With sustainability taking the forefront of many company agendas, the real estate industry is due for a seismic shift. Demand for real estate companies that practice sustainability is rapidly increasing and is expected to accelerate upwards as younger generations enter the housing market. In fact, a recent report by the National Association of Realtors found that 68% of buyers want an environmentally-friendly home. Prospective home buyers want to see that their realtor is keeping up with the global trend towards sustainability. So, whether you’re a small-time realtor or running a large real estate agency, making your practice eco-friendly can be a key differentiator between you and the competition on the market today. Becoming more sustainable also helps companies realize cost savings and as a result, drive up profits. This article will provide tips on how to make your agency greener and capitalize on the upcoming ‘green wave’ in real estate.
How Realtors Impact the Environment
While real estate is not nearly as environmentally damaging as compared to other resource-intensive industries, there are a few aspects of real estate that cause its footprint to be significant.
- Excessive paper waste from mail campaigns, brochures, and contracts
- Carbon emissions resulting from unnecessary travel, the energy needed to run websites and the houses themselves
- E-waste from outdated and idle electronics
Organized from most to least impactful, here are some initiatives for realtors to tackle in order to lower their environmental footprint:
- Reduce Paper and Print
- Conduct Virtual Tours
- Invest in Electric Vehicles
- Recycle or Donate E-Waste
- Use a Green Website Hosting Service
- Promote Sustainable “Eco Homes”
REDUCE PAPER AND PRINT
The amount of resources that are wasted by real estate firms’ use of printing is extraordinary – but it doesn’t have to be. By limiting the amount of printing you do and by using eco-friendly printing options when it’s necessary, your agency can cut costs, drastically reduce paper waste and conserve the wealth of resources used to make it.
Four specific recommendations:
- End Print Brochures: Replace expensive, largely-ignored brochures with links to captivating online marketing. Virtual brochures can be updated at any time, offer a variety of customization options (even for the not-so-artistically-inclined) and can link a potential buyer directly to your listing, making their search effortless.
- Ditch Mail-Out Flyers, Adopt Email Campaigns: Mail-out flyer printing and delivery are accompanied by high printing costs, tremendously low conversion rates and emissions from mail delivery. A more affordable and effective way to generate visibility and attract new clients to your agency is through email campaigns. Email campaigns offer many incentives to recipients that paper flyers cannot such as free downloads and eBooks. Further, email campaigns can be automated to send emails based on actions such as when a recipient downloads a file. Campaigns can be segmented too, meaning you can send customized messages based on demographics, interests, clients versus non-clients, etc.
- Switch to Digital Contracts: Paper documents are cumbersome, costly, and carry risk (if important documents are misplaced). Additionally, requiring clients to sign a physical contract limits your reach. Mailing a contract to a client who lives out of state or the country is time-consuming, inconvenient and prone to possible delays. By using apps such as DocuSign, you can make exchanging paperwork a breeze, saving time, money and paper in the process.
- Use Eco-Friendly Printing Materials When Needed: While most printing in your business can be eliminated, there will be times when printing is necessary (open houses, ads, “For Sale” signs, etc.). When this is the case, you can make the sustainable choice by using eco-friendly materials and inks. From banners to posters, Greenerprinter is an environmentally-friendly printing company that can handle whatever your printing needs may be.
CONDUCT VIRTUAL TOURS
Another great way to make your agency more eco-friendly is by transitioning in-person tours to virtual tours as much as possible. By meeting virtually, you eliminate the need for you and your client to drive across town, thus decreasing gas use and time wasted on the road. Also, virtual tours expand your range of clients because they can be done from anywhere in the world. While there used to be hesitancy in the real estate world around virtual showings, the Covid pandemic has proven them to be effective. Clients will likely still want to visit properties before finalizing their purchase, but at least for the initial consultation, virtual tours work wonders. One popular software for implementing stunning 3-D virtual tours is Matterport.
INVEST IN ELECTRIC VEHICLES
When it’s time to update your fleet, go electric. These vehicles showcase an eco-conscious image to clients, are cost-competitive with gas-powered cars and realize significant savings. On top of that, the U.S. and Canada offer federal and state rebates and tax credits for electric car purchases, making this investment more feasible than ever. If you live in the U.S., check out Electric For All to compare electric vehicle prices and incentives available in your area.
RECYCLE OR DONATE E-WASTE
Over the years, your business is sure to generate a large amount of e-waste from outdated or idle electronic gadgets like cellphones and tablets. Once they’ve reached end-of-life, electronics are treated as invaluable trash and often thrown straight into landfills. Even when people try to recycle their old gadgets, they often put them into typical recycling bins which don’t accept them and instead send them to the dump.
The truth is that outdated electronics contain many valuable components such as gold and copper that can be recycled into new raw material, thus conserving our supply of precious metals. Donating e-waste can also help those in impoverished areas that can’t afford the latest iPhone. So, instead of tossing your old phones, tablets and computers in the trash, recycle or donate them. Rubicon offers e-waste recycling across the US. If your gadgets are reasonably new and in good condition, donating them is the most responsible option. For computers, the World Computer Exchange is a good option to get your idle electronics into hands that could use them. For old cell-phones, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence will take, refurbish and sell them to help fund their admirable cause.
USE A GREEN WEBSITE HOSTING SERVICE
Considering how much realtors rely on their online presence to connect with clients and potential buyers, it’s important to ensure your website is also running green. At the heart of website hosting services are data centres which run computations all day, using exorbitant amounts of energy in the process. Most data centres are powered by local, fossil-fuel reliant energy grids that pump out significant carbon emissions. Some website hosts, however, are rejecting this model and are powering their data centres with clean, renewable energy. Switch to a sustainable website hosting service like Green Geeks to take a strong step toward making your business carbon-neutral.
PROMOTE SUSTAINABLE “ECO HOMES”
Realtors are in a unique position to help support the building of low-carbon homes through their impression on and interaction with home buyers. “Eco homes” are houses that have minimal impact on the environment and use far less energy and resources than traditional houses. There are many benefits of buying eco-friendly homes that you can display to your prospects to encourage them to choose sustainably. These benefits include:
- Significant Cost-Savings: Eco homes have far lower utility bills than traditional homes due to greater energy efficiency and resource conservation
- Enhanced Livability: Eco homes utilize more natural light and airflow inside, creating a more uplifting and comfortable atmosphere.
- Improved Health and Safety: Built with non-toxic, non-irritative materials such as paints and designed with optimal ventilation, eco homes preserve indoor air quality and protect human health and safety.
- Low Carbon Construction Process: Eco home construction typically limits the amount of carbon emissions produced through the materials used and the building process itself.
Making changes within your real estate practice to be more sustainable can provide a plethora of benefits, allowing you to:
- Attract eco-conscious homebuyers and capture the up-and-coming demand for green real estate
- Reduce operational costs and save precious time and resources
- Increase the range of clients you can reach
- Enhance your brand and set yourself apart from the competition
One last consideration in making your practice eco-friendly is ensuring that you get the credit you deserve by becoming green business certified. With Green Business Bureau’s certification program and tools, you can validate your agency’s progress and accomplishments and showcase this commitment to the world.
About The Author
GBB Green Ambassador
Dylan West is a content creator for the Green Business Bureau who is passionate about the pursuit of a better future through sustainable business. He is currently working toward an undergraduate degree in Business Management from the University of Western Ontario in Canada. Outside of his professional life, Dylan enjoys playing sports and exploring the natural splendor that surrounds his home in Vancouver.