When we think of the word “green” in relation to the real estate world, it can mean different things to different people. While not every buyer or seller is necessarily thinking about big-picture green topics, the concepts of utility costs, comfort and health are universal when it comes to owning and living in a home.
This is one of the main reasons the National Association of REALTORS® introduced its Green Designation in 2008, designed to offer those in the real estate game advanced training in resource-efficient building strategies and sustainable business. NAR Green Designees learn how to better understand client preferences in relation to new trends, and understand and market the benefits provided by properties with green features.
Rick Thompson, a partner and exclusive broker with Brightleaf Homes, one of Chicagoland’s premier high-performance homebuilders, and a 2015 Department of Energy Housing Innovation Award winner, sees green resonating long-term.
“I believe that green buildings are the future of the housing industry,” says Thompson. “As building codes continue to evolve with stricter requirements for things such as higher window and door performance, higher insulation levels and air sealing, outdated homes without mandated green features and amenities will become less desirable to buyers—and even obsolete compared to green homes that meet (or exceed) building codes, that are energy-efficient, more comfortable, and healthier to live in,” he adds. “In 2016, I believe that consumers will demand higher quality products that are healthier for them and their families and be willing to pay a premium for a superior home.”
Colin Johnson, a D.C. broker and current president-elect for the District of Columbia Association of REALTORS®, also sees great value in NAR’s Green Designation. In fact, he’s been involved in educating REALTORS® on the value proposition of green homes and features since earning the designation.
“NAR did this big introductory push, traveling the country and providing educational seminars, so I attended one of the two-day-long seminars to get the designation, and have continued to be involved in the education pieces,” he says. “One of the things I feel is most important is the conversation that it sparks with a lot of my clients. Every one of my buyers and sellers gets a welcome presentation from me, and part of that is my qualification.”
From there, Johnson can gauge his clients’ interest and knowledge of green practices.
“Most have some basic knowledge of green technology, mostly around big aspects, such as what kind of products may cause better air quality,” he says. “One of the things I think is interesting is that light and airflow may not be at the top of their minds, but when people look at properties and see a huge abundance of natural light, they feel better and tend to like those more. That gets brought into the conversation.”
In January, the Center for Sustainable Energy awarded the Sustainable Energy Champion Award to J. Daniel Geddis, a broker’s assistant in San Diego, Calif., for his “personal dedication and leadership in educating homebuyers, sellers and fellow real estate agents on energy and water efficiency.”
Utilizing what he learned from the Green Designation through the National Association of REALTORS®, Geddis was a big proponent in volunteer efforts to add energy and water efficiency features as fields in the San Diego MLS.
“When buying a home, the concept of PITI is very common. What is not necessarily formally factored in, however, is the utility cost. Long after a mortgage is paid off, the utility cost will still remain,” he says. “I see an increasing number of potential homeowners factoring this cost into whether or not they can afford a home. With that point, I believe it will be increasingly important that as REALTORS®, we have the ability to provide pertinent information about the energy and water efficiency of a property.”
In addition, with the onslaught of innovative websites and apps targeting real estate, Geddis feels it’s important for MLSs to stay ahead of the curve and be just as innovative in many aspects, including providing information.
Geddis includes his Green Designation on all his marketing and advertising materials—from print to online. In addition to helping his clients, it has created numerous networking opportunities.
“Having my Green Designation has helped get me introduced to others working in the energy and water efficiency space, which opens the door to meeting more people and attending informative events,” he says. “I have found the green community to be very supportive and happy to share knowledge. All of this, in turn, helps add additional value to the knowledge and service I can offer my clients.”
Thompson agrees that the networking possibilities and opportunities to connect with other green agents are some of the biggest benefits in having earned NAR’s Green Designation.
“It’s a good way of sharing ideas, as well as being able to further market listings to other agents who may have clients who are specifically looking for something green,” he says. “The Green Designation is a great platform to help educate buyers, sellers and other brokers of the value of green housing.”
While several years ago the concept of building and living a green lifestyle was looked at as more of a fringe interest, Geddis believes that it has become much more commonplace today.
“In California, we’re facing a drought, and energy rates tend to only rise. I can see these factors opening up the possibility that there could be more government requirements at both the state and local level in the way of retrofits or disclosures,” he says. “It’s important to stay ahead of these things so as not to always be playing catch-up.”
As NAR’s Green Designation receives more recognition and continues to be marketed, buyers that are looking for homes that are more resource-efficient, more comfortable—and healthier—will seek out agents with the credentials to assist in their search for properties with documented green additions or upgrades. Clients will continue to rely on their expertise and advice to help them distinguish which homes contain the benefits that green features provide.
For more information, visit GreenREsourceCouncil.org/find-nar-green-designee.