My husband, Cliff, delights in poking fun at me at every opportunity and he's certainly earned the right. Ever since The Perspective came along, I have been using my own unedited forum to even the score. (Luckily, we both have thick skins.)
Cliff's usually writing much more intellectual Supreme Court Briefs (which for the record, ain't so brief!) so imagine my surprise and delight when I received the following email from him last week. (I'm still stunned that he found time to pen this Sci-fi "lead-in," but has yet to find the time to fold the laundry! Hmmm . . . there I go again.)
Juls: I have noted, as have your Readers, the pattern to your Perspective: generally speaking, an observation about life (yours, mine or the kids) followed by a transition into how the observation relates to Real Estate and so I have the beginning of your next Perspective, here you go: As the Killian Star Cruisers closed in upon them, the Captain thought about how much simpler it had been when all they had to contend with were the Drivellian slave traders of Rigellan IV. Sure the Drivellians were tough fighters, but they didn't have a lethal death ray; much less one that could immobilize an entire lunar colony! Still, the Earthlings were not without their defenses. After all the new Comark Shield System (CSS) had worked perfectly in all its tests. This would be the big one though - women and children, ready for transport to the outer colonies - were depending on it. If the shield could turn the death ray into a harmless light particle beam, they would all be safe, and not only would the Killians be rendered harmless for years to come, but the energy derived from the particle beam could actually power the colony! Of course, energy efficiency is something which is not just the province of Star Defenders, but important to the purchase of a home as well. (FILL IN REAL ESTATE SECTION).
Okay Cliff, here I go . . .
"Energy efficiency" has been front and foremost in the news and in home design for the past several years. It's caught on in a BIG way in our liberal, collective, California psyches - and so it should. In fact, it's the rare Buyer who isn't adding up the costs of new windows and insulated attics as they consider older homes these days and wondering if there is a discount to be had???
Uh, there isn't. (Mind you, the single-pane glass in Notre Dame has been virtually intact for almost 900 years and its windows haven't clouded up as our energy efficient, modern, double-pane windows tend to do within a mere 15-20 years!)
Dual-pane windows, attic insulation, recirculating water systems, wrapped heating ducts, etc, etc, etc; they're all important in terms of maintaining a home's efficiency and in keeping utility costs in check. AND they're good for the environment to boot - so why not just install them, especially if you'll be undertaking a remodel anyway?
A) Because these upgrades still tend to be more expensive than their older less costly counter parts. A tankless water heater will run you considerably more than the old-fashioned 50-gallon water heater currently sitting in your basement. It can takes serious "green" to live "green" (the $160,000 price tag for the electric Tesla is no joke!) or to quote Kermit the Frog, "It's not so easy being green."
B) The buying public isn't yet willing to pay you more for your "smart" home - no matter how smart it is! Sure, they love the idea that the property can practically run itself, and the fact that they can positively impact their "carbon footprint" for the good of mankind certainly provides bonus points, but neither of these factors typically sway value-oriented buyers when it comes to writing the BIG check (Buyer's are still looking for the deal)! If you have installed solar panels on your roof, good for you, but don't expect to be reimbursed for this upgrade when you go to sell your home. It just isn't part of the calculation - yet! (Sexy kitchen and bathroom remodels typically reap big dividends; less exciting solar panels do not. which makes "green upgrades" less smart from a seller's point of view - not from an environmentalist's!)
C) The good of the colony tends to take a back seat to the needs of the individual. (Unless you're my "zero-carbon footprint" sainted sister Karen who grows her own vegetables, shops at a co-op grocery, raises egg-laying ducks, knits her own sweaters, drives a corn-oil car, hunts for mushrooms in the woods and produces more solar power than her household consumes . . . , you are probably negatively impacting the environment - even with your best efforts.)
The cold hard truth is that there are still far fewer choices in "green" options than in the rest of the color spectrum. Individual expression tends to be significantly curtailed when limited to those few choices that are more "environmentally friendly" (and let's face it, raising ducks isn't that easy within the city limits). Quack! Still, cookie-cutter choices or not (have I mentioned the Prius yet?) I'm not ready to concede that the good fight is over and I'll be the first to cheer you on for following your conscience - not your checkbook in undertaking improvements more beneficial to all. If nothing else, living "green" is highly admirable.
And the good news is that energy efficiency is still in its infancy so we have much to look forward to in terms of accessibility, affordability and style.
Here's the 411, when "green options" become as economically feasible as the much cheaper red, white and blue choices with which we are already familiar and more accustomed to (in other words, when the Tesla costs the same as the Prius) I believe the Killians will give up their supreme fight for power and live peacefully alongside the rest of us mere mortals. And that's NOT just Science Fiction . . . (How'd I do Cliff?)
BTW - If anyone else would like to submit a "lead-in," be my guest. I really enjoyed the challenge. I'll treat any takers (authors) to lattes and scones at Mulberry's - whether or not I use your story (literary privilege).
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.