Realtors® and Home Buyers Going Green
As a green realtor® passionate about the planet’s future and our own, you can play an important role in delivering the message of sustainability to homeowners and support a greener, healthier real estate industry.
With continued advances in energy efficiency, green technology and design, houses built today operate more sustainably than they did several decades ago. There is also a growing number of homebuyers desiring green homes.
In the National Association of Home Builders 2021 edition of “What Home Buyers Really Want”, the national survey showed that the demand for green homes is primarily driven by the desire for lower utility costs. While 78% of buyers share concern about the environmental impact of their home, only 15% are willing to pay more for an eco-friendly home. However, 57% of home buyers are willing to pay $5,000 or more, on top of the price of the home, if it means saving $1,000 in annual utility costs.
In this article, we discuss the benefits that come from owning an eco-friendly home and how a green realtor stays on top of competition through effective marketing and sustainability commitment.
Why Green Homes Should Matter to Homebuyers and You
To be an impactful green realtor, it’s crucial to understand homebuyer preferences and how buyers perceive sustainability. Owning or renting a sustainable home (and this also applies to apartments, condominiums, hotels, gated communities, RV parks and residences of all types) unlocks many benefits to the resident and the community at large such as:
- Cost savings
- Increased property value
- Healthy homes and neighborhoods
- Climate change mitigation
Sustainability features of green homes growing in popularity include:
- Smart technology and home automation
- Energy efficiency
- Resource conservation
- Green, non-toxic building materials
- Home renewable energy systems
Home Automation and the Luxury of Convenience
Green homes today, whether newly constructed or retrofitted, are typically equipped with smart technology and appliances that automate many home tasks with resource-saving precision.
- Smart thermostats, such as the Google Nest Learning Thermostat and the Ecobee Smart Thermostat with Voice Control, learn your temperature-adjust habits and schedule, allowing for the most efficient hands-free temperature control. Using remote sensors to detect temperature imbalances, smart thermostats can achieve an even heating and cooling throughout your home as well as turn off the HVAC when you’re away, saving on energy and money.
- Automated lighting can be as earth-friendly as it is aesthetically pleasing. Philips Hue Smart Lighting, for example, is a line of LED automated lighting that displays fantastic, mood-setting gradients of white light or color, all while saving up to 80% of energy use compared to incandescent bulbs. Controlled via the Hue phone app, voice control or smart switches, you can set the lights to turn on or off based on your schedule. Available in bulbs, lamps, pendants and even outdoor lightning, Philips Hue offers convenience and ambience to every part of your home. Philips offers an online energy calculator for consumers to figure out just how much energy they use.
- Certified high-efficiency appliances such as the LG Electronics 5.0 cu. ft. Ultra Large Capacity Front Load washing machine utilizes sensors to measure your laundry load before submerging in water and choose the most efficient wash cycle (Note: This model in particular allows you to monitor your laundry via the ThinQ app).
- Another certified green appliance, the Whirlpool 21 cu. ft. Side-by-Side refrigerator uses LED lighting throughout and is at least 15% more energy efficient than the minimum federal efficiency standard.
- You can find a whole archive of certified energy efficient appliances on the ENERGY STAR product finder.
In an age where many homeowners are juggling jobs, kids and run-of-the-mill life maintenance, convenience from home automation is a key desirable. According to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies and a 2015 survey by The Demand Institute, half of homeowners preparing to do home improvement projects said they were excited to incorporate more smart home technology, while 30% stated they were somewhat or very likely to install such updates. The survey also revealed that those who placed the most importance on home automation technologies are younger, have higher income and property value, and live in urban areas.
Resource Conservation and Cost Savings
The benefits of home automation extends beyond the luxury of convenience, however. Smart tech and green appliances are designed to be resource efficient which helps conserve our planet’s invaluable resources and in doing so, cuts down on energy and utility bills.
According to the National Resource Defense Council, U.S. energy use is roughly the same as it was in 2000 despite a 30% boost in economic growth. By 2050, it may be possible to reduce 550 million metric tons of carbon pollution through the combined use of efficient appliances, lighting and equipment, as well as better insulation, weatherization and building methods.
Tax credits and rebates are offered by some cities, states and the federal government to encourage the purchase of energy efficient products.
Many smart appliances also generate valuable consumer reports on resource use. This information is as enlightening as it is helpful and can be used as a guide to shape consumer habits, conserve resources more efficiently and yield greater savings.
Green Building Materials
Let’s not forget that what makes a home green isn’t all gadgets and gizmos. Non-toxic, sustainable, and ethically-sourced building materials are equally important in minimizing environmental impact and health risks. Derived from natural and renewable resources, green building materials include everything from reclaimed wood and recycled steel to non-VOC paints and plant-based plastics.
The EPA states that green building materials and techniques can cut energy consumption by 33% and water consumption by 30%. This not only lowers utility bills and supports affordable housing, but reducing the demand on resources in one location helps minimize scarcity elsewhere (this is particularly true of areas with prolonged droughts). Further, green building materials reduce the health risks from being exposed to toxic, conventional materials – i.e. headaches and dizziness; eye, throat and nose irritation; and certain cancers and respiratory disease due to long-term exposure.
Home Renewable Energy Systems
The options for home renewable energy systems continue to grow as technology advances and prices drop. Such systems include solar photovoltaic (PV), wind electric, microhydropower, and hybrid systems (solar + wind), and may be used as a stand-alone system or grid-connected (which allows you to sell any excess power you produce back to your electricity provider). There is some investigating necessary to figure out the proper system size for a home such as calculating current electricity use, how it fluctuates throughout the day, and local codes and regulations.
Homebuyers not ready to electrify their entire home with renewable energy can still enjoy the benefits of green energy on a smaller scale. Solar water heaters, solar ovens, residential small-scale biodigesters, and electric/plug-in hybrid vehicles are all ways to reduce dependency on fossil fuels.
To help homebuyers navigate renewable energy options and find financial support, offer these helpful resources:
- Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE)
- Federal and state tax credits for solar PV systems
- Residential Property Assessed Clean Energy (R-PACE) loans
- Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Energy Efficient Mortgage Program
- Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs)
- Federal tax credits for all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles
- Rebates for residential electric vehicle chargers
- Recent state updates on electric vehicle programs and incentives
- ENERGY STAR solar water heaters
- Best solar powered AC units
- Best solar ovens of 2022
Increased Property Value and Nice Neighborhoods
Having updated infrastructure and greater energy-efficiency puts green homes higher up in the housing market, a huge comfort for green homeowners whether or not they are planning to sell right away. According to research from Freddie Mac, homes with high energy efficiency ratings sell for 2.7% more than unrated homes. The same research shows that homeowners with higher debt-to-income ratios – 45% and higher – who have energy-rated homes managed monthly mortgage payments better than owners of unrated homes.
Homeowners can keep up with market competition by making short and long-term investments in resource efficient appliances and equipment, green building materials, and regular home maintenance.
Buying a green home also means buying into a green neighborhood that likely shares similar values around sustainability and being a good steward. Green homes with higher property value tend to create cleaner and safer neighborhoods to live in. While this is great news for those who can afford it, there is an unfortunate truth that must be recognized.
Low-income neighborhoods that lack access to resources such as fresh, nutritious foods, healthcare, and education, are also deprived of sustainable housing development, energy-efficiency measures (i.e. repairing insulation leaks), and sustainability products (i.e. clean energy and automation technology).
If the world is to achieve a truly equitable, low-carbon future, then sustainable options must be affordable and available for everyone. As a green realtor, you can use your position and knowledge to help drive that change.
Social Responsibility and Healthy Communities
Purchasing a green home or retrofitting an older one is an act of social responsibility towards one’s family, neighbors and beyond. Amidst a tense and volatile political and global backdrop, homeowners can enjoy some peace of mind knowing that their everyday lives have a positive impact on the world.
And, as mentioned earlier, sustainable homes with higher property values can lead to the creation of greener, cleaner neighborhoods, supporting the local economy and community environment.
How to Market Green Homes and Attract Homebuyers
Tell Them the Facts
While you don’t want to tread on someone’s political views and beliefs, don’t be afraid to bring up the important facts around the environmental impact of housing and development. After all, being a true green realtor means being an advocate for sustainability.
As of 2019, there are roughly 120.92 million households in the U.S., 70% of which are single-family. According to a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), about 20% of U.S. energy-related greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) come from heating, cooling and powering homes.
The study concludes that a significant reduction in residential GHGs requires aggressive home retrofits to cut energy demand, reductions in-home energy use (behavioral change), and grid decarbonization.
Show Them the Numbers
For homebuyers unfamiliar with (or indifferent to) the importance of living more sustainably, show them the cost savings they’ll earn from investing in energy-efficiency and green upgrades. There are several online calculators that can help consumers figure out their long-term energy efficiency savings such as the ENERGY STAR Savings Calculator for HVAC systems and a solar calculator from Energy Sage. As the saying goes, “money talks”.
Walk the Green Walk
Selling a green home and the benefits of sustainable living means you better “walk the green walk”. Realtors gain credibility and homebuyer trust when they, too, are making an active effort to do business more sustainably. As a green realtor, you can display your commitment to sustainability by:
- Designing your office space with energy-efficient appliances and certified green products.
- Choosing business cards and other paper materials made from recycled post-consumer content.
- Adopting mindful waste management and energy use practices
- Becoming a third-party certified sustainable business.
- Creating a Green Mission Statement that includes what sustainability means to you and your agency, and what efforts you’re making to support a healthier future. Include this mission statement on your website or a press release, and share it among all your stakeholders.
- Donate to a nonprofit organization such as the Energy & Environmental Building Association (EEBA) or the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild
There is a growing amount of research that points to the same truth: More homebuyers are wanting greener homes. With so many sustainable options available and prices becoming readily more affordable, homeowners are able to tap into cost savings, create healthier living spaces, and aid in planet welfare without forfeiting any comforts of living.
As a green realtor, you can help drive the real estate industry towards greater sustainability and social responsibility by:
- Selling the benefits of owning a green home
- Convenience through smart tech and home automation
- Cost savings through high efficiency appliances and regular home maintenance
- Increased property value and greener, cleaner neighborhoods
- Resource conservation through energy efficiency and renewable energy options
- Reduction in health risks via non-toxic, green building materials
- Climate change mitigation and social responsibility
- Actively committing to sustainability within your own agency
- Choosing energy-efficient, low-carbon products for your office space
- Following best practices for energy use and waste management.
- Becoming a certified sustainable business
- Communicating your sustainability commitment to all stakeholders
- Supporting nationwide or global efforts towards a greener, more equitable future