In the market for a new home? Want to keep your utilities down and help the environment? Look no further! We all know that green is the way to go if you have both the Earth and your pocketbook in mind. However it can be hard to understand what is behind all the gimmicks and frills in today’s new or renovated homes. Here are some tips on what you need to be on the lookout for when you are shopping the real estate market for a new green home:
- Look Beyond the Signs- Green is a color, not a certification. Any home seller can advertise as being green, even when they are really not. Instead look for the evidence of green upgrades. These things can be as obvious as Energy Star certified appliances or as subtle as low VOC paint and renewable bamboo flooring. You need to ask the seller or relator what features make the home green. And then back up their claims by hiring an independent inspector that will give you the straight deal. Do not take the seller’s word for anything without independent verification.
- Ask About the Past –Some new homes and all old homes have a history. Find out more about it. It can be as simple as asking or as in depth as doing your own research. Is the home built over a landfill? Does it have lead pipes or paint? Asbestos? There are many health and environmental dangers to be on the lookout for in old homes. Even ones that have been renovated can have leftover remnants from a less environmentally conscious past. New homes are not always safe either. Poor construction or cut corners can lead to mold causing leaks, poor insulation, and more. Even if the home is a year old you should be able to find out some history of repairs done, complaints made, and the utility costs. Call up your local utility company and ask them for information if the sellers won’t cooperate. They might not give you everything but they can help you to get an estimate of costs, which will help you to see how ‘green’ the home really is.
- Talk to the Neighbors – Another great source of insider information is the neighbors. They often have the same or similar homes built by the same people at the same time. If they have foundation issues, mold issues, huge bills or things like that then you can bet you will too. Ask about a history of flooding to keep an eye out for hidden problems and you can even ask them if they like their own home. It may seem pushy, but if you find the right neighbors they will be more than glad to give you the low down.
- Take a Look Around – When you are inside the home take your time and really look beyond the furniture. Look for cracks in walls that can mean lost heat or air, ill-fitting doors and windows, and cracks in corners that can mean foundation issues. Discoloration or new paint in certain areas only can be done to hide damage such as leaky pipes, fires or floods. Warped cabinets, peeling paint and wallpaper means too much moisture from somewhere. Feel the outside walls. If they are very hot or cold then that means poor insulation. Black around air vents means dirty ducts or worse. Bug or mice damage can mean more is hidden inside the walls.
- Check the Hidden Spots – Do not forget to check out hidden areas as well that are often overlooked by home buyers. The attic, basement or crawl space may be dark and scary, but it also gives you a revealing glimpse of what is really going on inside the home. A very hot or cold attic means your home will feel the effects as well. A damp basement can lead to all kinds of problems. Look out for evidence of bugs, mice and other infestations. Termite damage can be easily seen on unpainted wooden beams. Look for evidence of leaks in the roof through discolorations or ‘dirtiness’.
- Take a Look Outside – Speaking of roofs, take a look at the outside of the home too. The roof should be clutter free. No leaves, sticks, or dirt build up. Look for dirty spots that could be signs of softening areas. If you can, walk around and feel the sturdiness of the roof. Make sure all areas are tightly sealed and metal is around the chimney or other additions. At the foundation level check for cracks or holes. There should be no large bushes or trees around the foundation of the home for fire safety, pest prevention, and avoiding root damage. If the home is above ground check under the home and see if the foundation looks complete and secure. Also look for discoloration in the floor. Now to the yard. Take a look at where your home is situated. Are you at the bottom of a hill? That could mean possible flooding danger. Your home should be above the level of everything around it. Dips or more verdant spots in the yard could mean flood prone areas or sewage/ septic tank problems. Elaborate yards also mean more maintenance, which makes them less eco-friendly.
- Practicality of Additions – While you may find the idea of a rainwater containment system, solar panels, or wind power an appealing one to make your home more green, you might want to find out if it is practical for your area. Many communities have homeowners associations that forbid certain additions. Cities sometimes have elaborate red tape for green addition or rules against home owners even having them. Even if your potential home already has these additions you may find out they were not installed legally or with the proper permits. Some ‘green’ additions are not even worth the effort and are not green at all. They cost more to maintain then they earn and end up being a drain.
- Know the Area – Before you move to a new town, city, state or even neighborhood you want to find out what the eco-friendly options are. Are there recycling centers nearby or do they offer a curb side pickup service? Does your potential new home have green electricity service available to it or even things like cable and internet? How involved is the local community in going green and eco-friendly living? Can you walk or take a bike to the store? The park? School or work? You should not take for granted that everyone thinks or lives like you do. Make sure where you move to is acceptable to your standards before you settle on your new home. The area you live in is just as important as the home you live in.
As you can see there are many things to be on the lookout for when you are searching for a new green home. Do not be fooled by gimmicks or slick salesmen. Take the time to make sure your new home is the eco-friendly option that you want, or that it can be made into a home that you can be proud to call your own. Green is a way of life, so make sure your home fits with your lifestyle.
Rachel is an ex-babysitting pro as well as a professional writer and blogger. She is a graduate from Iowa State University and currently writes for www.babysitting.net. She welcomes questions/comments which can be sent to rachelthomas.author @ gmail.com.