12/28/2007 - Green Homes Popular In Asheville
Asheville While home sales slump nationwide, the market keeps growing for houses that can save money for homeowners and perhaps help save the planet.
Green builders are all staying busy, said Greg McGuffey of Earthtone Builders.
McGuffeys latest project outside Black Mountain will be certified as the 100th N.C. HealthyBuilt home for Western North Carolina. Homes earn the certification by fulfilling a long checklist of details that include raising energy efficiency and using recycled materials while cutting down on waste and damage to the environment.
HealthyBuilt homes in the region priced from $150,000 to $500,000 spent between two and 75 days on the market, compared with an average of 108 days for conventional homes, real estate agent Mary Love said.
HealthyBuilt homes move better, especially in this market because theres an advantage as far as the energy savings go, said Love, who was one of the first agents to be certified as an Eco-Realtor through a special program from the Asheville Board of Realtors.
While the NC HealthyBuilt Homes Program covers the entire state, the Asheville area has the lions share of the energy-efficient residences, according to Matt Siegel of the Western North Carolina Green Building Council.
With another 450 houses under construction and waiting to be certified, the HealthyBuilt program is trying to meet the need for more efficient and comfortable housing.
The supply has not yet met the demand. People are moving to Asheville from other progressive areas like Portland and California or the Northeast, and they go to an Eco-Realtor and say, I want to buy a green home, Siegel said.
Saving cash and the environment
While news about climate change has dominated the news this year, most green homebuyers are motivated as much by cost savings as by environmental concerns. When you have a house that costs no more than $40 or $50 a month to operate, that speaks to people, Siegel said.
Those price savings can make HealthyBuilt homes attractive as affordable housing, said David Bennert of Innova Homes, which specializes in green modular homes. People on a budget need to be able to save energy and lower their maintenance costs, he said.
In addition, many clients with allergies or sensitivities look for the HealthyBuilt certification, wanting a home with better indoor air quality and fewer chemicals in the materials, he added.
Bennert figured that HealthyBuilt certification can initially add 2-3 percent to a houses cost, and that figure can go up with features such as solar panel systems, required for the higher Silver and Gold certification.
Bennert has seen firsthand how HealthyBuilt certification can add to market value of a new home.
Bennert took a basic modular floor plan of 1,500 square feet and built a modular house in West Asheville that sold for $150,000. Taking the same floor plan and finishing more of the space, he built and sold a house in Kenilworth for $210,000.
With HealthyBuilt certification and adding solar panels and a few more upgrades, Bennert recently built the same 1,500-square-foot house plan in Montford and sold it for $350,000, Bennert said.
Green doesnt mean a mud hut, said Rob Moody of EcoBuilders, who certified the first HealthyBuilt home in Black Mountain in 2004.
Now hes at work on the Southern Living Idea home, the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design residential certification for the area. The U.S. Green Building Council has offered LEED certification for commercial properties, but only now is it developing guidelines for homes and communities.
Bennert and other builders see Asheville gaining a national reputation for green building.
We buy from a number of suppliers across the Southeast, and theyre hearing the buzz in their markets about Asheville. Were just ahead of the curve.
For builders, the certification is a seal of approval and a mark of pride, Siegel said.
HealthyBuilt homes are not just about throwing them up to make money. Its making a statement about how a building should be constructed, he said. It doesnt have to be high-tech. Its just doing things right. Its all in the details.