tracy suttles

Green Building and the Faltering Mortgage Market: Environmentally Sound Homes in a Recovering Economy

The following is a guest post from Houston, Texas real estate developer and entrepreneur Tracy Suttles.

Green building became a strong selling point for many condominiums and apartment buildings during the height of the real estate markets. The additional $500,000+ of construction costs were passed on to consumers, who readily paid for an investment in the environment. Not only could they feel good about themselves for supporting green Building, but they could also expect significant appreciation on that investment. Fast forward to today’s real estate market and environmentally friendly buildings seem challenged to make a case for long-term viability.

Green Building and LEED Certification

While not all green buildings are LEED certified, LEED certification provides a set of guidelines that ensure a building meets a set standard for environmental efficiency. In late 2007 and early 2008 consumers could expect to pay a premium for a LEED certified building; however, these consumers could also expect to benefit from these buildings in numerous ways. First, consumers expected to be able to charge future buyers the same premium, if not more, that they paid. Second, LEED certified and green buildings tended to be more energy efficient, saving consumers substantial money on heating and electric bills. Last, consumers were able to generally feel good about doing something positive for the environment.

Today consumers can still expect LEED certified buildings to save them significant dollars in utilities; however, they can also still expect to pay a premium. Builders must not only pay for the additional design and construction of these buildings, but they must also pay for consultants to certify the buildings.

Green Building and the 2009/2010 Real Estate Market

For many builders, it did not make sense to reverse course and redesign a cheaper, non-environmentally friendly building. As they struggle to compete with cheaper buildings that did not cater to the environment, many have found that consumers now place very little value on green building. Falling home prices do not seem to mix well with environmentally-friendly building. Even though finding low mortgage rates has never been easier, consumers are not willing to pay an additional $10,000-$30,000 for a green building.

It is important to note that as real estate price increased many municipalities began to mandate greener building. States, like California, at the forefront of this movement created substantial building mandates. Perhaps this also speaks to why consumers have very little willingness to pay substantially more for LEED certified buildings.

In the long run, green building and LEED certification will certainly save consumers money and be a valued asset to many builders. However, consumers have stated with their consumption patterns that in tough economic times, they will sacrifice the additional bells and whistles for a sound affordable home. Expect green building to make a comeback when the housing market recovers.