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Lenders Add Green Tints to Mortgages

The Senate is considering bipartisan legislation that would require Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the FHA, and other federal mortgage entities to revamp their rules to reward energy savings.

Supporters of energy efficiency want lenders to take the net savings from energy improvements into consideration when they underwrite and impose mortgage fees, and they also want appraisers to take into account the value of these retrofits.

More than 125 multiple listing services nationwide provide “green fields” in online listing information displays so that energy improvements and certifications for Energy Star–qualified appliances, solar power, and other features can be described. Moreover, the Appraisal Institute is offering green valuation training for appraisers and has established a comprehensive “green addendum” that could result in higher property valuations.

On top of all this, Genworth Mortgage Insurance plans to offer green rewards to U.S. borrowers like it already does in Canada — where borrowers receive a 10 percent refund on mortgage insurance premiums, online discounts for common household items, and even a break on their debt-to-income ratio for underwriting purposes if the home meets national or provincial energy efficiency guidelines.

Meanwhile, a study of 71,000 home loans by University of North Carolina researchers reveals that mortgages on energy-efficient properties are 32 percent less likely to default — even after controlling for the borrower’s income, credit scores, home values, and local utility costs.

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