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Sustainability and Real Estate: How to Keep Up with the Growing Demand for 'Green'

April 21 2017

green leavesAre you noticing an increased interest in environmentally friendly home features from your real estate clients? If so, you're not alone. According to NAR, 56 percent of Realtors report that their clients are at least "somewhat interested" in green real estate.

Apart from the environmental benefits, many consumers are recognizing that "going green" means saving green, and more people are taking this into account when looking for homes.

Not only is the cost of installing things like solar panels or energy efficient heaters dropping, green technology in general is having an interesting economic moment right now. On March 11, for example, solar power provided half of California's electricity, temporarily driving wholesale rates negative. Jobs in sustainable energy are available at nearly five times the rate of traditional fossil fuel jobs, and solar and wind jobs are growing 12 times faster than the US economy.

So it's safe to say that the green revolution is here to stay—and to grow. Real estate technology is still playing catch-up in many markets, however, with only 43 percent of Realtors reporting that their MLS has green data fields.

If your MLS doesn't yet offer green data fields, the Center for Sustainable Energy suggests that listing agents instead add sustainability information in the MLS remarks section. For example, for solar power systems, they recommend adding helpful information like:

  • Solar system size – Number of panels and kilowatt capacity
  • Estimated annual production – System output in kilowatt-hours
  • Type of ownership – Owned, owned with loan, leased or power purchase agreement
  • Utility bill savings – Either from the utility or third-party system owner
  • Photos – Show the system, as well as any home energy ratings or green certificates

Tools for a Greener Home Search

Regardless of whether or not your MLS offers green data fields, there are a few tools out there you can use to help clients who are concerned about environmentally friendly home features or supporting a sustainable lifestyle.

1. Google's Project Sunroof - Got a client who's looking to buy a home with solar potential? Just enter the address of a home they're interested in into Project Sunroof. You'll be able to see how much roof space is viable for solar panels, how many hours of usable sunlight the property receives per year, potential utility bill savings, government incentives, and more.

2. UtilityScore - A utility tool that reveals the energy efficiency of a home, enabling buyers to make a better informed choice about where to live. Current homeowners can use the tool to learn how they can save energy, or as a starting point for planning "home efficiency" projects.

3. INRIX Drive Time - Have clients who want to reduce their carbon footprint by driving less? INRIX lets agents search for homes within the radius of their client's preferred commute time.

4. WalkScore - Walk Score—and its siblings, Bike Score and Transit Score—rate how easy it is to get around a neighborhood on foot, bicycle, and public transportation. You can add a free Walk Score widget to your real estate site here.

Don't forget to mention any smart home features a listing may have. Though less impressive than, say, a home with a Tesla Powerwall, smart home technology can help homeowners control, monitor, and reduce energy costs. Nearly 40 percent of real estate clients told their agent or broker that smart home features are "important" to them when evaluating a property.

Your turn: Have you noticed a growing interest in sustainability from your client base? What are some of the 'green' real estate questions that consumers ask you most often?