'Green' home buyers catch a financial break

For those ready to jump into the toss-and-turn housing market and buy a newly built home, it now pays to go green.

Countrywide Home Loans is teaming with Portland-based Earth Advantage Inc. and local and national home builders associations to offer incentives for green home buyers. The program, available in Oregon, provides an interest-rate reduction of .125 percent on a Countrywide loan used to purchase a new home that meets recognized green and energy efficient standards, says Sean Penrith, executive director of Portland-based Earth Advantage, a nonprofit organization that specializes in green building.

The loan program uses standards set by the federal Energy Star program, Earth Advantage, LEED for Homes and Built Green programs of local home builders associations, as well as the National Association of Home Builders' Green Building program.

"It's an up-front value, and it puts a specific value on going green," Penrith says. "Countrywide is pioneering this, and I'm sure many will follow."

Despite today's housing market turmoil, Penrith says it's a good time to launch the program.

"Even though the (housing) market has softened, we've seen that the impact on the green-built sector is very light," he says.

Countrywide officials say the program will spur qualified home buyers to join the green-building movement.

"Concern for the environment and saving precious natural resources doesn't have to conflict with buying a newly constructed home," says Dave Porter, senior vice president and division builder manager for Countrywide. He says reduced interest rates, combined with the fact that most owners of green-built, energy-efficient homes pay lower monthly utility and water bills, make the program attractive.

The Green Incentive Program will initially be available in Oregon and 12 other states: Alaska, Idaho, Washington, Colorado, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Earth Advantage also will be working with Countrywide's certified builder representatives in Oregon and Washington to provide information and insight on green building, third-party certification programs and the benefits of sustainable homes, says Earth Advantage spokeswoman Victoria Pruett.

At a minimum, Earth Advantage homes are designed to use 15 percent less energy than houses built to standard Oregon code practices, Pruett says, and they are certified for energy efficiency, healthier indoor air, resource efficiency and environmental responsibility. In 2007, Earth Advantage certified more than 2,500 homes, totaling approximately 9,100 homes over the life of the program.

For more information about the Green Incentive Program, call 800-262-4214 to speak with a Countrywide regional builder manager and for a referral to a certified builder representative in the area. Additional information also is available from Earth Advantage, Inc. at 503-968-7160, ext 29.

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