Net zero homes are more expensive to build, considering the extra insulation, geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels, and passive design required to produce and save as much energy as possible. However, lenders don't see that value when homeowners apply for their mortgage.

California is hoping to change that. Part of its plan to require all new homes to be built to net zero energy standards by 2020 is to establish a systematic way for appraisers and lenders to value net zero energy homes by 2017.

A coalition of builders, real estate professionals and environmental protection organizations support the Sensible Accounting to Value Energy ( SAVE ) Act, introduced in Congress in 2013, but not yet passed. The bill is meant to establish new underwriting guidelines to make it easier for lenders to account for savings associated with energy-efficient features so that buyers can been approved for a larger loan or a lower interest rate.

For now, buyers of net zero homes are advised to work with a lender experienced with financing these homes and to make sure the lender and appraiser are aware of their home's features.

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