By Graham Farran
I recently took a continuing education class all about Going Green, something I didn’t know much about, so I was surprised by what I learned and how much each of us can impact our environment. It was a great class and information worth sharing.
It’s surprising that focus on our environment really didn’t begin until 1969 in the United States. It was then that a series of river fires plagued our nation. Rivers in industrial areas were so polluted with chemicals from factory run off that they caught on fire, and that caught the attention of the public. During the same period, we also saw a decline of certain species, including our national bird, the bald eagle, which became a concern. Out of this concern came Earth Day in 1970, and then-president Richard Nixon formed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect our environment.
So, what does “Going Green” mean? It means understanding that there are consequences to the environment for the resources we use and the choices we make. We can reduce our effect on the earth by reducing our ecological footprint which is much more encompassing than our carbon footprint. The 4 major ways we can control and reduce our ecological footprint are: 1) The food we eat, 2) Goods and Services we buy and use, 3) Mobility or how we get around, and 4) Homes we live in. For this article, I’ll just focus on one of the four, “Homes we live in”, and 5 ways we can improve our “Ecological Footprint” and make our homes greener.
#1 Energy Use: Decrease our energy use
Homes are one of the biggest contributors to carbon gas emissions. There are lots of ways to save energy in our home and there are many tips below. You may want to start by getting a “Energy Audit” by a 3rd party that looks at your insulation, windows, doors, and the amount of energy to heat and cool your home. You can find vendors at this URL: https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/weatherize/home-energy-audits.
• Add a programmable thermostat – only run the HVAC when needed
• Wrap your water heater with insulation
• Add Solar tubes – take advantage of natural lighting
• Close the fireplace damper while not in use
• Run the dishwasher only when full
• Use insulated window curtains to block the heat in the summer but let it in during the winter
• Switch to all LED lighting
• Buy Energy star appliances
• Add solar panels – use natural light
• Glazing or tint windows to keep the heat out in the summer
• Add ceiling fans to circulate the air
• Add dual or triple pane windows
• Alter your landscaping by adding tall trees that shade the house
• Buy an energy efficient HVAC. There is a SEER rating for efficiency of HVAC systems. The higher the number the better – 14 or higher is good
2) Water Efficiency: Conserve water by adding features that decrease indoor/outdoor water use
• Add low flush toilets OR dual flush toilets
• Replace your water heater with a tankless water heater
• Install low flow shower heads
• Add water collection devices. Rain barrels, capture rain water from the downspouts
• Reuse the grey water from your sink for your yard
• Landscaping for energy efficiency. Use natural landscaping in your area that doesn’t require supplemental irrigation
3) Sustainability: Using renewable products is a key
• Consider renewable and resource-efficient materials
o Eco-Friendly flooring such as Bamboo, Cork or Hemp
o Recycled flooring
• Walking Score – when you buy a new home look at its walking score, can you walk to services?
4) Materials used: Any time you update or remodel consider using environmentally friendly products
• Use recycled glass products for
• Linoleum vs vinyl is more eco-friendly
• If you are adding insulation, consider recyclable
o Cellulose – recycled paper
5) Indoor environmental quality: Be healthier and safer for occupants
• Use Eco-friendly carpeting with natural fibers
• Use natural insect repellants
• Use green paint, VOC paint (Volatile Organic Compounds)
There are many benefits to “Going Green”, such as reducing your carbon footprint, saving money, tax incentives and a healthier lifestyle. If we all implemented just a portion of the ideas presented in this article it would make a huge difference to our “ecological footprint” and go a long way to protect our environment ensuring future generations clean water, clean air and the beauty of nature.
The U.S. economy is a mess. The continuing coronavirus pandemic has led to scores of business closures, the worst unemployment since the Great Depression and the steepest economic contraction on record.
Yet, despite it all, the U.S. housing market has been spared and is experiencing a record year. In our valley, well, it can only be described as “hot” and the best real estate market since 2005 for sellers. Cooped-up buyers are seeking larger homes, first time home buyers want to cash in on record-low mortgage interest rates, and escapees are fleeing large metropolitan areas with the newly given option of working from home. They are all battling it out over a very limited supply of properties for sale or for rent in our valley.
Because of the demand, home sales and home prices are both on the rise. Homes sales in Jackson County grew by 9% for the 3rd quarter with 381 homes selling per month. Home prices increased by 11.3% in the same quarter, bringing a total increase in home prices to 42.4% since 2015. However, inventory dropped 64% over last year and we are down to 342 homes for sale, which is less than a month’s supply. We are experiencing the highest demand combined with the lowest inventory in the 18 years that I have been a Realtor. On the rental side, we have seen vacancy rates lower than 1% throughout the year.
In the midst of this record demand and low supply, we experienced the most devastating fires in our recent history – the Almeda and Obenchain fires, which destroyed well over 2,000 homes. So, now our valley desperately needs homes for fire victims as well as retirees, escapees and for those who seek to downsize or upsize. Every week our property management department gets scores of calls for rental housing and we have very little available. On the sales side, we watch buyers pounce on every home that becomes available. Some homes, especially under $350,000, are getting as many as 8 to 10 offers, so one buyer gets the home and 9 buyers lose out. Our valley desperately needs more homes for sale and more homes for rent to keep up with the demand on both.
It may take years to catch up to the housing demand but we can start today and we can all help. Expert Properties is helping by waiving six months of management fees for any owner that has an empty cottage, ADU, or vacant home that we can rent out. In addition, we are donating $1,000 per listing sold to local charities helping fire victims. If we all chip in, we can help our valley heal. Details of these promotions are printed on the back page of this publication.
Another encouraging change is that we are seeing our cities increase the number of acres that are zoned for Multi-Family Residential (MFR), allowing more homes to be built on one lot. This will increase the number of duplexes, triplexes and townhomes being built and accommodate more families in need of housing.
In a similar move, the City of Grants Pass is now allowing two Auxiliary Dwelling Units (ADUs) to be built on each city lot, provided there is space and you meet all the requirements. To help lower the cost of these ADUs, the city planning department has posted pre-approved ADU plans on their website that can help you get started. There has also been a lot of talk in the Oregon State congress to allow one ADU to be built on each rural lot located in our counties. To my knowledge, this is still in the talking stages.
With demand for homes booming and supplies dwindling we face a major shortage in homes for sale and for rent. Government needs to do their part by reducing restrictions and speeding up building approvals. We can do our part by renting our vacant homes, ADUs, cottages not in use and donating what we can to rebuild homes lost to the fires that were uninsured or underinsured. If we all work together, we can increase the supply of homes, help those who lost theirs, and continue to see our valley prosper.