Gray to Green Communities is a call to action on housing and the climate crisis. Residential buildings in the western world account for around 20% of greenhouse gas emissions, and is not just bad for the planet, but also putting the physical and financial health of residents at risk. And the modern housing system means that a renter who works 40 hours a week and earns a minimum wage, often cannot afford a nice safe and healthy apartment.
This book is a manifesto on building green affordable housing. Her work resulted in the first standard for green affordable housing in the US, and the book could do the same here. Giving examples of developments already built, people are housed in better housing, while helping their health and the planet at the same time. Dana Bourland is Vice President for the Environment at JPB Foundation, and has been involved in creating several affordable green housing projects.
An ethical estate agent? Why, things are looking up.
To find alternative ways to buy or sell your home, can free you from the stress of using conventional (or online) estate agents. Some small independent agents no doubt do a good job. But many have a reputation for being ruthless (legally they must tell you the truth). Many people are fed up of paying thousands to someone who just takes a few photos, makes a floor plan and sticks your home on Right Move. Someone call selling your home ‘a game of psychological poker’.
Private sales are popular (as long as you keep safe, it’s not that much hassle to show someone around your home – and you have to do this anyway with online estate agents, unless you pay an added fee). But most online sites have relatively few visitors (most people search on Right Move). So here are a few ideas, to think out of the box.
- The HouseShop lists homes privately. It’s free with a small fee for featured listing. It has 30,000 visitors daily (tiny compared to Right Move) but can’t harm. Beware of scammers (don’t pay or sign anything without legal help, and take someone with you).
- Brickworks (London) is an ethical estate agent that offers fixed fees (any geographical area) with no cold calls. It has good reviews, and 1% of fees helps homeless charities. There was a non-profit estate agent in Cornwall that gave back to the community – nobody used it.
- Be careful with companies that promise to sell your house fast. Most take at least 30% of the value (usually knocked down further after you’ve signed, and their ‘surveyor’ has been round to evaluate).
- Also be careful with online estate agents. The main one has awful reviews from people who have paid thousands upfront, then nothing (no incentive to sell your home). If you choose an online agent, forget the main ones (that spend millions on ads) choose simpler affordable ones like Doorsteps (from £99 if you do a lot of the work yourself) and Strike (free). Both have better reviews and a more honest set-up. Instead of charging you to sell your home with add-ons, their services are free or cheap – their income is from commission on mortgages, conveyancing and moving services.
Questions to Ask Estate Agents
Whether you use a high street or online estate agents, ensure you are not taken in with ‘estate agent speak’. Home Owners Alliance has a good set of questions to ask estate agents (make a list to take with you and don’t be frightened to get it out; if they are asking you to give them a lot of money, you have a right to ask):
- Why is the owner selling?
- How long has the property been on sale?
- Has the property not sold at auction? The value will crash.
- Are there are plans for the local area?
- How did the agent decide the price?
- Is the property easy to sell? Homes with subsidence or above commercial properties (especially food) are often impossible to sell, as banks won’t lend against them.
- Can you speak direct to sellers? You are legally entitled.
- Have there been neighbour complaints?
- If selling, ask for a Good Will Charter so both parties pay a deposit. This is lost, if the sale does not go through.