The appraisal process continues to be a roadblock to home sales in many markets. That’s particularly true for builders of high-performance homes, who complain that some appraisers still won’t give credit for energy efficiency.
“We’re putting $5,000 to $10,000 of stuff behind our walls that makes houses more efficient, but that’s a tough sell,” says the purchasing manager for the Austin, Texas, division of a large regional production builder, who asked not to be named. Barbara Schriber, who owns the custom builder Selle Valley Construction in Ponderay, Idaho, points out that one appraiser in her market “has been adamant about energy efficiency not adding value.” Another, she says, insists on seeing data that quantifies cost savings before he’ll assess value.
That data might soon be available if Green Energy Money succeeds at developing recognized valuation methods under HUD, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac standards.
Austin, Texas–based Green Energy Money offers analytical tools that capture the value of energy efficiency improvements to new and existing homes. These tools help builders, owners, appraisers, and lenders calculate savings and returns on investment for high-performance, energy-efficient homes.
“We are breaking new ground,” says Green Money Energy’s COO Richard Gilles. “Lots of builders are building really good products, but they stand to lose if there’s not a consistent valuation system.”
Green Energy Money worked with RESNET to develop a method to connect the HERS index to 18 different green building systems and building codes, as well as an appraiser’s standard for energy efficiency.
The company has trained 25 green appraisers in Texas and has beta-tested its valuation approach in Austin. Several banks and Fannie Mae have purchased mortgages on the secondary market for homes appraised in the Austin test. Green Energy Money’s goal is to roll out a national version of the training program that’s under development with a team of academic research analysts, licensed appraisers, and government organizations.
To provide lenders with quantified data for calculating the value of energy-efficient homes, Gilles says Green Energy Money has partnered with Security National Mortgage—which operates in 40 states—to roll out a national High Performance Building and Green Mortgage Program. It’s planned for 10 regions, with each having 2,000 mortgages funded.
Builders contacted for this article said that, in principle, they support what Green Energy Money is trying to accomplish. “The more tools we have in our toolbox when we sit down with appraisers, the better,” Schriber says.
But jumping on board is another story. The production builder’s purchasing manager, who was approached by Green Energy Money about participating in its programs earlier this year, says his company didn’t want to be the “guinea pig” for a startup, and it preferred to wait until Green Energy Money had a track record.
In Austin, which has some of the country’s strictest energy codes, green builder and remodeler Ray Tonjes says that he welcomes anything that improves the appraisal process. But he adds that Green Energy Money’s data collection ambitions could be “an uphill battle” because so many variables, including homeowner behaviors, need to be measured.
And in Idaho, hydroelectrical energy still is cheap—around 7 cents per kilowatt hour—so quantifying energy efficiency is a less pressing need to sell a house, says Schriber—at least for now.