California has a goal that all new home construction, by 2020, will be required to be Zero Net Energy (ZNE). There are many definitions as to what a ZNE building is, but the general consensus means that the building produces and consumes an equal amount of energy. This ambitious plan is just a few years away, and yet for existing home sales, many current Multiple Listing Services (MLS) do not have many property fields, if any at all, associated with certified green homes or homes with green features.
These green fields could include anything from a green home certification by a third party such as Build It Green or LEED, or they could include any number of easily recognized green features such as solar panels and gray water systems to less well known features like passive solar design or advanced framing techniques. Not familiar with some of those terms? That’s ok, because you are not alone.
In San Diego, REALTORS® have just a small handful of items in our MLS that we can select from to indicate a green feature of a home. For a potential home buyer searching or a REALTOR® trying to market their client’s home with green features, this makes the task incredibly difficult with so few tools. Searching for a home with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths is easy, but what about a home with professionally air-sealed ducts for a family with an asthmatic child? Green features, after all, are not only about saving money and conserving resources; many can potentially impact the health of the inhabitants.
Referring back to the 2020 goal for all new residential construction to be ZNE, not having a wide range of green fields in the MLS now is setting ourselves up for a difficult transition, if not failure. There is an understandable lack of knowledge on both the consumer and industry levels as to what green features are and their correlating value. Personally, I love ‘green topics’ and have earned the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Green Designation, but I constantly am finding myself learning about products and systems that are new to me.
The information found in green fields in the MLS provide a solution by helping educate home buyers and sellers, as well as real estate agents, mortgage lenders, and appraisers, through familiarization with the terminology, features, and systems of a certified green home or a home with green features. Another important result will be the ability for the entire industry to track the value of these features. If an appraiser, who reports on the value of a home, looks at two comparable properties in the same neighborhood, but one sold for more due to its green features, then that is an important distinction.
To help further this solution, I am currently a member of the Green MLS Working Group, formed by the Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE), comprising of REALTORS® like myself, lenders, home inspectors, contractors, and CSE staff. Together we are in the process of analyzing other MLSs, which have already implemented green features and compiling our own master list of fields we would like added to San Diego’s MLS. It is a step-by-step process to discuss the importance of a given field as related to the uniqueness of San Diego, while also being mindful of scenarios where a feature would need to be verified, and by whom, because any changes or additions must ultimately be vetted by the board of the Greater San Diego Association of REALTORS®, (SDAR).
So, in conclusion, what can you do? Education is key:
- If you are a home owner… Try learning one or two ways you can add a green feature to your home. CSE, or a NAR Green Designee are both great resources for this.
- If you are a potential home buyer or seller that cares about this topic… I encourage you to seek out a real estate agent who is a NAR Green Designee.GreenHomeAgents.com and GreenResourceConcil.org are both great places to search.
- If you are a real estate agent… Tell your local REALTOR® association you want green fields in your MLS. GreenTheMLS.org is an excellent place to find support to help in your own area.
As we move forward, many green features will turn from optional features to standard requirements. It is important to stay ahead of the curve by educating ourselves, which begins with access to basic information.