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  May/June 2007
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Sierra Magazine
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One Small Step: Location, Location ... Insulation
May/June 2007

"I went with my coworker Brent to see Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth. Afterward, we started thinking about ways to use our business skills to stop global warming. We had the idea to create Enlightening Real Estate, a group of agents in our firm focusing on energy efficiency.

"In Madison, a lot of people want to live downtown by the capitol, where the buildings are 150 years old and not very energy efficient. When a buyer wants to purchase a house downtown, we give them an energy-efficiency audit. We hire someone to tell them all the things that need to happen to improve the home's efficiency and how much that would cost. We then connect them with a mortgage company that can provide an 'efficiency mortgage.' They get a slightly larger loan that either helps them afford an already efficient house or the improvements to make the older home efficient. The larger loan makes their payments a little higher, but their monthly energy bills go down enough to actually save money. Renovating also raises the overall value of the home.

"The average monthly heating bill for an old house downtown is $250, compared with $50 for an Energy Star home. We had a young couple who wanted to live in a place where they could walk or bike to work. But they didn't know if they could afford the energy bills for an old home. Our green mortgage enabled them to buy downtown.

"A lot of people don't know what steps will save them the most money. We help them look at the home as a whole system. It's great to give people a chance to buy something that will not only help their pocketbook but also the environment." --interview by Orli Cotel

AFFORDABLE HOUSING An energy-efficient mortgage saves energy and money--and increases your buying power. A household with a monthly income of $5,000 can afford a $227,300 mortgage at 6.25 percent interest, according to the Federal Citizen Information Center. With an energy-efficient mortgage, however, the same household may qualify for a loan about $16,000 larger because its utility bills will be lower.

ON THE WEB Go to energystar.gov and search for "energy-efficient mortgage."


Photo by Jeff Miller; used with permission.

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