Total Cost of Home Ownership

Do You Know Your Total Home Ownership Cost?

A Everyday Green Home Podcast
The total home ownership cost is rarely taken into account when a home is being built or purchased. Kerry Langley with Project TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) has a tool to change that. Kerry has been in the mortgage banking world for over 30 years and has negotiated over $1 billion in loans 8 years ago Kerry was challenged to help sell homes certified with an energy efficient high-performance program in Atlanta, GA called EarthCraft. That work is now Project TCO.

cost home ownership

What is EarthCraft?

EarthCraft is actually a joint venture between Southface Energy Institute and the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association. It was 2008 and the economy and especially the housing economy was suffering in Atlanta (and across the nation). EarthCraft, a green building certification program for high-performance homes.   They had done a great job of selling the dream of high-performance homes to the home building community in Atlanta. As the housing market came to a halt in 2008, there were about a thousand houses sitting on the market between the $400,000 to 600,000 price point that were all EarthCraft Certified. The people of Earth Craft were looking for help to help the builders sell them. That’s when they looked to Kerry for help.

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What is Project TCO?

Project, meaning, “an individual or collaborative enterprise that is carefully planned and designed to achieve a particular aim”. “Whatever it is, it’s my thing” says Langley.

TCO meaning Total Cost of Ownership and specifically in Kerry’s world, TCO stands for Total Cost of Home Ownership and looking at what a home buyer is going to experience as far as the entire expenses associated with buying and owning a home. These expenses include the “typical” mortgage associated expenses – interest, closing costs and fees, insurance and then they include the rest of the expenses of owning and operating a home – utilities (natural gas, electricity, water, sewer, trash, communications/cable), maintenance and repairs. Although our financial systems for buying and owning a home do not automatically look at all of the costs associated with a home, this total number is what is really important to a buyer or seller. It is this total cost of owning a home that truly allows buyers to compare the cost of house A vs. house B.

How Many Of Us Know the Total Home Ownership Cost?

Most people don’t factor in the operating costs of the home – whether they are buying or renting. With Total Cost of Ownership different factors come into the equation depending on if they home is being purchased or rented. This flexibility to include all sorts of different costs associated with a home also enables customization of the tool to meet almost any situation

When Kerry started working with EarthCraft back in 2008, like most people, he thought a house was just a house and to make a house “better” you add hardwood and granite countertops and so on. That all sounds great (and may make the home look nicer) yet it doesn’t make it a high-performance home. (note from Marla – I keep hearing people talking about homes “looking good and performing well”). The people at EarthCraft were persistent and kept telling Kerry that this – Total Cost of Ownership – is what he should be doing. EarthCraft invited him to many of their Home Builder Training classes and one day the speaker defined “a high-performance home as a home where all of the components that impact the performance of a home are combined holistically for a combination which makes the most sense (sic for the performance outcome).” This definition made sense. All the little things that go into a high performance (aka green) home matter and you have to understand and pay attention to these.

“If you can make that much of a difference changing the performance of a house by looking at it holistically, why if not the solution to look at the financial side holistically.” Kerry

Basically, what Kerry did with this program was to look at every component that we can possibly look at where we can impact the financial side of owning a house. They replaced the traditional purchase price, mortgage payment, and down payment conversation with Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). TCO includes an optimization of the performance and optimization of how the mortgage is structured. With the TCO tool, it gave the ability to run a lot of iterations very quickly and get to the best combination of costs for the desired outcome.   If you build a better house why not finance it better. Very impressive!

From this holistic financial approach, it’s easy to identify the benefits to the home buyer or resident, the builder and the real estate entity. Yet nothing happens until we put it in front of someone and they take action, so keep selling the dream!

“Most of what makes a green house green is common sense and quality building practices.”


Kerry Langley on LinkedIn



Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association

Green Appraisal Addendum and Resources

If you’re interested in environmental education, every week on iTunes and on The Everyday Green Home Podcast, we gab and share what we’ve done, as well as tips for greening up your home, your job, your family and your life! Get in on the gab for why green matters – to you, your family and friends and your community.

Get Marla’s book Living Green Effortlessly: Simple Choices to a Better HomeFor more information about the show, Marla at or Tony at tpratte@thesoundroom.comI’d love to speak at your next event – for ideas check out my speaking information. Thank you and have a blessed day.