Greenrealestate: Add value and keep out the cold

Green Real Estate Jan 15, 2009

By Elden Freeman
As the weather changes and the dead of winter sets in, real estate tends to ease off a little bit.
But just because the pace of buying and selling slackens somewhat doesn’t mean that there aren’t opportunities to add value to client relationships. At a time of year when finances can be tight as Christmas bills are paid, the ability to offer clients the opportunity to save money while helping the environment is a valuable one real estate professionals can use to distinguish themselves in their business.
The downturn in temperatures leads to higher heating bills, and every consumer welcomes the chance to insulate themselves from these kinds of costs, especially in a time period so known for fluctuations in energy prices. The National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB) has a partnership with home-evaluation company AmeriSpec that gives NAGAB members a leg up when it comes to advising clients on preparing for winter.
Homeowners across Canada may be eligible for grants under the EcoEnergy program, a federal government retrofit incentive program developed by Natural Resources Canada. “The program is also incentivized in the majority of Canadian provinces in some way to help homeowners’ efforts have more of an impact. Recognizing that each house is different, the recommendations are customized to each house. The easy and inexpensive things that a homeowner can do are outlined in the report with information on how to do them,” says Roger Orvis, a registered home inspector with AmeriSpec.
“For instance, if the homeowner can make their house 20 per cent more airtight they could get a federal grant of $150.  If the house was in Ontario, for instance, the homeowner would also get an additional $150 from the province. Often some inexpensive materials like weather-stripping, spray foam insulation and caulking and a few hours of time is all that’s needed.”
Grants for other household improvements can be even higher. Replacing a home’s furnace with a more energy-efficient unit can qualify for a federal grant of $500, which some provincial governments will match.
It helps for homeowners to be present during the energy audit. “Follow the energy evaluator around, especially when the blower door test is being done. The blower door test is a depressurization test of the house used to calculate the natural turns per hour of its inside air,” says Orvis. This, and the feedback the homeowner can get from the evaluator on the premises, can be a source of savings. “Ask lots of questions while the evaluator is at your house, especially if you have specific problems like a room that is colder or draftier than the others. Since the recommendations are put in priority sequence, try to implement the items that are going to have the most impact.”
Considering the environmental and economic benefits, one of the best gifts of appreciation NAGAB member could give a client this season is the gift of efficiency through a home energy audit. With the special rate afforded NAGAB members, it’s a cost-effective way of serving your clientele in a green manner. For more information, AmeriSpec can be reached in English or French at 1-866-284-6010 or at online.
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;