate's parents had built an extension to the ground floor and added a playroom. These additions can still be enjoyed by today's occupants.

Take a peek at Kate Middleton's childhood home.


At Home with Prince William and Kate Middleton

Apparently, the famous couple has been living together for several months on the island of Anglesey off the coast of Wales. Prince William is based at RAF Valley as a Sea King search and rescue pilot. They are reported to be renting a whitewashed farmhouse for £750 a month. Although there are no known plans for a move during the engagement period, there is a new home in the future for the happy couple.

Prince Charles is building a home for his first-born son and future daughter-in-law. It looks like Prince William and Kate Middleton will be starting their married life at the Harewood Park Estate in Herefordshire. The 900 acre estate is situated in prime countryside between Monmouth and Ross-on-Wye. The property in rural Herefordshire is close to the border with Wales as well as Highgrove House in Gloucestershire.

The estate will have a chapel as well as a 200 L rainwater reservoir and stables. The couple's new six bedroom 'starter' home is being built with every available eco-friendly, modern convenience. The 'green' features include a boiler using wood chips from trees on the estate, solar panels, reed-bed sewage system, and walls lined with insulating sheep’s wool.

Water-saving and low-energy appliances will be used throughout and the home will be topped off with a roof made from salvaged Welsh slate. A decision was made to downsize the home from almost 15,000 ft.² to approximately 8500 ft.² and, therefore, improve its energy efficiency. A green and modern home for a prince and his princess!

Prince William and Kate Middleton will live an ultra-green royal fairytale

Will The Royal Couple's Harewood Park Estate Start A 'Green' Trend?

Image courtesy of mirror.co.uk

Oct 18

Home 'Small' Home

by Mary Teresa Fowler
Home Sweet Home

Ah, home sweet home! Make that home 'small' home for an increasing number of home builders and home buyers. House construction is seeing smaller and less expensive homes because builders are not getting the same price as before for expansive, upscale properties. A few builders claim that they are not making back the construction costs.

Shrinking Size

Some builders are getting rid of homes at a loss and concentrating instead on the business of renovation. Although in uncertain economic times, neither one is a safe bet. Everything has experienced a decrease in this economy (in certain areas more than others). Everything from house appraisals to new homes to house prices is seeing a decline – and now houses are also shrinking in size.

Part of the decision to go 'smaller' is fuelled by varied events that have undermined people's confidence in the market. Such issues as foreclosure rates, flawed foreclosures, lending issues, and more, are causing a build up of anxiety among potential home buyers. Of course, home builders share their anxiety.

"It's slowing the recovery of new construction. It's sapping confidence," says Robert Filka, CEO of the Michigan Association of Home Builders

In a certain Michigan suburb, a 3,600-square-foot home with 10' ceilings, is selling at a loss for the builder at $699,000. In 2008, that same home was priced at $875,000. Within the past decade, homes in that neighborhood had sold for $2,000,000. Times have changed and builders are changing with them.

No Luxury

With unpredictable appraisals that can come in even $80,000 less than expected, luxury homes can be a problem. Appraisers have to factor in recent sales in the neighborhood. At present, neighborhood sales can include anything from a short sale to a foreclosure.

As well, home buyers are often asked for higher down payments (even up to 25%). Luxury homes may start looking less and less appealing to home buyers. Builders who have noticed that trend are opting to construct smaller homes. Maybe a less expensive home will not seem as intimidating to the potential home buyer.

Hard times force home builders to think small


Some people are adamant about the benefit of small houses. Cost-effectiveness, smaller mortgages, and a simpler lifestyle are a few reasons that people give for choosing smaller and less expensive homes. Even environmental reasons play into the desire for smaller homes. They use fewer resources in building and for maintenance.

Of course, buying a 'too small' home is not a wise move. A home can be as small as anything - as long as it suits your needs. If a home does not have sufficient space, it will not work for a growing family.

Perfect Fit

Yet if the size suits you, a small home might be the right choice. People have found 'small home' ownership to be an exhilarating experience. It frees up savings for travel and it frees up the precious commodity of time.

'Small home' ownership means less time spent cleaning and fewer hours required for maintenance. Smaller homes allow you to have more quality time with family and friends. Maybe though not everyone will want to go as 'small' as this home builder.

Take a look at - World's Smallest House!

Have You Been Dreaming of Building a Small House?

Would A Small Home Suit Your Needs?

Sep 20

Fall Home Show

by Mary Teresa Fowler

With the official start of autumn shortly upon us, home fall shows are showing up everywhere and these annual events draw huge crowds. Some things about fall home shows always stay the same. You are bound to see warm touches and shades of pumpkin. Yet every fall season brings a new and bountiful crop of home décor trends. Surprisingly, some fall home shows even emphasize spring designs.

Spring in Fall

People who look at home furnishings in fall might be preparing to build a home in the coming spring. Therefore, it is not that unusual to see fall home shows include some spring-like styles. Maybe a few pale pastels might find themselves in the company of autumn orange.

Autumn Green

Yes, green is the color of renewal and rebirth, but fall home shows are going 'green' in more ways than one. Of course, shades of green remind those future home owners about the joys of spring. As well, autumn shows are becoming friendlier to the environment.

More stores like "ReStore' in Vancouver have booths at these events. 'ReStore' sells high-quality used (and new) building supplies such as kitchen and bathroom counters, lighting, and appliances. Home owners can find similar 'green' outlets at home shows all across Canada and the US. You will always find the latest green cleaning supplies like AspenClean - the first cleaning product in Canada to be certified by Ecocert (the European regulator of organic cosmetics and food).

Prices at home shows can be more than 50% lower than department store prices. Yet the merchandise can include top quality materials. Shoppers might pick up a cool and classic black granite countertop because someone preferred a lighter shade of granite.

If 'used product' stores did not exist, these building supplies would end up in the landfill. Since more and more people are adopting a green lifestyle, these outlets can now take their rightful place at the fanciest fall home show. 'Used' outlets are becoming the new 'cool' shopping experience with the 'green' crowd.

Design Books

Design books are now the darling of home shows. The design book booths cater to those who 'want' to learn more about design as well as those who 'need' to learn more about design. If you can't afford the designer pillows, you can buy a good interior design book that tells you how to make your own autumn pillows.

Designer books offer support and ideas to home owners. These books are an invaluable resource especially for people on a limited budget. A good quality design book is worth the investment because they offer tons of ideas for every season. Sometimes using the latest trendy colors or fabric can do wonders in recreating a designer look.

Customized Design

Home shows shine the spotlight on local artisans who produce one-of-a-kind products. Custom orders are part of the thrill of home shows. Shoppers can choose from a wide selection of unique items. Customize your home for fall and show off your harvest colors.

What Did You Fall For At Your Local Autumn Home Show?

Image courtesy of hbafm.com

Jul 25

Are 'Green' Homes Worth The Price?

by Mary Teresa Fowler

Do you have a green home? I don't mean a green-painted home, although if you've used zero VOC (volatile organic compound) paint, you've made a great start. Of course, I'm referring to 'green' as in the 'environmentally-friendly' choice. Are green homes worth the price?

Recent developments would lead us to wonder if enough people are committed to going green. Within the past year, graduate students of the University of Kansas School of Architecture, Design & Planning could find no buyers for two green homes. Even more remarkable is that the homes were selling for half their worth.

Every year, Dan Rockhill, a well-respected professor at the university, organizes the non-profit Studio 804 – a design/build program for architects-to-be. The homes sell cheaper than normal due to the donations from businesses as well as the student labor. These bright, new architects have produced award-winning, energy-efficient homes. Their latest project was an ultra-efficient house in Kansas City, Kansas.

Actually, Rockhill expects this green home – the Prescott Passive House – to be the first in Kansas to receive a certification from the Passive Institute (a green building standard demanding 90% less energy than the average home). The Prescott Passive House has been chosen already as 'This Week's Green House' and is expected to earn top marks from the U.S. Green Building Council. Of course, the 2009 Studio 804 home received a first-class rating from the USGBC and that house is still on the market.

Naturally, economic conditions are not the best for home sales. Yet the reluctance of people to invest in 'green homes' is rooted in more than the economy. Home buyers say that they are committed to a green home. Builders have even noticed that trend and are incorporating green features into their buildings.

Yet many home buyers are not prepared to pay extra for a green lifestyle. You may think that is understandable with the state of the economy. In most cases, however, the cold shoulder been given to green is not based on available finances. Industry leaders have observed that some home buyers turn a blind eye to 'green' and put their money into eye candy like state-of-the-art countertops or Jacuzzis.

So, what about the green? Choosing a granite countertop over high-performance windows is like choosing the frosting without the cake. The stuff is sweet is but the fluff has no foundation.

Would I choose the 'green' over the 'granite?' Yes! The reality is, however, that some home buyers turn away from green of their own choosing. Other home buyers just want a roof over their children's heads and they are not able to afford the granite or the green.

If you can afford to choose green, it makes sense to go for it. If you cannot afford "green," that is society's shame. Our world needs more affordable housing and it should be affordable 'green' housing. Demand and incentives will encourage builders to go 'green' and still maintain a reasonable rate for buyers.

Developers have to know that there is something good in it for them. I could appeal to the real estate tycoons and say – come on, build green, even if you make less profit. So, you make $1,000,000 less, but look how you will be helping everyone to live in a healthy and green environment. I could launch that appeal but the real estate market is basically about the bottom line.

Our society has to come to a point where "not being green" is viewed as a "totally unacceptable choice." Over the years, we have seen awareness and education cause a total shift in certain attitudes in our society. We need to go in that direction with energy-efficient homes because 'living green' is worth any price.

Would You Pay Extra For A 'Green' Home?

Tips and Advice for Home Buyers and Sellers

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