Discern the home's relation to the land
One often-overlooked aspect of buying a green home is the property, says Cassy Aoyagi, owner of FormLA Landscaping in Los Angeles.
"A green home isn't just a green structure, it's a home that makes the best use of the land," Aoyagi says. "Asking simple questions like which direction the home is oriented toward can tell you a lot about the home's green credentials."
The house's orientation determines how much sun exposure it gets, which affects heating and air-conditioning use. Likewise, it's important to understand the prevailing winds, because they affect the temperature inside the home.
Outside, Aoyagi says buyers should also pay attention to the landscaping. If it's dominated by non-native plants, that should raise alarms for green buyers.
"In some parts of the country, water is a serious issue, so non-native plants are going to raise your costs and make it harder to be green," Aoyagi says. "But no matter where you are, there's always the issue of maintenance, which costs money and uses energy. Sustainable landscaping is about understanding how to pick plants and trees that don't need the same maintenance as a lawn."