Saturday, May 17, 2008

Collazo Marketing 'Green' Energy-Star Condos

Ready to "Go green"?

Art Collazo, one of Chicago's Top 10 condo agents, is betting his future, and his greenbacks, that many buyers will soon agree with him that the future of Chicago condos is green.

To demonstrate his commitment, the Koenig & Strey agent has teamed with George Sullivan of Eco Smart Building, a Chicago-based consultant, and Energy Star, a federal program, to create condos that are environmentally friendly and energy efficient.

Among other benefits, according to George, who is the largest Energy Star partner in the Midwest, green condos use less energy, which means lower heating and cooling bills. They use less water and natural resources, which means fewer pollutants are released into the environment, leaving its occupants healthier. They can also mean lower mortgage payments and taxes.

To exceed Energy Star guidelines by at least 50%, each of Art's condos will feature: a furnace that is 92% efficient, high-efficiency air conditioning, water-saving plumbing fixtures, argon-filled windows with U values of .35 or lower, and cabinetry wood and floors from environmentally responsible foresters. Optional will be counter tops from recycled glass and concrete.

To promote his program, Art recently launched, a portal Web site that features only green condos, but not just those he is developing or marketing. One of the goals of the site is to help buyers distinguish between condos advertised as "eco-friendly" and those that are truly green and have been certified by a third party, such as Energy Star.

Four buildings are already being converted: Clybourn Green at 2403-9 W. Clybourn, Newport Green at 815-7 W. Newport, Wellington Green at 1344 W. Wellington, and Bell Green, at 1313 N. Bell. In the planning stages is Art's first new-construction green condo, Green Halsted at Ashland. It will have 24 or so units.

The first owner is already living in Clybourn Green. Seventeen of the 24 units there are still available. The other conversions will deliver in the next 100 days.

Rendering of Clybourn Green, 2403-9 W. Clybourn

The prices of the 41 units in Art's four green condo conversions range from $205,000 to $740,000, less than $300 per square foot. Art says comparable non-green condos sell for about 10 to 15% less per square foot, but cost more to maintain.

Based on national averages, utility costs for green condos are 70% less than for standard (non-green) condos (60 cents per square foot per month vs. $2). Studies show that the typical condo units leaks 73% of its heat, Art says. To be certified by Energy Star, a unit can leak no more than 6%.

In addition to tax and marketing benefits to developers, Energy Star construction offers a terrific financial benefit to buyers, Art says. By buying from a developer who has qualified for an Energy Efficient Mortgage by building an Energy Star Plus condo, buyers get underwriting credit for utilities and can thus qualify for a larger mortgage.

By participating in the city's Tax Smart program, buyers can also get a federal tax credit of up to $2,200 a year for 27 years. "That's equal to the annual tax deduction parents receive for a child," he notes.

According to Art, construction costs are from 10 to 20% higher. Most of those extra costs are passed along to the buyer. But savings from energy, mortgage payments and taxes can quickly recoup the extra upfront investment. Appraisals are generally 10 to 15% higher.

Art looks forward to the day he can take his children around and show them the green condos he has helped create and tell them how those buildings are making Chicago a better place, and their owners happier, more responsible citizens.

If, as in previous efforts, Art Collazo achieves colossal success, his competitors, no doubt, will be green with envy.

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