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Bryan Howard

Yesterday a “Home Energy Efficiency and Mortgage Risks” report released by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Center for Community Capital and the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) provided investors a solid data-driven insight – those who build and own efficient homes are good credit risks.

The study of over 70,000 owner-occupied single family home loans in 38 states found the mortgage default risk to be a whopping one-third lower for energy-efficient, ENERGY STAR-rated homes. The large sample size covered loans originated from 2002-2012 at a median price range of $220,000 (see fact sheet here).

“It stands to reason that energy-efficient homes should have a lower default rate, because the owners of these homes save money on their utility bills, and they can put that money toward their mortgage payments,” said Cliff Majersik, executive director of IMT. “We long believed this to be the case, and now this study proves it. ”

This is good news for lenders, and welcome news for owners of ENERGY-STAR rated homes. It’s even better news for the owners and lenders of LEED certified homes and other regional home rating systems such as EarthCraft or GreenPoint. These homes both verify energy performance and go beyond energy to save homeowners on other utility bills such as water. As the report notes, "These rating systems generally exceed the building performance of ENERGY STAR, and promote a comprehensive green building technologies and materials.”

The capital providers and the appraisal world can further build upon this work to more appropriately value resource efficiency in the financial markets. USGBC has long been an advocate for doing just that. In 2010 and 2012 USGBC released a report in collaboration with over a dozen private sector partners encouraging efficient attributes to be accounted for in lending done by Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs). Fannie Mae's Green Refinance Plus program for multifamily buildings is a welcomed start, and this should stimulate more programs for individual borrowers. USGBC continues to work in concert with all stakeholders to help move this process forward by increasing market efficiency through transparency and best practices.