It’s a common lament from those in the energy efficiency world—why can’t we get the real estate industry to more fully embrace energy efficiency?
There are many reasons. Sometimes, the most important “green” features of a home are invisible, literally sealed into the attic or programmed into appliances, lighting, or other systems, so real estate agents may not notice these features or may not know how to verify them. Standard appraisal forms include just one small box for “energy efficiency features,” which fails to capture important details, such as comprehensive efficiency upgrades versus more superficial ones. And while the appraisal industry has begun to educate and certify appraisers who work with high performance homes, there is no simple way to match these competent appraisers to relevant assignments.
Why does CNT Energy care? As an implementer of energy efficiency programs, we understand how important it is for upgrades to be transparent to players in the real estate market, so they can make informed decisions when buying, selling, or appraising a home.
The good news is the real estate industry is making progress when it comes to documenting and valuing energy efficiency improvements.
In 2011, for example, the Appraisal Institute, a membership association of professional real estate appraisers, released a Green and Energy Efficiency Addendum, a form widely received as a way to address and document features when appraising high performance homes.
From national certification groups to local energy efficiency programs, all types of organizations are looking to incorporate this information after a new home is built or an existing home has been remodeled.
Two more tools scheduled for release this spring aim to help make the process of buying and selling a high performance home clear and effective. These tools will make a green home’s features transparent to players in the real estate market:
- A BPI and ANSI standard will bring consistency to the process of recording the upgrades completed during a retrofit. BPI, or Building Performance Institute, and ANSI, which stands for American National Standards Institute, act like a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval that contractors can use to document their work and for others to feel confident that the retrofits are of high quality.
- The Multiple Listing Service, or MLS, allows Realtors in a given market area to add or search available homes for sale. A new guide will help real estate agents become consistent in how they describe high performance homes in an MLS listing. Currently, there are no clear standards for agents to follow when documenting a home’s green attributes.
Combined, these tools represent an important step forward.
Now contractors and energy efficiency program providers need to use them as they become available. As this information becomes more consistent and more widely used in real estate markets, everyone involved in a real estate transaction will better understand the attributes of a high performance home and how to factor that information into their decision making.
Laura Reedy Stukel, Realtor – EcoBroker Certified, NAR Green, contributed to this post.