The REsource Newsletter
In This Issue
Yes, Consumers Want Your Green Knowledge
There’s growing interest in and demand for sustainable properties among consumers.
That’s the news from the recent REALTORS® and Sustainability 2017 Report from the National Association of REALTORS®.
It shows that your hard-won know-how has worth to consumers.
And your conversations with clients about green and energy efficiency features just may elicit more “ahas” and fewer “So what?” responses.
After all, half of agents and brokers surveyed say 51% of consumers are somewhat interested in sustainability and another 9 percent are very interested.
Industry growth and evolution
Amanda Stinton is particularly encouraged by just how many consumers are interested in topic.
“The report comes from the REALTOR® Sustainability Program, which was created through a member-driven initiative to help position NAR as a leader in sustainability topics,” says Stinton, Director of Sustainability & Green Designation with NAR. “Both this program and this report show the growth and evolution of the industry and reflect all that sustainability encompasses – adaptability, resource-efficiency, viability, and resilience. At the high level, these are things that impact communities and, by extension, REALTORS and NAR Green Designees.”
Here are some key findings:
• A majority – 71%-- of agents and brokers say that energy efficiency promotion in a listing is very or somewhat valuable.
• Forty-two percent of agents and brokers said solar panels increased a property’s perceived value.
• Transit and commuting features that clients listed either as very or somewhat important include commute times and distance (81%) and walkability (51%).
The report also includes REALTORS' ranking of some of the most important green-related home features based on what they're setting in markets around the country, including a comfortable living space (71%), proximity to frequently visited places (40%), windows, doors and siding (39%), utility bills and operation cost (28%), and commuting costs (18%).
Helping buyers find those sustainability and green features that are most important to them now comes naturally to you, but you also have a special skill, which is understanding just how green or un-green those features actually are.
Consider this finding: 70 percent of REALTORS® surveyed haven’t been involved with a listing with green features in the past year.
You probably have been. And that’s a leg-up because you can distinguish the subtleties among the properties your clients are considering.
For example, maybe you’re showing two homes on the same street, one built in 1999 that has been nicely maintained but has had no major renovations, and another built in 1985 that underwent a gut rehab in 2013.
Though some may assume that the first house is a better performer in terms of energy because of its newer build date, your understanding of more stringent building codes (Homes built to IECC 2012 and 2015 building codes are 15 to 16% more efficient than the 2009 code or earlier.), may help you find that that second house actually operates more efficiently.
That ability to research and discern these subtle differences is immensely valuable to your clients.
So is being able to discuss and advise on the home features that Realtors® also said clients consider very or somewhat important. Those include a home’s efficient use of lighting (50 percent), a smart/connected home (40 percent), green community features such as bike lanes and green spaces (37 percent), landscaping for water conservation (32 percent), and renewable energy systems such as solar and geothermal (23 percent).
So forge ahead during this spring buying season and feel confident throwing around your knowledge—consumers want it—and using it to further differentiate
“NAR's Placemaking Grants are a great way to stick your toe in the water if you've never done a grant before."
--Kim Pontius, Executive Vice President, Traverse Area Association of REALTORS®
Pushing Back, Looking Forward
Raise your hand if you think homeowners will be willing to give up the comfort and savings that they’ve found by having green home features.
Will the guy in Maine, who’s enjoying a cozy house in the dead of winter, accept leaky windows and a drafty house next time he buys?
Will that Millennial who has lived car-free in a walkable neighborhood buy a first house in a far-flung spot and become dependent on a car?
Will the couple with an asthmatic child stop searching for ways to create a healthy indoor environment?
Energy efficiency and healthy home habits have become engrained and now are an expectation among many segments of the home-owning and -buying public.
Though the new administration aims to roll back many of the Obama administration’s gains made on efficiency and environmental protections, there will be pushback.
Support, justification for green
GRC members have been in touch to express their concern and dismay about what the proposed changes may mean and how best to respond.
One response is to do what you’ve been doing all along.
Think back when the GRC got its start nine years ago and what a struggle it was to win over a skeptical public and many colleagues about the value of green home changes. You soldiered on and your steady commitment has helped to bring about a world where many consumers now embrace green home features.
The near future’s environmental outlook is disconcerting to be sure. But we can continue to do our bit to maintain momentum.
You’re in good company.
Some high-profile national organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club have dug in their heels to fight on the big climate change issues. Many smaller grassroots organizations also haven’t changed their goals.
And the support and justification for green are in place.
Just consider some recent surveys about professionals’ and consumers’ interest in and commitment to sustainability.
NAR’s REALTORS® and Sustainability 2017 Report shows that more than half of your potential clients are interested in the benefits sustainability provides.
The American Institute of Architects found that recycling centers, smart appliances, and water-saving toilets, are gaining in popularity among homebuyer or owners.
And according to a recent National Association of Homebuilders survey, NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index.), on average, single-family home builders use 10.2 different green products or practices. And 22 percent always or almost always have their homes certified to a green standard.
Eye on tomorrow
Organizations also have their eye on the future.
Two examples include NAR’s recently launched REALTOR® Sustainability Program, an association-wide sustainability effort.
And Home Innovation Research Labs, is developing the 2018 version of the National Green Building Standard.
You, too, can look forward and continue working to maintain the gains we’ve made, just as you did back when the GRC launched.
Today, there’s even more support in place for you.
Tap GRC’s resources—green client handouts, Webinars, social media content, HomeSelfe, and this newsletter—to stay up to date on industry innovations and changes, and continue talking and learning and staying active at the national and local levels.
And keep getting the word out to clients about how they’ll benefit from incorporating environmentally-friendly home features.
Yes, laws can be dismantled, federal incentives for efficiency may diminish, and progress may slow a bit.
Yet the commitment remains.
People’s expectations have changed.
Tap NAR’s Placemaking Grants, Transform a Corner of Your Community
Nearly every community has an eyesore.
It’s that dark, grungy alley. It’s the empty lot infested with weeds and garbage. It’s a foreboding empty space between two buildings that feels a little dangerous.
REALTOR® associations have been tapping NAR’s Placemaking grants to transform such undesirable spots into public amenities. Just last year, NAR handed out 160 grants totaling $255,507.
That’s according to Holly Moskerintz, NAR’s Community Programs Outreach Manager, who, along with Kim Pontius, talked about NAR Placemaking Grants during the April 2017 GRC Webinar and illustrated how the grants could be used to make your city more vibrant.
“There are no better people than REALTORS® to do this. You know your community, what people want, and the end result is making properties more desirable to lease and to buy. As a GREEN Designee, it’s also a way to promote sustainability,” comments Moskerintz.
After all, when you remove blight and create a destination, foot traffic to a neighborhood or block increases, the areas around a project get revitalized, and it all benefits businesses and the whole community.
In addition, enlivened public spaces become more attractive to the all-important Millennial resident. “Millennials are moving to walkable communities in droves. If you’re not on board, you’ll lose out,” she points out.
Lighter, quicker, cheaper projects
NAR’s Placemaking grants aren’t for large-scale development, but for small project that Moskerintz describes as “lighter, quicker, and cheaper” and that don’t require lots of time and money to build.
The grants are ideal for things like community gardens, parklets, pocket parks, pedestrian plazas, and alley transformations.
Plus, the grant application isn’t lengthy and complicated and funding decisions are made fairly quickly.
“Stone Soup” project
“NAR’s Placemaking Grants are a great way to stick your toe in the water if you’ve never done a grant before,” says Pontius, Executive Vice President, Traverse Area Association of REALTORS®.
He secured a $2,500 NAR Placemaking Grant and the money was used, along with other donations, to create a vibrant, welcoming spot for bikers and walkers coming off the 17-mile Leelanau Trail and into Suttons Bay, Mich.
Before, people arriving there were greeted by an ugly, unwelcoming intersection that lacked information about how to get to town and what they’d find there.
The 2015 project utterly transformed the little corner.
“No one had the money do to it alone,” says Pontius, and calls the venture a “Stone Soup” project, in which multiple public and private donors—individuals, businesses, and organizations—all contributed a little bit to create something bigger.
The donations included landscaping materials, benches, a bike rack, money, and equipment. Others volunteered to do the labor.
In addition, Suttons Bay was known for its three British telephone booths and one was refurbished and used to anchor the project. Its interior was repurposed and now contains a map of the town and information on places to go–shops, lunch spots, and so forth. “It creates a gateway to the village,” says Pontius.
“You’d think projects would need to be big and complex to make an impact,” he says.
“This is really a big deal in a small community and it gets a lot of positive press.”
And for REALTOR® Associations and its members, what could be better than delivering a nice new amenity to the community and also getting some kudos for it?
How appropriate is it that the Pantone Color for 2017, described as symbolic of new beginnings, is Greenery?
This spring can be your new beginning—a second chance to fulfill some of the New Year’s resolutions that have fallen by the wayside or an opportunity to create a fresh list of to-dos.
That could include renewing your home, finding greater energy savings, and establishing deeper roots in your community.
Here are 8 ideas.
1. Color. If you’re freshening up the paint in your house, consider this year’s “it” color, Greenery. Check out Pantone’s site to see the other shades that pair well with it.
2. In-demand home features. Take a look at the latest American Institute of Architects’ Home Design Trends Survey about the kitchen and bathroom features that are gaining in popularity among consumers. They include recycling centers, smart appliances, and water-saving toilets.
3. Systems upgrade. Get up to speed on a system that soon will need replacing—the HVAC, water heater, or roof—so you’re prepared with models and costs before you’re facing an emergency. You always make better decisions when you’re not buying in a crisis.
4. Tax refund. Invest your tax refund wisely. Set aside the money for a down payment on a house or use some of it for energy-saving upgrades—a programmable thermostat, new insulation, or an Energy Star appliance.
5. Utility company rebates. Check with your local utilities to see rebates and incentives they offer for energy efficiency changes and any demand pricing strategies (utility companies have different names for their programs, including hourly pricing, dynamic pricing, and real-time pricing) that could cut your bills. Search for incentives.
6. Renovation savings strategies. This Old House features 21 ways to cut home remodeling costs, including incorporating used materials, donating your trash, and choosing wall– or ceiling–mounted light fixtures, which give off more light and are cheaper to install than recessed fixtures.
7. Housing trends. See the National Association of REALTORS’® REALTORS® and Sustainability report to learn how sustainability trends have taken hold in the real estate industry and the home features that matter most—including a comfortable living space and utility costs—to consumers.
8. Advocate for sustainability. Get involved in your city’s sustainability efforts. For instance, find a community garden, see if your city does participatory budgeting, attend a green festival, and be an advocate for biking, walking and hiking trails.
This Month's Tips: Healty, Natural Lawns
The spring lawn commercials—those come-ons for the perfect, lush lawn—have begun in earnest. But remember that such lawns come at a steep price and require chemicals that can be dangerous to kids, pets, and the environment.
If you’re committed to still having grass, see the Midwest Pesticide Action Center to understand how to maintain a healthy lawn naturally.
1. Soil testing. Test your soil every three to five years. It can help you understand what you need to do to keep it healthy.
2. Organic fertilizers. Opt for organic fertilizers made with plant or animal materials.
3. Watering. Don’t overwater. Instead, water deeply and infrequently early in the morning, which minimizes evaporation and protects against fungus. Aim to deliver an inch of water a week.
Energy Efficiency = Jobs
Don’t let anyone tell you that the energy efficiency industry doesn’t have a positive impact on employment.
Consider the EPA’s finding that 2.2 million Americans are employed, in whole or in part, in the design, installation, and manufacture of Energy Efficiency products and services.
That’s according to its 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report.
Solar Industy Supports 260,077 Jobs
The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census 2016 found that as of November 2016, the solar industry supported 260,077 jobs--an increase of 24.5 percent during a 12-month period.
All articles written by Elyse Umlauf-Garneau unless otherwise noted