The Impact of Upgrading your Homeʼs Energy Efficiency

Congratulations are in order for James W. Mitchell, CEO of Renewablue, a Fort Collins real estate agency in partnership with The Group.

He was recently awarded Best in the State of Colorado, Top Colorado REALTORS Scoreboard listing by the Colorado Energy Office, and also won the Evergreen award from the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Accolades for authentic sustainability efforts

For Mitchell, who maintains an EcoBroker Certified Realtor designation, the new status is simply, “a nice honor. I am one of the very few realtors in the state who tries to incorporate green options in transactions. Realtors are the key to changing how people perceive green homes.” Mitchell, is also an Instructor for the NAR Green designation, which is similar to EcoBroker training, but specific to Realtors.

Mitchell's passion is to see that not just new homes, but older homes that were built before energy efficiency awareness became paramount, are updated for todayʼs quality standards. With a vision toward the future, he pushes the ideals of saving resources while creating home environments that retain warmth and a welcoming, healthy atmosphere.

What is an EcoBroker Certified Realtor?

“A certification created by Dr. John Belldock of Evergreen, EcoBroker Certified Realtor designation was the first educational program geared toward real estate agents,” says Mitchell. “This program is committed toward higher-performance green realty. It serves to help people save money, have a more comfortable home with better performance and increase the quality of life. Itʼs a positive thing for our planet, too, and at the core offers a better product overall.”

Many homeowners, including those shopping for their initial home, assume all realtors are created equally. This is not necessarily the case and can present a falsehood when it comes to looking toward the ideals of energy efficiency.

“Customers often view realtors as a commodity. They believe one is the same as all the others,” adds Mitchell. This one-size-fits-all concept can keep consumers from finding a realtor educated in sustainability practices and facets.

What is Green MLS?

“There is a perception that green is more expensive,” says Mitchell, who notes that that is a misconception. "Green does not cost more, it costs different. Lower cost of use, longer lifespan, and less total embodied energy add up to save you money and do good for the planet." “Green MLS adds a level of consistency of how we can market homes. We were one of the first to utilize this in an effort to build the pieces of the puzzle before they become mandated.”

A Green MLS Tool kit is now available, which Mitchell adds, “came out after we were already doing these things.”

The kit offers a one-stop shopping solution to help buyers find green homes while promoting features of these homes quickly and easily (or existing older homes with green retrofits), as well as comparing these types of homes in an apple-to-apple fashion.

Top energy upgrades

Mitchell has a list of energy upgrade items that, were he selling a home, he would consider key for implementing prior to listing on the market.

“The first thing to do is to have a home energy audit conducted,” says Mitchell. From there, he mentions that the best course is to move forward by “doing things that never have to be done again.”

To bring down total overhead, Mitchell suggests starting with whatʼs over your head.

Attic insulation and developing a good air ceiling space are foremost to begin with. Mitchell likens the first to a sweater, the second to a windstopper jacket. Both work in conjunction to keep heating and cooling in longer.

Next, for a lot less money than many major improvements, something simple yet often overlooked would be to change all light bulbs to LED.

“This option will give a high return for many years,” says Mitchell. Mitchell continues by adding in advice to “replace the furnace or air conditioner, but only if they are dead. If not, donʼt worry about them, but instead replace all kitchen appliances with new ones carrying an Energy Star rating. People can see this option, unlike attic insulation and light bulbs.”

Finally, Mitchell believes a sensible move would be to “tie it into a Smart Home, which makes it easier to operate.”

Energy efficient programs

Mitchell mentions that there is a measurable increase in value when energy upgrades are implemented.

Yet the information available may be difficult to navigate in order to find the right solution for your familyʼs home. There are programs available to assist in making decisions. Local and state agendas are becoming more comprehensive as awareness and desire to implement more sustainable features continue on the rise. Larimer County, the City of Fort Collins and the City of Loveland all are jumping on the bandwagon.

“Local programs are very robust,” says Mitchell. “The Efficiency Works Program, put on by Platte River Power Authority (based out of Fort Collins), is the most progressive of the nation. They offer financing and you can possibly open yourself up to another $1,000 to $8,000 in government incentives.”

In addition, at the state level, the Colorado Energy Office is a significant resource, providing readily available educational aid to realtors and the public alike. The solitary program they offer is the Mortgage Incentive Program, which can be used to buy a new home or refinance an older model.

Understanding options

Knowledge is key to understanding which options are best for your lifestyle. “Consumers have a fair understanding regarding energy efficiency in homes,” states Mitchell. “I think people get it. The problem is, where do you start? You need to get the right audit at the right time, figure out what government programs are available, plus thereʼs the upfront expense. People should realize there is a triple bottom line for their investment: return profit, the community and, finally, the planet all benefit.

The best solution, in my opinion, is to create a consistent effort to sell homes with more energy efficient upgrades and options. Once the public realizes they can do this comfortably and get money back, word of mouth will spread. One solution is to tie it in at the point of sale. We can then create a process that connects all the dots and fills in the gaps.”

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Author - Lynette Chilcoat

Loveland-based Lynette Chilcoat, a Colorado native, has been a freelance writer for nearly 20 years.

20 Years of ENERGY STAR
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