In talking about green improvements, the subject of rehabbing a property in general came up. The question was basically, "What really adds value and attracts buyers and what's just a waste of time and money?"

Well, first, let's be honest. When it comes time to sell a property, what you've put into it is not going to come back to you as a 1 to 1 ratio. In other words, $20,000 in improvements does not mean $20,000 more at closing.

The ratio goes up and down with the market. In 2007, you could expect to pick up about 70 cents for every dollar you spent on improvements. In 2008, that was down to 67.3 cents. Location is also a factor. If you're out in San Francisco and stick a deck on a property, which is the improvement of choice for that locale, you're…

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The more I've poked around in the question of "green" real estate, the more I realize it's the "in" thing, but the field is far from fully realized. The "green" label is all too often applied indiscriminately and without proof that the property you're buying actually is, in any way, more environmentally friendly than the one across the street.

There are roughly 900 MLS systems in the United States. Fewer than 40 of those have fields where an agent can list a property's green features. Most just use the description and comments field. (Austin is, thankfully, one of the cities with a "green" MLS.) By the same token, appraisers wrestle with putting a value on something like solar panels on the roof because the cost of installation for such items is high…

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Real estate investors are benefiting from the the aging of the Baby Boomer generation just like private homeowners. We're seeing a lot of older properties in gorgeous, established neighborhoods coming up for sale. The Boomers are hitting 65 and looking to downsize. Basically, their thinking is, "Let someone else mow the lawn and tend those beautiful old shade trees."

Now, remember those intriguing figures I shared a couple of weeks ago. Green properties cost 30-60 percent less to operate and appraise for 10-15 percent more. When you can offer a green home, you're appealing to a growing tenant base looking for a long-term commitment. And these folks can easily turn into buyers if that's your ultimate goal for the property.

So, with these factors in…

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