When Christine Fisk toured a foreclosed home in Phoenix that had been renovated to be more energy-efficient, she wasn’t sold on its environmental benefits. But the two-bedroom bungalow was just minutes from her office and in good shape, so the financial adviser bought it for $150,000. A year in, Fisk is a believer: Her last electric bill was under $40, far less than she expected. “My day-to-day reality is dollars and cents, so everything that trickles down into my pocketbook is important,” she says.
The retrofit of Fisk’s 1947 home was overseen by G Street, one of a growing number of small businesses that buy old homes, renovate them to be more energy-efficient, and sell them. These “eco flippers” spend tens of thousands of dollars to gut properties, revamp heating and cooling systems, improve insulation, and install greener appliances. The business model is “a convergence of the vast number of foreclosed or short sales on the market and customers’ increased interest in energy efficiency,” says Peter Brown, a director at Earth Advantage Institute, a Portland (Ore.) nonprofit that advocates sustainable construction methods. “It goes beyond marketing.”