The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced support for a government program known as the Single-Home Sustainability Initiative.
According to a press release at VA.gov, “Efforts to address building safety, energy and water efficiency, and hazard resilience are ongoing through public and private initiatives. Lenders, borrowers, and other participants in the VA Home Loan program are encouraged to pursue the most energy efficient, water efficient, and hazard resilient homes feasible, and to seek the benefits of doing so, where available.”
What does that mean for the average VA home loan applicant? One aspect of this includes features that may be included as part of a VA Energy Efficient Mortgage loan package, which allows additional funds added to the VA mortgage loan for approved energy efficient upgrades.
One such upgrade possibility now officially supported by the VA includes products that are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program. Watersense is described in the VA press release as a “water-saving (and energy-saving) program…Products with the WaterSense label have been third-party certified to be at least 20 percent more efficient than average, without sacrificing performance.”
Furthermore, “VA permits lenders and borrowers to promote the use of WaterSense fixtures in all residential bathroom construction, rehabilitation, and fixture replacements. Homeowners and borrowers that want to go further can apply for the whole home WaterSense label, which goes beyond fixtures to include design strategies to minimize energy intensity and heat loss of water distribution, and landscape irrigation.”
Such upgrades can help save a borrower a good deal of money over the lifetime of a VA mortgage loan. The VA Energy Efficient Mortgage program continues to be one of the agency’s most important options with regard to new purchase loans and refinance loans alike. According to the press release:
“Energy efficiency has gained traction in the marketplace as consumer awareness and demand have increased. From sealing, caulking, and insulating to replacing windows and even adding solar panels, Americans are increasingly interested in reducing utility bills through energy conservation strategies. VA continues to promote energy efficiency through its Energy Efficient Mortgage option (EEM).”
Borrowers interested in a VA EEM mortgage loan should discuss the option with a loan officer. VA EEM loans require the borrower and lender to work closely together to determine which energy efficient upgrades are permitted under the program and how the borrower will need to document the potential energy savings with those u upgrades. VA EEM funds can only be used for approved upgrades, but the range of possibilities for those upgrades can include low-impact upgrades such as storm windows, or more complex improvements such as solar-powered water systems, as long as they meet VA standards.