The REsource Newsletter
In This Issue
From the Director
I know that some GRC members may feel a bit uncertain about the green housing industry’s future and what changes may be in coming or going during the next few years.
If the events and sentiment I found at the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo are any indication, nothing is going to stall our progress.
Discussions about energy performance, climate change, sustainable communities, and a focus on environmental and building health, were prominent features during the May meetings, and my takeaway is that green has stamina and tentacles. This is all, of course, thanks to a driven and vocal membership who understand the intrinsic value sustainability has in the real estate conversation.
Here are just five indications that green truly is being embraced across the NAR family and steadily gaining ground.
1. Climate change policy. NAR’s Board of Directors passes an updated Climate Change policy. It was the result of multiple working groups collaborating and ensuring that the points that matter to REALTORS® and our industry are included. It addresses creating resilient, sustainable buildings; reducing greenhouse gases and conserving energy; and encourages sustainable practices and energy efficiency through incentives like expedited permitting and tax benefits.
2. REach®. Once again, REach® has chosen to support a green-focused company, Pearl Certification. REach® is a program of Second City Ventures, a venture capital fund of the National Association of REALTORS® that fosters innovation in the real estate industry and provides mentoring and education to promising technology companies. Pearl Certification certifies homes that have features that contribute to a property’s comfort, energy performance, indoor air quality, and value.
3. Reaching out. I did a presentation both to the Smart Growth Advisory Board and to the Land Use Committee about the REALTORS® and Sustainability 2017 Report and the data that directly pertain to the efforts and goals of those two real estate specialties.
4. Sharing NAR’s green message. Incoming president Elizabeth Mendenhall took NAR’s green message and the association’s commitment to sustainability to attendees of the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Summit, which was also going on in Washington D.C., at the same time as the NAR meetings. During her talk, Mendenhall shared compelling data from the REALTORS® and Sustainability 2017 Report and discussed how REALTORS® are taking steps to better understand the benefits of sustainability in real estate and how they’re bringing additional value to transactions.
5. MLS next steps. The next evolution of the greening of the MLS is well underway. A meeting among NAR, RESO, and CMLS representatives assessed the progress of greening the MLS and how green fields can benefit the entire industry, as well as the challenges that remain. Among them is getting all MLS users to utilize the fields when they list a property.
In the coming weeks, I’m looking forward to announcing the winners of the 2017 EverGreen Awards, and the GRC is gearing up for the 2017 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in my hometown, Chicago.
"The Sky's the Limit" is this year’s convention theme, and you can count on us to ensure that the GRC meetings, education, and networking will help you rise higher in your real estate career.
Look forward to seeing you in November.
“People who can't fix a broken clock aren't going to want to fix up an entire building."
--Carla Therese Bruni, co- founder of Community Glue Workshop, Chicago
Light Up Your Business with Solar Know-how
The number of residential solar systems is set to grow at a blistering pace.
“There are over one million systems in the United States right now, and it took us 40 years to get here,” says Pamela Brookstein, a market transformation specialist with Chicago-based Elevate Energy. “In the next two years, the number of systems is going to double.”
You can prepare for the increasing consumer demand for residential solar by taking Elevate Energy’s class, Selling the Sun: Establishing Value for Solar Homes.
It developed a 3-hour training course in residential solar systems for the real estate and appraisal industries after receiving a $445,000 cooperative award from the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative.
The dollars are part of SunShot’s Solar Training and Education for Professionals (STEP) program, an initiative aimed at building a solar workforce by training a wide array of people, including military vets, architects, and real estate professionals.
No longer a niche product
Residential solar, once a pricey niche product, is going mainstream.
“It’s jumped out of the box and it’s gotten to be bigger than just a green issue interesting only to environmentalists,” Brookstein observes. “Every week I meet people who, when they find out that I work in energy efficiency, say, ‘I want to get solar.’”
And more may, since the average price of residential rooftop systems dropped by 30 percent from 2014 to 2016, according to Solar Energy Industries Association® data.
Those lower entry costs only make such systems all the more accessible to a broader swath of homeowners.
Speeding up solar adoption
One of Elevate Energy’s organizational goals is to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity. But first, homeowners need to embrace it and know that solar will be an advantage and not a liability when they sell a house.
Because of your influence on and closeness with the home-buying and -selling public, Elevate Energy looks to you to help make the case for residential solar systems, which is why they chose to seek the support of the Green REsource Council in developing the course. This online course -offered in early July through www.OnlineLearning.realtor -- provides you with the know-how and tools to understand the basics and convey the value of solar to your clients.
Understanding the ins and outs of solar installations can help you differentiate yourself in your market.
Brookstein sees taking Selling the Sun: Establishing Value for Solar Homes as a great companion to the GRC’s Green Course and a natural next step for GRC members. “The GREEN Course mentions solar and this class takes off from there and gives you more details,” she says.
Subhead) Step-by-step understanding
Those details include material designed specifically for real estate practitioners, including abject beginners who don’t know an inverter from a kilowatt.
The class fundamentals, include:
• Components of a solar system
• How a solar PV system generates electricity
• Mounting systems
• Performance monitoring
One module illustrates the various financing options, from direct ownership and solar leases, to power purchase agreements.
You’ll also learn what information to collect so appraisers can accurately value a solar property; tools for establishing a list price; and how to use MLS features to your advantage.
Industries in sync
Knowing that appraisers play a central role, its efforts to speed the adoption of solar, Elevate Energy also developed a class, Valuation Resources for Solar Photovoltaic Systems for Appraisers. It arms appraisers with the necessary knowledge to properly value solar installations.
Elevate Energy anticipates that more than 5,000 real estate professionals and 700 appraisers will undergo the training.
The real estate and appraisal industries working hand in hand can only help in compelling homeowners to more quickly embrace solar and enjoy its benefits.
Learn more about the class, eligible for CE credit, and register for it here
Back to Basics: Chasing the Fourth “R”
Everyone has them: broken electronics, lamps with shorts, and coffee pots that suddenly stop working mid-brew.
Planned obsolescence, the strategy of creating goods with a shorter shelf life to keep consumers replacing household workhorses, is good for manufacturers but not so great for your pocketbook or the waste stream.
And since most neighborhood repair shops have closed, broken things usually are destined for the landfill.
But repair clinics are popping up to replace those neighborhood tinkerers who used to be able to fix anything.
The Repair Café movement got its start in Europe and the concept has spread around the globe.
Known by names like Community Glue Workshops, the Fixers Collective, U-fix-it, and Fix-It Clinics, they connect people who have broken stuff to coaches or fixers with the skills, tools, and parts to make a repair.
They help consumers resist manufacturers’ not-so-subtle nudge to constantly replace and upgrade items that should last longer than they do. “This growing repair movement is a way to respond to that planned obsolescence,” says Tom Watson, the project manager of King County EcoConsumer public outreach program in Seattle.
He runs repair groups across the county --15 events took place last year and 20 will be held this year -- aimed at promoting waste reduction. “We’re reaching a diverse population and it’s a way to build a sense of community, welcome everyone, and provide a concrete service,” he says.
People routinely bring in toasters, coffee pots, lamps, kitchen mixers, sewing machines, window blinds, hair dryers, and electronic gadgets. Mending clothes and backpacks also is popular at workshops around the country.
Some workshops have experts make the fixes for people.
Others, like the U-Fix-It Clinic in Boulder, Colo., teaches people how to take things apart and repair them on their own. Some who have never even held a screwdriver work with coaches to open, explore, and try to fix their item, according to Dan Matsch, manager of Eco-Cycle's Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials, Boulder, who manages the U-Fix-It Clinics.
“They immediately develop a deeper relationship with their object and get a sense of how it works,” he says.
What becomes obvious when they crack things open is the shoddy parts that are used and how cheaply many things are made. “Once you see it yourself, you get a better appreciation of how things work,” Matsch adds.
Quality, durability, and the fourth “r”
Watson sees various motivations among attendees. Some grew up with Depression-era parents or grandparents who emphasized fixing and saving, some have objects with sentimental value, others embrace the environmental movement, and many just can’t afford to replace items.
And the tinkering and fixing have benefits beyond just leaving with a working lamp or vacuum.
“Without us saying anything, people find out the value of buying more durable, well-made items once they see that things break within a few months of buying them,” observes Watson.
Carla Therese Bruni, co-founder of Chicago’s Community Glue Workshop, laments that though the environmental movement has focused on reducing, reusing, and recycling, not enough attention has been given to the fourth “r” – repairing.
“This seemed like a huge fail, given that most things can be repaired multiple times before they are thrown out or recycled,” she says.
Webinar: Making Home Energy Measurements as Simple, Understandable as MPG
Understanding and measuring a home’s energy use, features, and cost-effectiveness can get complicated and confusing, especially for home buyers and sellers.
But nearly everyone can relate to the concept of miles per gallon (MPG).
In developing its Home Energy Score (HES), the U.S. Department of Energy worked to make energy efficiency concepts and measurements as clear and as simple as MPG is to consumers.
Sure, you can get a sense of a home’s energy costs by looking at utility bills, but they could be misleading because they don’t account for residents’ energy habits.
The HES disregards occupants’ behavior and uses input from more than 40 data points to evaluate a home’s energy performance. That objective evaluation allows buyers to make apples-to-apples comparisons of homes.
And the HES report is free of confusing mumbo-jumbo and provides the need-to-know information in clear terms that a layperson can understand.
The DOE’s Joan Glickman discussed the HES during the GRC’s June Webinar, along with the ways you can incorporate HES into your business to help you better service clients.
Use the tool to:
• Provide buyers with the information they need to make smart, cost-effective decisions.
• Build trust with buyers by helping them make informed decisions.
• Protect clients from unexpected costs and discomfort.
• Be an ongoing resource for both sellers and buyers on ways to make smart home improvements and to maintain and enhance a home’s value over time.
• Help sellers showcase their homes’ energy efficiency features to prospective buyers and ensure that the energy investments and upgrades they’ve made are valued.
Listen to the complete webinar to learn the details about HES and how you can use the tool to differentiate yourself and your listings.
This Month's Tips: Garden Designs that Dazzle
If you’re struggling to make your ho-hum garden dazzle, check out Garden Design magazine’s resources.
Its guide, “How to Design Your Dream Garden,” illustrates how to establish focal points, use color, and incorporate personal touches.
Some of what you’ll find:
1. Plan your garden with an eye toward creating visual interest for three seasons.
2. Think in terms of combining plants, materials, and hardscapes that are fine and bold, dark and light, and soft and hard.
3. Incorporate plants that support wildlife.
Solar Moves to Center Stage
The average price of residential rooftop systems dropped by 30 percent from 2014 to 2016, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association®. That may speed the adoption of residential solar.
Here are some findings on the topic from the National Association of REALTORS’® REALTORS® and Sustainability 2017 Report, including REALTORS'® observations of residential solar panels on homes in their market, as well as the perceived impact solar PV may have on home value and time on market.
All articles written by Elyse Umlauf-Garneau unless otherwise noted