Thursday, March 28, 2013

Being Green Means You're a Good Risk?

Found this very interesting article on Inman News that highlights a finding that owners of energy efficient homes are significantly less likely to default on their mortgages. Significant as in 32% less likely - that's one third safer than your typical borrower!

The group that conducted this study - The Institute for Market Transformation, a group I've never heard of before but I'm glad I discovered - states that given the statistical significance, the energy efficiency of a property should be considered as part of the risk evaluation when making a mortgage. In other words, it should be easier to get a mortgage on an Energy Star - rated home. This could mean several things for buyers - a lower interest rate or perhaps qualifying for a mortgage amount that you couldn't have qualified for before. For IMT, that translates to a hope that buyers will look more favorably on greener homes, not just for the lower energy bills, but perhaps for a lower cost of living in the long run, even if the purchase price is higher than a non-Energy Star rated home.

While the talked-about study only surveyed new purchase mortgages, the finding could also impact considerations for refinancings, particularly if the property in question has had green retrofit upgrades as well.

For home builders, there have been incentives such as tax credits for building greener housing for a long time, but the longtime budget impasse threatens these credits. Being able to offer homes that qualify for lower rates, and knowing that consumers will be seeking these homes out, may be the market-based incentive we need to keep building green housing.

This study only surveyed single family homes. Here in New York, even most of the single family housing dates from 1900 or before, and not much more is being built. However, I found another item on the IMT website showing Fannie Mae is taking a similar mortgage-friendly tack to get multi families on board with green retrofits. This building program relaxes debt service ratio requirements for landlords who are refinancing buildings and intend to put in green retrofits. Essentially, they can take out extra money to do the retrofits that the bank wouldn't have allowed them to have before.

I'm glad to see that amidst all the angry fingers pointing at "big government mandates", there is a market-based incentive (do something, get/save more money). And I'm even happier that it is aimed at multi-family buildings. Again, in NYC, many of the housing stock was built in the 1930s and 1940s and therefore doesn't have HVAC, and has oil or natural gas burning boilers, as well as often falls in the shadow of taller buildings that block out solar potential. This is something I want to know more about.