The Green Communities Act: What you should know when buying or selling a home in a Green Community Reply

Cities and towns in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have recently been designated as “Green Communities” under the Green Communities Act.   Eight of these cities and towns are located in the Pioneer Valley.  While the incentives for becoming a Green Community are grants to help municipalities pay for energy efficient measures, it also presents a unique opportunity for those trying to sell a home in a Green Community.   It also requires a new set of skills for REALTORS®.

First it is important to understand what a municipality must do before it is designated as a Green Community.  There are five requirements:

-Adopt local zoning bylaw or ordinance that allows “as-of-right-siting” of  renewable energy projects;

-Adopt an expedited permitting process related to the as-of-right facilities;

-Establish a municipal energy use baseline and a program designed to reduce use by 20 percent within five years;

-Purchase only fuel-efficient vehicles for municipal use, whenever such vehicles are commercially available and practicable; and-Requiring all new residential construction over 3,000 square feet and all new commercial and industrial real estate construction to reduce life-cycle energy costs (i.e., adoption of an energy-saving building “stretch code”).

As stated above, as part of becoming a Green Community cities and towns are required to adopt a stricter building code known as the Stretch Code. This creates higher costs for builders, but reduces the energy costs of a home over time. REALTORS® should to educate themselves about energy efficient mortgages and know who offers them so they can advise their clients of their options.  Home sellers may want to make energy efficient improvements to their home to make it more marketable in a “Green Community.”

REALTORS® should understand energy efficient measures and their payback rates whe representing a seller of a “green” home. They should understand the incentives available to home owners who make energy efficient improvements to their home.  They also need to understand what motivates green home buyers.

REALTORS should also understand the different types of green home buyers, which the National Association of REALTORS® Green Resource Council categorizes as: the economizers, the investors, the health conscious, the idealists, the lifestyle focused, the eco-chic, and the skeptics.

The economizers are those who are simply interested in reducing their energy costs.  Investors are more interested in a life-cycle cost analysis.  For example, they want to know exactly how much money will be saved over time with an energy star refrigerator versus a conventional refrigerator.  They ask if the increased price for the Energy Star is warranted.  The health-conscious green buyer is interested in how a green home will be beneficial to there health.  The idealists are the home buyers that believe that the going green is socially responsible thing to do and make sacrifices to pursue that lifestyle.   Similarly, the green home buyer who is lifestyle-focused feels that living green makes for a more meaningful lifestyle.   The eco-chic home buyer is interested in the prestige of green living.  Such home buyers do not necessarily believe in living with green principals, but do it because they think it’s the thing to do.  Finally, there are the skeptics.  These may include those who question anthropogenic global warming.

Since the community where a house is located is just as important to a home buyer as the home itself, homes located in Green Communities now have an extra tool when marketing their home.  Any type of green home buyer will be happy to know that a particular community has been designated as a Green Community.  Coupled with a thorough understanding of the dynamics involved, selling a green home in a Green Community wouldn’t require any selling at all.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, buildings in the United States account for 72% of electricity consumption, 29% of energy use, 38% of all carbon dioxide emissions, 40% of raw material use, 30% of waste output, and 14% of potable water consumption.  Given these staggering percentages, it would be wise for home owners to embrace energy conservation improvements.

If you are in the market for an energy efficient home or if you are looking to sell an energy efficient home, contact Michael Seward at 413-531-7129.   As a member of the National Association REALTORS® Green Resouce Council, I am can provide you with the information that you need to achieve your goals.

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