During the recent housing market crash, Phoenix-based developer Philip Beere carved out a niche rehabilitating distressed homes to ultra-efficient standards. His attractive, affordable, National Green Building Standard-certified homes near public transportation were in demand with energy- and budget-conscious home buyers in the area. ( Click here for a Case Study on one of those properties.) As his success in Phoenix grew, Beere realized the formula could work in many U.S. cities, especially those with older, foreclosed homes near mass-transit lines. He created the G Home program to provide consulting and support for remodelers, builders, and developers across the country looking to tap into green building.
Now that the housing market has regained its footing, ECOHOME checks in with Beere—three-time winner of the NAHB Green Remodel Advocate of the Year Award--for an update on his G Street development company, the power of energy labeling, and what’s on the horizon.
Sustainable rehab projects are in demand despite the improved housing market.
You jumped into green remodeling just as the housing market crashed. How did you survive?
When I founded G Street in early 2007, it was popular for builders in my area to scrape infill lots, tearing down what I perceived to be a perfectly good ranch-style homes, and then building new Tuscan-style houses. Back then, my vision was to rehab these old ranch houses rather than tear them down, providing a finished product that performed better than most new homes and one that wasalso designed to meet current market demands.
My first attempt was one of the first LEED-certified remodels in the U.S.However, the timing of the remodel met with the market crash and failure. My second attempt at rehabbing old homes to green standards was in 2009. The second time, my focus was on areas that are near mass transit or light rail systems. The market responded well and the success attracted others who were interested in similar development. This shaped G Street for today's business model, which is helping builders and rehabbers bring their high-performance homes to market and providing them with our G Home green consulting and marketing tools to help highlight their work.
Since 2007, the business model of G Street has shifted from smaller scale and being hands on for each project, to a much broader scale and providing marketing, green consulting, and design services to those who are hands on and rehabbing or building single and multifamily residential units.
Now that the market has stabilized, how has demand changed?
Since the market crash of '08 and my first green remodel, we have experienced a strong uptick in others rehabbing houses in urban cores, which has increased the demand for the services of G Street. And, with the stabilization of the market we are also experiencing an uptick in new construction and builders utilizing G Street to help implement similar green strategies that have worked so well for us in the rehab market.
Have you seen foreclosures level off?
Existing home and land acquisition in many markets has become a challenge. We hear from G Home clients that supply of homes and land is leveling off, yet there still seems to be high levels of inventory or unoccupied dwellings. Eventually the inventory will have to be released into the supply chain and will hopefully allow the opportunity to create more G Home rehabs.
So what is the G Home concept?
Simply stated, the G Home concept helps builders, rehabbers, and investors bring their high-performance homes to market. Builders and remodelers are typically too busy managing projects to focus significant resources on marketing or environmental initiatives. By utilizing the G Home program, they can enhance their marketing strategies and design approach for a practical and affordable path to green construction. If intensive design assistance is needed, we also offer preferred and screened G Home landscape architects, interior designers, or mechanical designers. How do you tailor your energy-efficiency marketing message?
Each G Home comes with an energy label that contains a rundown of estimated monthly energy costs based on the HERS index. We call it the G Home Performance Report. Everyone is interested in lower electric bills, but we also highlight healthier indoor air quality which may have added appeal to buyers with children or family members who maybe allergy sensitive. Often, prospective buyers of a G Home will comment on the home’s “good feel,” which is directly attributed to properly designed mechanical systems.
How have buyers responded to the energy labeling idea?
The G Home Performance Report has been the most effective tool when educating the prospective buyer and real estate community about the homes' green features, walk score, and energy savings. The design of the label is customized to communicate the green features of each individual property.
What is the biggest challenge facing green home builders, remodelers, and investors?
The biggest challenge is managing expectations. Many in our industry believe that adding green features or third-party certification to projects will demand higher prices or an easy sale. But, each project must still conform to the fundamentals of a successful project, which include making the right acquisition, managing the budget, good design and aesthetics, and listing at a competitive price point. If any of these four components is missing, not even green features can correct it. But, if all four are done right, then adding green features and ratings to the project will only make it more marketable and increase the likelihood of demanding a higher value as perceived by the prospective buyer.
What are some of the projects your company is currently involved with?
We continue to target the rehab market, and you will continue to see increased traction in this segment. Next month, the first G Home subdivision for new construction will be completed, which is exciting because it is affordable green housing with a modeled HERS index as low as 26. The new construction completes a previously blighted subdivision that was abandoned during the housing crash of 2008. Later in 2013, you will see the first G Home for multifamily and expansion of the brand into Latin America.