Green construction and design for sustainable living

Your Guide to Buying an Eco-Friendly Home

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How to Make Sure Your Next House is an Eco-Friendly Home

While a lot of homeowners are interested in building eco-friendly homes, there isn’t always a ton of existing inventory on the market. If you’re looking to purchase an existing home that’s energy efficient and green, you’ll have to be strategic with your search.

5 Tips for Finding an Eco-Friendly House

The home construction industry is constantly evolving over time. As new materials and building practices emerge, best practices change and home quality improve. Over recent years, there’s been an increased emphasis on green construction. There’s even been a rise in zero energy homes that use smart, strategic design to develop houses that are energy efficient and cost-effective.

The only issue is that zero energy homes and eco-friendly construction are still only niches in the industry. If you want a “green” house, you’ll have to be conscientious in the home buying process.

1. Be Ready to Spend Time Looking

If you’re looking for a simple and straightforward home buying process, you’re probably going to need to move in another direction. The problem is there simply isn’t much demand for environmentally friendly housing. And because there’s been even less demand over the past 25 years, there’s very little inventory on the market.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t any eco-friendly listings. You will, however, have to be patient and wait for the right one to arrive. This could mean looking for 6-12 months, as opposed to 6-12 weeks.

2. Expect to Pay a Premium

“Most new-construction, sustainable houses are more costly than new-construction standard houses,” says Timothy Woods, an architecture professor at Savannah College of Art and Design. As a result, you’re going to pay a pretty steep premium – likely 20 to 30 percent.

For most people, paying this sort of premium means they have to sacrifice or compromise in other areas. For example, you might need to be okay with a 2,000-square-foot home instead of a 3,500-square-foot home.

3. Get a Home Inspection

When you eventually do find a home, make sure you get a pre-purchase inspection. Not only will your home inspector point out issues that you didn’t know existed, but he’ll also help you understand whether or not key systems are operating as efficiently as they should.

4. Consider Upgrades

Maybe you don’t really need a new house? If you’re having trouble finding an eco-friendly property that fits your needs and wants, it may be in your best interests to stay in your current house and invest in upgrades.

For example, it may be cheaper to add solar panels to your roof, replace dated appliances with new Energy Star options, and update your HVAC system to allow for greater efficiency.

5. Think About Building

If all else fails and you can’t find a house, or it doesn’t make sense to upgrade your existing home, you may want to think about building.

Building any house – let alone an eco-friendly house – is time-intensive, costly, and stressful. Don’t let this dissuade you, but make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.

A lot of builders will nod their head and tell you that they’ll build an eco-friendly home, but very few will actually pay attention to the details. The key is to select a builder who understands your goals and is just as interested in efficiency and sustainability as you are.

Putting it All Together

We’re just a decade or two away from a time when almost all home construction will be considered eco-friendly and energy efficient. For now, homebuyers have to be creative and selective in how they search for their next house.

Jeff is a contractor specializing in residential construction and construction management in Chicago, Illinois for over 20 years. He deals exclusively in new construction and remodeling for residential projects and can act as designer, builder, and general contractor as well as preliminary estimates, cost vs. benefit analysis.

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