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Could it really be true? No more utility bills? It's not just keeping green in their wallet that buyers are after when it comes to purchasing a home. These days buyers want to know that the home they buy will save them money on things like their utility bills after the sale.

"Just about all the larger builders are focusing on energy efficiency," Kevin Morrow of the National Association of Home Builders said.

In a down economy, builders are doing all they can to help increase interest and sales of their housing inventory and that means going green.

In Canada, net-zero building–designing of homes that produces as much energy as it uses each year–are becoming the norm. However, according to experts, in the United States, we're still quite a way off from that.

But the landscape may be getting greener when it comes to smart, energy-efficient homes and builders are carving the path.

The celebration of Earth Day recently coincided with Meritage Homes' announcement that it will offer a net-zero home. This means their homes, starting at $140,000, will include a nine-panel rooftop solar array. For a $10,000 upgrade, homeowners can have 24 more solar panels added which can drop their utility bill to nothing. These homes will be available in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, and Texas.

The vice president of environmental affairs for the Arizona-based Meritage, C.R. Herro, told USA Today, "It's a new way of building homes."

Other homebuilders are also including solar rooftop panels as a standard feature in areas such as Southern California. This can reduce energy costs by 30 percent in an 1,800 to 2,000 square-foot home.

Of course, green alternatives inside the home are big attractors such as tankless water heaters, energy-saving appliances, extra insulation, drought-resistant landscape, heat exchangers for fireplaces, whole-house fans, even ceiling fans, and reflective tinting on windows.

So, if you're selling your home and find your home needs to compete with the new green homes being sold in your area, don't worry. You don't have to rebuild your home. You can, however, install or make minor changes that buyers will likely appreciate.

Solatube daylighting brings the outdoor lighting in even in a very dark room. This system uses tubes and mirrors to transport the light from the outside to the inside without bringing in heat. Whereas traditional skylights are built into the original construction.

Adding outside motion-detection lights can save you money while you're still in your home and is a nice benefit for your buyer.

If you're in an area where heat and strong sunlight are an issue, plastic reflective sheeting installed on windows can be a helpful and low-cost cooling device. This also prevents fading and sunburn of drapes, upholstery, and carpeting. Installing ceiling fans instead of setting up mobile fans around the house is a safer and better-looking advantage to the buyer.

If you're needing to replace some major appliances because they're no longer working, think green. Buying energy-efficient models of appliances will give your home an advantage over others on the market that are less effective at saving energy.

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