Real estate heads in a ‘green’ direction | SierraSun.com

Real estate heads in a ‘green’ direction

Joanna Hartman
Sierra Sun

Emma Garrard/ Sierra SunThe roof on this eco-friendly Donner Lake home houses two types of solar panels.

Buying and selling an environmentally-friendly home in the North Tahoe and Truckee region just got easier.

Tahoe Sierra Realtors can now search their database of homes for sale according to a checklist of “green” characteristics such as recycled carpet, energy-efficient appliances or special wall insulation, thanks to new technology championed by a local real estate agent.

“I’m very interested in promoting anything green. The more exposure we can get, the more people understand what’s available and how they can help the environment,” said Tamara Perlman, the Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage sales associate that proposed the addition of “green features” to the Tahoe Sierra Multiple Listing Service, the local real estate database.

Potential home buyers can not only indicate to their agent preferences for size, style and location of a home, but can now specify certain energy-efficient features as well. Consumers cannot access this technology yet, just real estate agents, Perlman said.

“We wanted our agents and our customers to search based on energy-efficient criteria,” said Al Colhoun, board president of Tahoe Sierra Multiple Listing Service. “We are trying to address these issues as they come and trying to stay at the forefront of technology and information.”

Rick Solinsky lives in a Glenshire home equipped with solar panels and a wind turbine, among numerous other eco-friendly features. He works with the Sierra Green Building Association and predicts that energy-efficient living will become more mainstream in the near future.

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“What I envision will happen, in probably eight or 10 years, when houses go up for sale the [houses] that are green will sell and the houses that aren’t won’t,” Solinsky said. “What’s going to happen as the cost of fuel keeps on going up? The houses that don’t have these green features will be a lot less efficient to run.”

Green building incorporates environmental design, renewable materials and energy efficiency in building construction. The Sierra Green Building Association was created to advocate environmental design within the Sierra Nevada, where features such as using the sun to warm a house, building with materials like rice straw, and employing water-efficient appliances are booming.

An average Truckee home uses 750 to 800 kilowatt hours of energy per month, translating to a $90-to-$100 monthly electric bill, said Tahoe Donner Public Utility District planning director Scott Terrell. A number of factors contribute to heating costs and even a one-degree thermostat adjustment can make a three- to five-percent difference in the energy bill, said Terrell.

A home with passive solar design, windows facing south to absorb sunlight and heat, could reduce heating requirements by 50 to 90 percent, Terrell said. More than 100 Truckee homes intentionally use passive solar design and another couple hundred happen to have south-facing windows, he said.

Perlman lives in an energy-efficient home in Tahoe Donner with insulated concrete walls, recycled carpeting and special fiber-cement siding. She said that a recent survey reported that 75 percent of home buyers are interested in obtaining environmental information about a house on the market, Perlman said.

The general public is increasingly concerned with the environment, she said.

“Because we have a really green community here, I figured it was a really important thing for us to incorporate,” said Perlman.