By Elden Freeman
Household debt levels are breaking records in Canada and as real estate
professionals, while it’s tempting to think buyer beware, we instead should
consider ways to assist clients with their mounting financial obligations.
Eco-friendly home renovations might just be the answer. These upgrades serve
a number of purposes. They help consumers enjoy more comfortable, healthy
and attractive surroundings. But of equal importance, they also help realize
a payback in terms of increasing resale value and savings on energy costs.
According to the Appraisal Institute of Canada, energy-efficient upgrades
lead the pack among overall home renovations when it comes to adding value
to the resale price of a home. A 2008 survey rated the type of heating
system, heating system efficiency, windows and insulation among the top
picks in terms of green upgrades that have a significant impact on the
appraisal value of a house.
With a recovery rate of between 75 and 100 per cent, bathrooms and kitchens
top the list as the home-reno superstars of ROI. Also, the longer you stay
in the house, the greater the payback, especially if you’re investing in
some of the more expensive energy-efficient technologies.
Let’s look at some eco-friendly renovations you can recommend to your
Insulation: Upgrades here will save money on heating and cooling bills in
addition to reducing the release of greenhouse gases into the environment.
If the home is poorly insulated, it usually pays to upgrade starting with
the attic, the most cost-effective place to add insulation.
Flooring: Considered a significant source of indoor pollutants and allergy
irritants, carpets and rugs don’t have the cachet they once did. Today’s
homeowners are choosing eco-conscious flooring such as reclaimed or
sustainable wood plank flooring, bamboo flooring, cork flooring, modern
linoleum and eco carpets such as 100 per cent wool or Berber.
Paint: Using paints and finishes with low or no VOC (volatile organic
compounds) will help you breathe easier by reducing your indoor toxin
quotient. VOCs are the solvents in paints that emit gases into your space.
Windows: Energy efficiency is the name of the game here. Besides lowering
your heating and cooling costs, high-performance windows offer more comfort,
lower sound transmission, let in more daylight and increase passive solar
Heating: Once your home is properly insulated and air leaks are sealed up to
prevent heat loss, the next best remedy is an efficient heating source.
Solar, geothermal, wood and natural gas are efficient options, though some
can be costly to install. Oil and electric heating are less favourable.
Major building supply stores offer green products and programs for the
do-it-yourselfer such as the online eco-responsible renovation guide
launched recently by RONA, or Home Depot’s recycling program for lights,
batteries and paint.
In addition, depending on where you live, green renovations could net your
clients rebates and grants. Advise them to check with their local
municipality and provincial offices.
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) has added environmentally friendly
features to the mortgage insurance it offers. If you use CMHC insured
financing to renovate your home to make it more energy-efficient, a 10 per
cent refund on the mortgage loan insurance premium may be available.
Remember, your clients also know that knowledge is power. Sharing your
knowledge by recommending solutions to environmental shortcomings will earn
you respect and loyalty. And that’s the kind of ROI you can build on.
Elden Freeman B.A., M.E.S, broker is the founder and executive director of
the non-profit National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB).
416-536-7325; firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about NAGAB and what it
can do for your business, visit www.NAGAB.org