HG: SustainAbility Column March 07, 2009

The supporting cast for sustainable home building has a message for local builders.

Mortgage professionals and EcoBrokers want builders to get busy making more energy-efficient homes so clients can take advantage of special financing and enjoy the benefits of living in better homes.

Mandy Vindiola is a certified mortgage planning specialist with Monument Valley Mortgage.

The company works with a dozen or so lenders and a few of the lenders offer Energy Efficient Mortgages (EEM).

Vindiola said the Grand Valley is in the “education phase” when it comes to these mortgages, but they will gain in popularity as more energy efficient homes are built.

“Energy efficient improvements to a home will be beneficial to you and to the next people who buy the house,” Vindiola said.

An EEM, provides advantages to buyers purchasing new energy efficient homes. Because an efficient home uses less electricity and natural gas, it costs less to operate and maintain.

EEMs offer a lower interest rate or allow a higher debt-to-income ratio, which means you can qualify for a larger loan to finance new and improved energy efficient homes.

Buyers of existing homes can get an Energy Improvement Mortgage (EIM), which lets them include energy improvement costs in the mortgage. Homeowners can also use an EIM to combine refinancing with energy improvements.

Before qualifying for energy-based loans, you must have a home energy rater conduct an energy audit of the home. This assures energy efficiency for the EEM or outlines an improvement plan for an EIM.

Federal Housing Administration, the Department of Veteran Affairs and many conventional lenders offer EEMs and EIMs. For more information about these loans, go to

“We need more builders to build energy efficient homes,” said Gayle Zimmerman, a home loan consultant with Countrywide.

Last year, the company handled EEMs for three Built Green homes and one Energy Star home.

Rick Brown works with construction lending at Community Banks of Colorado. He said many local banks offer special mortgages for buyers to support energy efficiency.

Brown is able to give builders a discount on origination charges and the overall cost of the loan if they are building Energy Star or other certified energy-efficient houses. He has done quite a few green construction loans and said efficiency is a “great sales feature because it ends up saving the buyer money.”

Christi Reece, with Bray & Co., is one of three certified EcoBrokers in Grand Junction.

According to http://www.ecobroker.com, “EcoBroker is the premiere designation program for real estate professionals.”

An extensive educational program is required before qualifying as an EcoBroker.

Reece said that in addition to energy efficiency and environmentally sensitive design, she also learned about other environmental issues such as radon, mold and water quality. Real world scenarios were utilized as part of the testing process.

Reece is convinced energy-efficient, sustainable homes are “the wave of the future.” She is excited to be marketing these homes and is a member of Better Energy Advocates.

Reece already sold one Energy Star home and has another listed.

There are buyers interested in green homes, but “we need to build up more inventory,” Reece said.

She said new technology is the “future of building” and, in 10 years, buyers will be demanding sustainable homes. Twenty years from now nobody will build using old, inefficient methods.

The other certified EcoBrokers in Grand Junction are Ruth Kinnett with Dale Realty Inc. and Peter Robinson with Robinson Realty.

Pat Teck, chief executive officer of the Grand Junction Realtor Association, said her office has fielded a number of requests for classes about sustainable homes. “There will be more EcoBrokers in the future,” Teck said.

As the supporting cast and consumer demand grow, we can only hope local builders will take heed and increase the number of energy efficient homes built with the latest technology.

Adele Israel is a Grand Junction writer who has been involved in sustainability efforts for some 20 years. Have a question or column idea for Adele? E-mail her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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