Sustainability Advocates in Real Estate
By Madeline McElaney
Energy efficiency and sustainable energy in buildings has been my passion and my career for over 15 years. During that time I have seen countless property owners in the central New Hampshire region where I live make energy improvements to their homes. From spray foam and pipe insulation in the basement, to shiny sexy PV panels on the rooftops, central NH has a reputation for being ahead of the curve when it comes to energy efficiency and renewable energy in our buildings.
When asked why they made these changes to their buildings, the property owners’ reasons ranged from money saved on heating and cooling costs, to creating a more comfortable and cozy home, to better indoor air quality, to energy independence, to “it’s just the right thing to do as stewards of this planet.”
But what happens when it’s time to sell your energy efficient home? How would your homes’ HERS rating, LEED certification, or solar photovoltaic system affect the resale value of your home or business? The answer used to be kind of vague and discouraging.
I remember five years ago when I was refinancing my mortgage, I proudly showed the appraiser the solar hot water panels on my roof and told him about the attic insulation we had added with a R value of 60, and the spray foam under the house with a R value of 30. “It takes a cord and a half of wood per year to heat our house!” I said. “That’s nice, but I can’t see the insulation and it doesn’t change your home value” was our appraiser’s reply.
Recently I learned that this is no longer true. I was attending the National Realtors Association Green Designation course in Nashua, NH and learned of multiple resources available to appraisers, Realtors, and property owners to help people buy and sell high performance buildings. It was kind of like that classic moment in “The Wizard of Oz” where the movie shifts from black and white to technicolor. The real estate world now has tools and programs in place to help you buy or sell a high performance (aka green) home. And high performance homes are selling at a higher price and spending less time on the market.
Here are some of the tools available to give your green home a fair value at the closing of a real estate transaction:
- There is a national effort to green the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), the platform where all realtors list property for sale. There are fields within a listing where your realtor can enter things like third party home certifications and geothermal heating.
- There is an online tool called PV Value which does exactly that. It asks for your address and some basic information about your solar photovoltaic system and then estimates the value of an installed photovoltaic system. Find this free tool at www.pvvalue.com.
- Property owners also have the right to request a competent appraiser. This means that if you are selling your property and you know that your property has high performance features like a LEED certification or a state-of-the-art pellet-fueled boiler, you or your realtor or real estate broker can request that your appraiser has completed the Valuation of Sustainable Buildings Professional Development Program and uses the Green Addendum as part of the appraisal process to ensure that your building is properly evaluated. (http://bit.ly/green_appraisal)
If you are thinking of buying or selling a green home, look for a realtor who can respond to your specific needs. Your Green Designated Realtor has a comprehensive understanding of how homes with green features should be marketed differently than traditional homes. He or she can work as your advocate throughout the process of helping you buy or sell a high performance building. There are many realtors throughout the distribution territory of Green Energy Times who proudly carry the National Association of Realtors Green Designation. You can find them all at http://www.greenresourcecouncil.org.
Madeline McElaney received the National Association of Realtors Green Designation. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-306-4348.