Mortgages can be green too, banks say

ST. CATHARINES, ONTARIO - So youÂ’re an eco-conscious homebuyer on the prowl for a new pad.

This could mean owing the bank a lot of green, for a long time. But donÂ’t despair: even debt can be environmentally friendly.

The “green mortgage” phenomenon is slowly picking up steam among Canadian financial institutions.

ThatÂ’s why Mary Cudney could be found at a booth at the recent EcoFest event in St. Catharines.

Cudney, a TD Canada Trust financial services representative, was pitching the institution’s new “green” mortgage or home equity line of credit.

“I think it’s a pretty awesome concept,” said Cudney, who works at the bank’s Lakeshore Road branch.

“It’s a commitment to help people make environmentally friendly choices.”

Green mortgages essentially reward the eco-conscious for making energy-efficient home purchases, or upgrades to existing houses.

TDÂ’s deal offers:

• a rate discount of one per cent off the posted interest rate on a five-year, fixed-rate mortgage or line of credit.

• a cash rebate of up to one per cent of the mortgage or fixed-rate portion of the line of credit when you load up on energy-saving appliances.

• a $100 donation to TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.

ItÂ’s early, but Cudney said she has heard from a few potential homebuyers who saw her presentation at EcoFest.

TD Canada is the latest Canadian bank to jump on the green mortgage bandwagon. Citizens Bank of Canada, however, claims to be the first.

The bank launched a green mortgage last year that included more flexible payment options and a $10,000 line of credit at prime for energy-efficient upgrades.

Bonuses include a free energy audit, a $100 donation to the Conservation Council of Ontario and a blue box “gift basket” filled with hundreds of dollars of coupons for energy-efficient products.

Even politicians are mulling getting in on the act.

The federal Opposition Liberals are considering plans to allow homeowners to repay loans for energy-efficient upgrades through savings on heat and electricity costs, for example.

Chris Winter is betting the deals get better and better.

“I think the (green mortgage) idea is gaining momentum, now that the big banks are getting in on the act as well,” said the executive director of the Conservation Council of Ontario.

Winter’s organization teamed up with the Citizens Bank for its green mortgage — so he thinks it’s great.

But as more banks begin to offer eco-friendly incentives, Winter advises homeowners and homebuyers to “do some comparison shopping.”

“The trick is to look beyond the green label and do your homework,” he said. Some green financing deals may suit renovators better than homebuyers, for example.

“A true green mortgage has to actually make it easier for the homeowner to go green,” Winter said.

Not every eco-friendly home option has a “green” label, either.

For years, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp. has offered mortgage insurance premium reductions to folks who buy energy-efficient homes.

The agency also points people to government incentives and rebates for various energy-efficient appliances and home upgrades.

“The goal is to encourage homeowners to be energy-efficient, to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from older homes,” said Steffan Jones, acting director of insurance policy and technology operations.

“There’s actually quite a lot of incentives on the table. Awareness is the challenge.”


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