Earlier this year, Aaron Smith thought he’d take advantage of low interest rates to refinance his Minneapolis area home, confident that the solar array he’d put on his roof would get due credit in the required real estate appraisal. But Smith was in for an unpleasant surprise—the appraisal never mentioned the rooftop system.
Smith, the CEO of the Energy & Environmental Building Alliance, a 90,000-member organization that promotes high-performance and net-zero building, abandoned plans for the loan. He could have requested another appraiser, but by the time a new inspection could be lined up, the opportunity for a low-interest loan might have been gone, and the irony wasn’t lost on him.
“I had put 10.54 kW of solar on my rooftop, and it may well not have existed to my appraiser. I even handed the appraiser the Green Addendum and he didn’t use it,” Smith said, referring to an appraisal document he had filled out in advance. “I didn’t get credit for my solar, and when the rates were down to 2-point-whatever, I actually couldn’t refinance my house.”
It was a frustrating experience for the head of an organization that promotes high-performance buildings and recently created a training module to help real estate agents sell them more effectively. Challenges like these remain for builders and homeowners trying to get due credit for features that lower energy costs and make houses more comfortable and durable. At the same time, both the real estate and appraisal industries are taking steps to train workers so they can recognize high-performance building features and accurately account for them in sales pitches and appraisals.
“We offer training,” Smith said. “We know it’s needed in the marketplace. It’s key. If the Realtors and appraisers don’t know what they’re looking at, then…