Now that its tax time I thought it would be a good time to talk about financial incentives for green building. We’ve mentioned before that we’re getting $5 per square foot of ecoroof through the city of Portland’s ecoroof incentive program. We’re maxing out our federal energy tax credits - a relatively small $1500 since we aren’t able to spring for photovoltaics. What we didn’t know when we started that would have been helpful is that the big incentives are not geared towards owners, they are geared towards builders. Most new homes aren’t built with the owner’s involvement, they are built by a commercial home builder with the intent of being sold right away… And its those homebuilders that are the targets of many incentive programs. Anyone building with a licensed contractor should be eligible for most of these, but it takes some upfront work.
For those of you in Oregon - Energy Trust has great incentives, but to take advantage of them for new construction your contractor needs to be registered with them as a trade ally ahead of time so that they can check in on your progress. Additionally the Oregon Department of Energy has a high performance homes program that can get you tax credits of up to $12,000 if you work with your contractor to get signed up ahead of time. It also requires that you generate some of your own electricity, but if you can afford to do so, that much money back is a pretty big deal.
The end of our construction loan
Our construction loan matured on April first and is rolling into a regular mortgage. It did not make this transition smoothly though. The main hangup was with the appraiser. We had one appraiser in the process that had two visits to the site, the first was just before closing where she determined what the value of the completed house would likely be, and the second to determine that we built what we said we were going to build.
We made a couple of changes, and we made the mistake of not telling our bank about them because this caused quite a headache towards the end. Back in October we made changes to our bathroom that got us a gray water toilet-sink and soaking tub that a couple weeks ago the appraiser determined would decrease the value of our home. Part of the frustrating thing about this is that she seemed uninterested in other changes such as the upgrade to triple pane windows. Our bank seemed to be sympathetic to us, but being a bank they were cautious and decided to hold our last draw from our construction loan while they contemplated ordering a new appraisal. We’re going to get a new appraisal anyways when we refinance (rates are much lower right now), but in the process of building a house contractors put themselves out quite a bit… It all sort of works as long as everyone is able to be paid in a timely manner, and this threatened to delay those payments for an unknown amount of time. Additionally, the housing market is not what it was a year and a half ago when the first appraisal came in, and even though the first appraisal was unfairly low… Were something lower to come in requiring us to make up the difference, we could have lost the house. Fortunately in the end the bank decided that the new appraisal wasn’t necessary because our “square footage was not compromised”.
Now that our construction loan is up, the remaining little bits of the house are happening slower and slower. So the other day we got our medicine cabinet mirror installed. Lights to come in the hopefully near future.