July 2016 Newsletter

In This Issue

EverGreen Award Picks
REach’s 2016 Class Brings You, Your Clients Tools for Greater Efficiency  
Garden Tribe Demystifies Gardening 
Webinar: Tax Incentives 
This Month's Tips




Newsletter Archive

Previous Issues


EverGreenAward Picks

They’re in. 

The Green REsource Council has announced the 2016 winners of the EverGreen Award. 

The three 2016 winners all are doing their bit day in and day out to promote green in their communities, get neighbors and colleagues up to speed on sustainability principles, and are building real estate businesses with an eye toward steadily transform the housing stock. 

The winners are Mary Love, James Welch Mitchell and Jan Shomaker. 

Love of Green 

Love, of Love the Green Team United Real Estate in Asheville, was teaching about the environment for over 25 years, well before she started her real estate career in 2004. 

She’s tapped her years of sustainability knowledge and skills to build a strong green practice in Asheville, N.C. 

Love has been instrumental in greening the local MLS and she’s an instructor for NAR’s Green Designation courses. 

In addition, she’s working with the Land of Sky REALTORS®, Asheville Home Builders, and Western North Carolina Green Building Council to create a new local green course, Build Green Real Estate, for real estate practitioners and builders. 

Smarter, healthier homes for all

James Welch Mitchell’s mission is to create smarter, healthier homes for all, and he does it house by house in his Colorado market. For instance, to help spread the word about the value of energy audits, he orders one for every transaction he’s involved in. 

In addition to his work as a practitioner at The Group, Inc Real Estate in Ft. Collins, Colo., Mitchell also started Renewablue® in 2012 to make home efficiency happen.

Renewablue educates consumers on home energy efficiency and gives them the knowledge to make smart decisions without having to learn the cumbersome ins and outs of energy programs. 

Welch is an instructor for NAR’s Green Designation, and the Colorado Energy Office has invited him to teach about efficiency programs throughout his home state. 

Firsthand know-how

When Jan Shomaker of SPS Realty, Mission Viejo, Calif., advises clients about making energy efficient choices in their homes, she doesn’t have to rely on studies and statistics to support her arguments. 

She can just point people to her own house, a 1970s property that she renovated to be energy efficient and have a lower impact on the environment. 

She embraced the principles of restore, reuse, and recycle, and can talk firsthand about everything from drought-tolerant landscaping, to the benefits of solar tubes, improved insulation, and sustainable lumber. 

In addition to having NAR’s Green Designation, Shomaker also is a Build It Green Certified Green Building Professional and teaches environmental sustainability locally.

2016 NAR convention preview

In the coming months, the GRC will feature more complete profiles of each winner. 
You also can meet and congratulate the EverGreen Award winners at a special reception during the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Orlando in November. 

The convention planning already has begun and you can expect some outstanding networking, fun, and great opportunities at the Green Pavilion. Preview some of the green-oriented convention events at the conference website.



back to top


 By using HomeSelfe, people can see that energy efficiency is not burdensome or expensive

-  Ameeta Jain, Co-founder and spokesperson for HomeSelfe


REach’s 2016 Class Brings You, Your Clients Tools for Greater Efficiency


Two companies, HomeSelfe and HomeDiary, are capitalizing on consumers’ passion for their homes by delivering tools that help homeowners achieve greater efficiency, streamline the management of their homes, and visualize new possibilities.

Both companies were recently chosen as members of the 2016 REach® accelerator program. 
REach® is a program of Second Century Ventures, a strategic investment fund of the National Association of REALTORS® that fosters innovation in the real estate industry. 

Among other things, it provides mentoring and education to promising technology companies and helps those entrepreneurs to refine their vision and bring their product to the real estate industry.

Envisioning home upgrades

HomeDiary gives homeowners the tools to create 2D and 3D floor plans, plan home upgrades, and create a living record of a home. “The 3D models give you a view of what a space could look like and it helps homeowners and buyers envision renovations,” says Kris Cone, HomeDiary’s CEO.

When considering major renovations, for example, a homeowner could use HomeDiary to add and delete walls, create new rooms, and see how a drought-tolerant landscape and new shade trees would look, for example. 

The tools bring value to several audiences. 

Flippers and investors, for example, can plan and visualize projects they’re going to do to before they start remodeling. 

Prospective buyers can test out how their remodeling ideas will play out before they make an offer on a house. 

And you -- real estate practitioners -- can create a HomeDiary account and invite clients to test the tool. You can gain a powerful marketing edge by pre-staging homes, creating virtual tours with HD photos and 3D floor plans, for instance, and by helping prospective buyers imagine how a house could fit their needs – which may include more sustainable design elements. 

Another Pinterest-like section, “Ideas,” lets homeowners save ideas – floor plans, color schemes, low VOC paint colors, efficient light fixtures, reclaimed products, and so forth – and create a wish-list for future remodeling projects. 

Living record 

HomeDiary also streamlines all the paperwork and record-keeping associated with homeownership and provides a way to track every aspect of a home. 

That could include documenting new energy efficient systems, recording minor and major green upgrades, scanning receipts and warranties, tracking paint colors, and logging furniture purchases.

It creates a living record of a home. 

Such records also can be a powerful selling tool. After all, when you’re marketing a property, you can verify a home’s history and provide documentation of every energy efficiency upgrade that has been made. 

Energy efficiency made simple 

HomeSelfe simplifies the process of making homes more energy efficient and helps homeowners perform DIY energy audits, identify the changes they can make to reduce utility bills, and locate incentives and rebates. 

The easy-to-use app walks homeowners through their houses and asks questions about a home’s systems and conditions, including the insulation, the HVAC, appliances, and plumbing fixtures. 

Based on the answers, HomeSelfe generates a report and recommends upgrades, along with estimates of how much each project could save in energy costs. 

It also provides links to incentives and rebates and connects homeowners with vetted contractors who can perform the work. 

“HomeSelfe dispels the idea that energy efficiency is expensive and hard to understand, and it makes the process less overwhelming,” says Ameeta Jain, HomeSelfe’s co-founder and spokesperson. “It gives a personalized path to a more energy efficient home and a way to prioritize upgrades. “You’re saving energy, money, and the environment.” 

Improving homes, improving your business 

In addition, HomeSelfe provide some powerful marketing opportunities. And you can use the tool to advise clients, find listings, and close deals. 

For one, you can create a profile and invite current and past clients to use the tool to improve their homes. It’s a good excuse to connect while also providing information and strategies that have value to your sphere. 

You also can use HomeSelfe during listing presentations and do a home walk-through with prospective sellers to show them the changes they can make before the house hits the market and how those energy efficiency upgrades could differentiate their listing. 

And when you’re working with buyers, you can use the tool to make comparisons among houses and outline what they’d need to do to make a potential home more efficient.

“Imagine if every REALTOR® did a HomeSelfe on each home,” says Jain. “Collectively, they could improve the quality of life for homeowners and have a positive impact on the environment.”  

back to top


Garden Tribe Demystifies Gardening


If creating a garden has been languishing on your to-do list but you’ve been too intimidated to get started, you no longer have an excuse to procrastinate. 

Garden Tribe, an online gardening education spot, provides the know-how necessary to help you become a successful gardener, regardless of how grand or simple your goals are.

The site serves both beginners and experienced gardeners looking to build their skills and learn from expert gardeners. 

Finding gardening joy

The San Rafael, Calif.-based Garden Tribe is the brainchild of Jen Long and Beth LaDove, both passionate Master Gardeners. 

“The National Association of Gardening says 80 million people are gardening,” comments Long. “Yet very few have any formal training in it. Everyone wants to be successful and proud of their garden and for it to be a source of joy. What stands in the way of that joy is really knowing what to do.” 

Gardening boot camp

They pair launched Garden Tribe two years ago and have populated the site with a rich array of resources. 

Here’s some of what you’ll find. 

Food Growing Boot Camp: The boot camp provides the fundamentals and know-how –what to grow, when to start, tools, shopping for plants, fertilizing, and creating compost --to get a garden of edibles up and running. 

Online Classes: The online videos, taught by experts in their subjects, dive more deeply into gardening topics. 

Those include caring for, re-blooming, and troubleshooting orchids; creating container gardens; building DIY drip irrigation systems; and pruning Japanese maple trees. 

“You can’t really learn to prune a tree from a diagram in a book. You need to see it and you need to see it done a couple times in a couple different ways,” says Long.  “So video is crucial for many topics.” 

Blog: The blog provides a wealth of tips and how-tos on topics like beneficial insects, grafting fruit trees, and pet-safe house plants. 

And the section “Talking with our Tribe” introduces expert gardeners and his or her specialty, along with tips specific to that topic. 

“We shine the light on those who are doing amazing work as landscape architects, designers, and plant experts, and those who are leading movements,” says Long.

Long talks about the joy she has found in creating and caring for a garden and in feeling a connection to the land. Garden Tribe helps her to spread that joy. 

“The best part of this business has been the beautiful stories from customers who never were able to grow anything but now are harvesting squash, peas, and tomatoes,” she says. 

Long’s Beginner Tips

Long offers four tips for the novice gardener. 

1. Find local resources. The Master Gardener (http://www.ahs.org/gardening-resources/master-gardeners) office in your state is a great resource for education and training and a place to learn about the plants, trees, and flowers that are appropriate to your region. “When you grow, where you are matters,” she comments. In other words, a palm tree won’t thrive during a Chicago winter. 

2. What’s thriving? Look at plants and flowers that are doing well in gardens around your neighborhood. That can give you an idea of what plants to buy. 

3. Friend garden center staffers. Find an independent garden center and get to know the staff. They can set you up with the right plants for your environment, give you advice about plant care, and help you with troubleshooting. 

4. Embrace failure.  Failure is part of gardening, according to Long. Don’t get discouraged if some of your flowers don’t bloom or you can’t grow more than a couple tomatoes during your first growing season. 


back to top


Webinar: Tax Incentives 

Tax incentives available to homeowners can play an important role in achieving the twin goals of increasing clean energy production and decreasing energy used. 

Jerome L. Garciano, CPA, LEED A.P., an attorney in the Robinson and Cole LLP’s Real Estate Group, Boston, focuses on the state and federal tax financing incentives affecting the built environment. 

He conducted the GRC’s July 2015 Webinar and talked about the Federal and state tax benefits designed to promote cleaner energy production and more efficient energy use. 

Among the incentives he covered were: 
•    Nonbusiness Energy Property 
•    New Energy Efficient Homes 
•    Energy Investment Tax Credit 

He also offered some rules of thumb for when you’re talking with clients about potential tax incentives and warned, “Look very carefully and be sure a client qualifies,” he said.

Here’s what to consider: 

•Who – Eligible taxpayer
•What – Qualifying activity
•When – Eligible timeframe and deadlines
•Where – Jurisdiction or certain locations
•Why – Underlying policy concerns
•How (much) – Incentive amounts and limits

Comprehensive list of incentives

In addition, Garciano has developed a comprehensive list of state and Federal incentives that he revises every six months. 

You can get that list here.
View the Webinar recording here. 

back to top



This Month's Tips: Grow Edibles 

Three tips on creating an edible garden. 

  1. Start small. You don’t need much space to grow lots of food. Create a smaller kitchen garden area within your larger landscape.
  2. Herbs. Grow a full collection of culinary herbs. 
  3. Edible flowers. If you can eat the leaves, you can eat the flowers. This goes for rosemary and for flowering basils like African Blue Basil. 

Source: Leslie Bennett, owner of Pine House Edible Gardens, via Garden Tribe 

back to top


Now’s a Good Time to Buy a Home

Whether you’re buying or selling, it’s good to have a handle on the mood of consumers and some of the issues affecting their decisions. 

The National Association of REALTORS® quarterly Housing Opportunities and Market Experience (HOME) report provides some of that insight. 

During the second quarter of 2016, 74% of people surveyed said that now is a good time to buy a home.  


All articles written by Elyse Umlauf-Garneau unless otherwise noted

Become an NAR Green Instructor