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More sustainable American Dream is green

(12/14/2011) - The latest study extolling the intrinsic value found in green homes puts energy efficiency at the top of the list of features buyers most desire.

The Yahoo! Home Horizon 2012 study of homeowners, buyers, sellers and renters underscores what recent studies have also found -- homeownership remains the centerpiece of the American Dream and going green helps make that dream come true.

A green home can be newly built or improved with solar-power and packed to the rafters with enough sustainable materials, energy efficient appliances and carbon footprint reducing technology to drastically reduce energy costs or take it off the grid entirely.

Affordable dream homes are plentiful, but in the tight economy, consumers have learned to keep an eye on the future and want to save even more on operating costs after they buy one of those bargain dream homes.

Apparently, there's no selling point quite like a home that helps save money while helping to save the planet.

On in four -- 25 percent -- of all single-family homes built in 2010 earned EPA's Energy Star rating, up from 21 percent in 2009, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In the Yahoo! study of 1,545 adults:

• More than four out of five (81 percent) say owning a home is still part of the American Dream.

• Fifty percent said green or energy-efficient appliances and building materials is a requirement for their dream home, followed by water views and building a custom home (both 38 percent); suburban location (31 percent); beach location (27 percent) and cottage in the woods (20 percent).

• Sixty percent of those in the market say that green/energy-efficient appliances are amenities they want in their next home.

• Twenty-seven percent of those in the market say that finding a more energy-efficient home is a key reason for seeking a new home.

Higher cost of green has become relative

In the past, resistance to green homes has been tied to the greater cost to build green than to build the old-fashioned way -- without considering the planet.

But that's been offset, not just by the energy savings over time, but the premium price green homes reap when resold. They sell for as much as $20,000 more than a comparable home without major energy-efficient construction or upgrades, studies reveal.

Also, before a quarter of all new homes sold carried the Energy Star rating, it was a bit of a crap shoot trying to determine the true added value bestowed on green homes -- again, other than energy savings.

But this year, the Appraisal Institute (AI) introduced the first ever "Residential Green and Energy Efficient Addendum" (Form AI-820.03) to better analyze values of energy-efficient home features, along with additional AI resources to aid in the valuation of green properties.

Yahoo! also says much of the discussion about green homes too often buzzes about super spinach-green homes, hyper-efficient properties that consume zero or near zero energy and are off the grid and out of the price range of rank-and-file buyers.

However, Sarah Susanka, architect and author of the "Not So Big"series of books and information, says other approaches can make homes lighter shades of green and more affordable.

Doing-it-yourself and the use of sustainable and renewable materials, smaller homes, energy-efficient design, insulation, upgraded windows and doors and winterizing your home can all save energy, reduce costs and not cost a fortune.

Tax incentives, rebates and other programs, likewise help offset the cost of greater energy efficiency.



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