The REsource Newsletter

March 2019

In This Issue


HELIX Solves Green Data Challenges
Sense and Cents: Making the Case for Green
New PBS Series Explains Home Diagnostics
Knowledge Refresh: Weave Your Green Expertise into Listing Presentations 
Tips: Earth Day: Protect the Pollinators

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HELIX Solves Green Data Challenges


As more green, high-performance, and energy efficiency certifications, labels, and scoring mechanisms have come on line, it’s gotten more challenging for real estate practitioners to locate and track such information and ensure that all that high-performance data get into their MLS listings. 

These were some of the issues that Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership (NEEP), Lexington, Mass., considered when it started developing the Home Energy Labeling Information eXchange (HELIX).

“There was a gap in the market, says Samantha Caputo, a NEEP policy and research associate. “We were seeing certifications, labels, and solar becoming available but there wasn’t a way to get the information into the hands of people it mattered to.” 

Those include real estate professionals, appraisers, homebuyers, and renters. 

Verified data
HELIX is a northeast regional database that compiles verified home energy information. That data comes directly from sources like Energy Star, LEED, the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index, and Home Energy Score (HES). 

Though developed and managed by NEEP, HELIX was funded through a Department of Energy State Energy Program grant that was awarded to the state of Vermont. 

The database was piloted in New England and New York. Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont have signed on to use HELIX. 

MLS auto-population
NEEP has gotten input from various entities – REALTORS®, MLSs, and state energy offices – to create a system that makes disseminating the data into MLS listings is simple and clean. 

HELIX collects data and automatically populates MLS listings with a home’s energy information. 
Real estate practitioners don’t need to jump through any extra hoops or be anxious about correctly entering a home’s green data. “For them, there’s no extra work. It’s a seamless auto-population,” says Caputo. Plus, they can be confident that the information is accurate because it’s already been verified by the data provider. 

Benefits for all
That information also flows into the Appraisal Institute’s green addendum, giving appraisers the ability to properly value a home’s green features. 

HELIX is designed to benefit everyone involved in a housing transaction. 

Buyers and renters get a better understanding about energy costs of living in a particular home or condo and can factor those figures into their decision making and budgets.

Cities and states can rely on HELIX to track energy efficiency programs, understand what’s happening in the residential market, and use the data to help them achieve their efficiency policy goals. 

HELIX also can make real estate practitioners’ jobs easier and allow them to better respond to clients who are looking for such information during their home search. “This helps them better serve clients by giving transparency to energy costs and the upgrades that can be made to improve health and comfort,” says Caputo.  

Greater marketplace visibility
HELIX is intended to fulfill NEEP’s overriding mission of making all homes healthy and comfortable places to live. “The first step is making sure that people have the information they need to make informed decisions,” says Caputo.

Caputo notes that HELIX is currently available for jurisdictions beyond the pilot region, and she envisions eventually expanding HELIX beyond its current geographic borders. Through additional funding from Lawrence Berkley National Lab, HELIX will expand to 20 states by 2021. States and MLSs that aren’t working with HELIX, but would like to can reach NEEP by clicking here! 

“People’s ears perk up when I present the idea that they get more money in their pockets by using a green approach.” 

--Scot Chambers ABR

®, GREEN, SRES

®, MCNE, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate GSA Realty, State College, PA. 

Sense and Cents:  Making the Case for Green

Scot Chambers wants to make America green again.  
 
He’s doing it through a three-pronged approach – educating himself, fellow REALTORS®, and the general public in his State College, PA., market, which is home to Penn State University. 
Starting with education is a natural for him, since Chambers’ first career was as a special education teacher. 
 
When he got his real estate license in 2006, Chamber ABR, GREEN, SRES, MCNE of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate GSA Realty, State College, PA., immediately scoped out the designations he could add to improve his knowledge and professionalism. 
Getting NAR’s Green Designation also was a natural. 
 
Chambers’ mother was a zoologist and biologist and his dad was a wildlife management professor. And as a kid, the 61-year-old Chambers spent lots of time in nature at a mountain cabin and says, “From a very young age, I grew up in an environment that already was supporting and believing in environmental principles.” 
 
Here’s how Chambers is putting his green knowledge to work. 
 
Self-education – Chambers participates in a monthly phone call with an architect, a USGBC rep, a green builder, and a fellow NAR Green Designee to talk about green topics, learn from one another, and strategize about how to promote green building.
 
Cents and sense – Given his teaching background, Chambers thought he could make an impact by becoming a certified instruction for the NAR Green Designation. He has one class under his belt and two more are in the works. “Teaching can really increase awareness, and REALTORS® need to understand the cents and sense of green real estate and how to talk with clients about those things,” he comments. 
 
Community education – “There’s greater awareness, and the broader society is more receptive to green concepts than it was five years ago,” notes Chambers. He’s capitalizing on that energy and recently teamed up with several locals who are involved in sustainability topics to develop community education seminars. They include representatives from the State College borough, someone from Penn State’s sustainability committee, an arborist, and a representative of Envinity, a local green builder that recently worked on a net-zero duplex. 
 
He named the program Make America Green Again – Chambers says the Sierra Club gave him permission to co-opt its catchy slogan – and it’s aimed at getting the public up to speed on green topics. The first two events were held in February and March, and two more are scheduled for April and May. 
 
Practical content – The first session provided homeowners and buyers with an overview of what green is and its key benefits, helping attendees understand the fundamental principles and see the big picture. 
 
The second session focused on home improvements – energy audits and simple retrofits, for example. In future sessions, the team will delve into things like net-zero homes, the school district’s plan to chase a LEED certification for its upcoming school renovations, and the solar array a local grocery is installing. 
 
Health, wealth – In his presentation, Chambers addresses health and wealth -- topics that interest the greatest number of people. “People’s ears perk up when I present the idea that they get more money in their pockets by using a green approach,” he comments. 
 
Personal experience – He thinks it’s important to share real-world experiences with audiences. Chamber discusses the benefits of the various places he’s lived – the walkability of an in-town home, for example, and homes farther outside the city that he made greener. He was able to get rid of an oil furnace at one house and do some preliminary work on installing solar power at another. 
 
First Fridays – Chambers’ seminars are held in conjunction with State College’s First Friday event. It’s a monthly celebration for residents that features music, dining, and after-hours access to galleries and shops and is aimed at drawing people downtown State College. The concentration of people broadens the audience for the program. 
 
Chambers’ tips for making education programs successful: 
 
Take a community-based approach. Invite businesses, the city, and the schools to share their stories. Events are held at a co-working space, which raises the profile of the events. C-NET, the local access TV network, also records the sessions and rebroadcasts them. 
 
Focus on practical things and the improved quality of life that green upgrades bring. Show people how they can put money back into their pockets and get a better quality of life by investing in insulation, HVAC systems, and low-VOC products. “When we talk about personal health and wealth, we seem to get interest ‘outside the choir,’” says Chambers. 
 
Keep sessions to about an hour and don’t overwhelm people with too much information. Start with the basics and steadily progress to more complex topics. 
 
“There needs to be an ongoing public education push,” says Chambers. Bring up green topics in casual conversations, talk about projects you’re working on, and provide clients and prospects a steady feed – through a DRIP email campaign or through social media channels -- of local and national green news.

 

New PBS Series Explains Home Diagnostics

When you talk about high-performance home systems and energy audits, clients may give you a blank stare when you describe the tests that are involved. 

They may not understand the science. Some may be skeptical. Others may fear that home upgrades will be too costly. 

Clearing up confusion about high-performance homes
A new PBS series, Home Diagnosis, clears up some of the confusion and misconceptions. 
The show is the brain child of Corbett and Grace Lunsford, who built and tricked out a tiny house with high-performance systems and took it on the road on a 34-city tour during 2016 and 2017. 

The tour gave people a look at those high-performance home systems and helped them understand things like solar panels, high-efficiency ductless mini-split units, and home monitoring systems, as well as how such things contribute to a home’s comfort, performance, and health.  

Scientific testing in action
The Lunsfords have parlayed that knowledge and experience into Home Diagnosis. 
During the six-episode first season, they travel around the country meeting with homeowners and learning about their homes’ problem areas. Then the Lunsfords use scientific testing to assess the properties and identify the source of the trouble. 

Viewers see diagnostic tools like infrared thermal cameras and blower door tests in action and get an up-close view of how each piece of equipment works and the data it produces. 

Throughout the programs, the Lunsfords show and discuss homes’ behind-the-scenes workings – ductwork, HVAC systems, crawlspaces, attics, and so forth – that so often are sources of performance and comfort issues.
 
Behind perfection
One newly renovated house outside Chicago, seems perfect — a high-end kitchen, sleek lighting, and an impeccable décor. 

But behind that façade, problems lurk. There are cold and hot spots. Windows sweat.  There’s moisture. The homeowners considered doing a window replacement. 

But the Lunsfords, using a blower door test and a thermography camera, discover that the problems actually entailed air sealing and insulation issues and an oversized HVAC system. 

In another episode, the pair assess a Rochester, N.Y., home where a man has lived for 30 years. He’s thinking about downsizing and hopes to get top dollar when he sells.
 
He wants to identify the home’s problems – including the source of high utility bills – and decide whether making some high-performance upgrades are worth the cost or if he should leave such changes for the future buyer to make. 

Each episode concludes with the Lunsfords discussing their findings and a list of recommended changes. 

Get a leg-up 
In addition, they address problems that are common to so many homeowners, including poor insulation, leaky ductwork, and the moisture issues that can create or worsen health problems. 
They also deliver nuggets of information that consumers may not know but should. 

For instance, recessed lighting should be insulated. And Grace talks about how home performance information is included in the MLS and that buyers and sellers should look for real estate practitioners who understand such data. 

Corbett explains that homeowners are at a disadvantage if they list a home without knowing the hidden performance issues that will be uncovered during an inspection. Similarly, buyers who don’t get a thorough inspection of a home’s energy performance before making a purchase do themselves a disservice.

Home Diagnosis can give your clients a better understanding of many of the concepts that you’re trying to convey. For you, the show could serve as a knowledge refresh. 
Learn more and watch all six episodes here!  
 
 
 

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Knowledge Refresh: Weave Your Green Expertise into Listing Presentations

 
With the spring selling season in full swing, you’ll likely be meeting with more clients who want advice about listing their homes. 
 
And though you already know the ins and outs of listing presentations and marketing properties, weaving in your green skills into those presentations may require some tweaks. 
 
Review your Green Day 2 materials to be sure you’re not missing out on opportunities to fully highlight your green skills during client meetings. 
 
Here are some strategies.  
 
Customize your information
During your prelisting interview, ask about the home’s green attributes. Then customize your prelisting package based on information the sellers tell you. 
 
It’s an opportunity to set yourself apart from competitors who don’t take time to tailor the content. 
And since you’re promoting and embracing green, deliver the information packet electronically and not in a fancy folder full of paper. 
 
Cover letter
When you confirm the listing appointment, acknowledge the home’s energy efficiency features and compliment homeowners on all they’ve done to live sustainably. 
 
Personal marketing brochure
Highlight your experience with listing and marketing resource-efficient properties and be sure to feature your NAR Green Designation in your marketing brochure. 
 
If you’re involved with green community groups or you sponsor certain green events, be sure to mention them. 
 
Profile your company, team 
Describe your company’s community involvement, values, and actions in the green sphere. Similarly, showcase your team members’ expertise and green credentials. 
 
Testimonials 
Testimonials are always powerful marketing tools that reinforce your expertise and ability to produce satisfactory transactions. Ask past clients for whom you listed energy efficient properties for testimonials. Include those recommendations when you’re working with prospects who are selling similar properties. 
 
Documentation checklist
Ask sellers to compile documentation, including green features, third-party certifications, savings on utility bills, and receipts for upgrades. Such information is crucial to presenting a complete picture of a home’s value and performance. 
 
Listing Presentation
Start with a home tour to build rapport with homeowners and get a sense of a home’s condition and the obvious green features. 
 
As you’re walking around, ask about hidden upgrades like radiant floor heating, low-flow faucets, and formaldehyde-free cabinetry. 
 
Also look out for minor green additions – new showerheads, a recycling center, and a compost bin, for example – a homeowner could make to convey that theirs is a green home. 
 
The sit-down
 
The sit-down portion of the listing appointment is your opportunity to distinguish yourself as a real estate professional with unique green skills. 
 
Highlight your special training in resource-efficient homes, including NAR’s Green Designation. 
Report the number of resource-efficient home sales you’ve completed in the past year. 
Summarize the steps you’ll take to market the home. 
Describe how you reach buyers seeking these types of homes. 
Provide an overview of the market for resource-efficient homes, particularly if demand exceeds supply. 
Provide a list of vendors and service providers who can do suggested repairs and upgrades. 
 
Customized listing kit
 
Be sure to adapt your listing kit’s standard template to accommodate resource-efficient and high-performance properties. 
 
Market overview
 
Create an easy-to-ready chart of local homes that compares green certified and non-certified properties and the price difference between the two. 
 
Comparable market analysis 
Sometimes it’s challenging to find comparable properties. Know that you many need to look farther afield to find such comps. By identifying them now, you also could help the appraiser later. 
 
Documentation checklist
Ask the seller for documentation, including ratings, home certifications and solar leasing papers, to back up resource-efficiency claims. 
 
Such a list is a crucial piece in marketing and appraising the home. Provide a checklist to give sellers a head starts on locating and compiling the documentation. Consult your Green Day 2 materials for a sample checklist. 
 
Marketing plan 
 
The struggle that sellers of resource-efficient homes face is communicating the property’s value to the market. 
 
Describe what you’ll do to get the home sold.  Discuss the sites where the home will be listed—MLSs, Realtor.com, and green-home sites.
 
Inform the sellers about the MLS green data fields and how you’ll use them to attract attention to the home listing.
 
Develop a brochure that presents the home’s green aspects and discuss how you’ll stage the property to highlight its benefits and help prospective buyers understand the hidden features. 

 

This Month's Tips: Earth Day: Protect the Pollinator

This year’s Earth Day (April 22) focuses on protecting species, including bees and insects. By making smart garden choices, you can protect them and improve your community and the planet at the same time. 
 
1. Honey bees are super pollinators that directly affect our supply of fruits and vegetables. Pick bee-friendly flowers, including cosmos, echinacea, and snapdragons for your garden.
 
2. Welcome insects, many of whom are good guys that pollinate plants and flowers and can keep other harmful insects from destroying and degrading crops. Plant native trees, shrubs, and flowers, and avoid pesticides and artificial fertilizers. 
 
3. Learn about pesticides’ effect on human and pollinators’ health. 
 

 

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Consumers More Knowledgeable About Healthy Home Projects


Consumers are getting more knowledgeable about healthy home projects and frequently start the conversation about them when talking with contractors, according to Healthy Home Remodeling: Consumer Trends and Contractor Preparedness, a research brief by the joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. 
 

 

 

 

All articles written by Elyse Umlauf-Garneau unless otherwise noted

 

 

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