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Because energy-efficient or green homes have a greater perceived value, they may sell better than standard homes, even in a slow market.[1] In fact, 78 percent of home buyers say they would favor an energy-efficient home over another.[2] Therefore, home sellers looking for a competitive edge will be sure to feature their home’s green features. But how does a home buyer sort the green from the greenwash? Use a green realtor and you’ll have a partner to help you find a truly green home.

How to choose a green realtor

What is a green realtor?

Real estate agents, recognizing a niche market, are taking courses to learn more about home building and remodeling features that improve energy efficiency, indoor air quality, water efficiency, and other green initiatives. Some courses offer certification that allows the agents to market themselves as “green realtors.” Finding an agent knowledgeable about both the local market for green homes and what green features are important in your region is a practical and worthwhile step down the path to home ownership.

Benefits of using a green realtor

  • Brokers have access to listing resources that allow them to search for eco-friendly features, like solar power and energy-efficient appliances.
  • If you want to buy a newly built house, a green realtor will know which builders specialize in green home building in your area.
  • They can speak knowledgeably about the most beneficial energy-efficient features for homes in your region, as well as help you sort out green home certifications.
  • Even if the house you really like lacks the eco-friendly features you want, the agent can point out possible retro-fits and steer you toward local sources for green remodeling professionals and sustainable products.
  • Green realtors are part of a network of green professionals serving the real estate market and will be able to help you find green mortgages as well as energy raters and home inspectors who have education about green features.

Choosing a qualified green realtor

In a difficult housing market, how do you know if a realtor is using a “green” moniker as just a marketing ploy or if he or she truly has valuable green knowledge and resources? Ask questions. Start by asking general questions provided by the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH), then ask the following questions to gauge the depth of the agent’s knowledge.

  • What are the agent’s credentials? The National Association of Realtors provides several accreditations but none have anything to do with green building. Those credentials come from several independent educational organizations. See Green realtor certifications below to learn more.
  • What environmentally friendly home building courses has the agent taken? In addition to certification courses, agents may also attend green home building courses offered by local or national home builder associations.
  • What resources do you use to find green homes? Some regional Multiple Listing Service (MLS) websites now offer green search parameters and they are available only to real estate agents.[3] The agent may also be able to identify other resources.
  • What energy-efficient features are recommended for homes in your region? Can the agent speak knowledgeably about local weather extremes and which energy-efficient features are most beneficial?
  • When touring a home, can the agent speak effectively on a variety of green features? Agents need to know more than just energy-efficient home design. Ask about low-VOC carpets, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) flooring, tankless water heaters, and the cost benefits of a photovoltaic system.
  • Can the realtor identify green properties in a mixed-use neighborhood or intentional community? These homes reduce a homeowner’s transportation and resource use, further reducing your environmental footprint.
  • What state and local tax incentives or credits are available? Most are available to home builders, but the agent should be able to explain any possible financial benefits to buying a green home.

Find it! Green realtors

Using a green realtor helps you go green because…

  • A knowledgeable green realtor can help you sort out the marginally green homes and find a truly green one than can effectively reduce your eco-footprint.

Homes in the US are responsible for 21 percent of the nation’s energy use and belch 335 million metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year.[4] In contrast, finding a home built or remodeled to green standards, such as an ENERGY STAR or LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified home, can cut energy use by 15 to 30 percent, which means fewer greenhouse gas emissions and lower utility bills.[5] The eco-conscious home buyer is not limited to just buying an energy efficient home, however. Green realtors can help the home buyer define the green qualities most important to the buyer: energy efficiency, indoor air quality, water efficiency, resource efficiency, and site management.[6]

A 2006 report by McGraw-Hill notes that green homes owned just 0.3 percent of the construction market in 2005.[6] With a limited supply, home buyers need well-connected real estate agents to find the homes they are looking for until supply equals demand. By 2010, it’s expected that half of new homes will be classified as green.[7]

Green realtor certifications

Three national and one state certification programs (listed below) are available for real estate agents to learn about green home building. The programs are primarily educational and offer a certificate and use of an identifying logo for marketing purposes after course completion. The home buyer should evaluate each program as well as other factors listed under How to choose a green realtor to determine an agent’s green credibility.

EcoBroker International

EcoBroker International has certified more than 2,600 agents, doubling the total number of agents they had certified in just one year.[8] The EcoBroker designation is awarded to licensed real estate agents who complete three 6-hour online classes, which can earn a total of 18 hours of continuing education in selected states. The first class evaluates various environmental issues, such as radon, asbestos, lead, water, mold, and indoor air quality. The second class discusses energy-efficiency technologies, sustainable energy options, mortgage options, and green home certifications. The third course deals with marketing and using the energy and environmental training in real estate transactions. EcoBrokers must complete a four-hour update course each year.

Earth Advantage’s S.T.A.R Workshop

To earn the Earth Advantage S.T.A.R. Accredited Professional Brokers designation, an agent attends a two-day workshop that teaches agents how to assess the relative merit of new and existing homes in four areas: energy and water efficiency, air quality, resource efficiency and environmental responsibility. The course is open to other real estate professionals, inspectors, mortgage brokers and appraisers. To earn the certification, the agent must pass an on-line examination at the end of the course. Continuing education credits are offered.

Green Real Estate Education

Green Real Estate Education offers the Real Estate Environmental and Energy Education Certification series to licensed real estate agents. The Level One Certification is a three-hour course on Green Leadership, which covers the definition of green building and sustainable construction, indoor air quality and renewable energy. At the completion of the course, the agent receives the Green Certified Real Estate Professional (GCREP-GL) designation. At the beginning of 2008, more than 3,100 realtors in 12 states had attained this certification. Green Real Estate Education also trains realtors, appraisers, mortgage professionals, and home inspectors in green home design.

EcoGreen Real Estate Agent Certification

The EcoGreen Real Estate Agent Certification program is located in California. The series of seven classes are three hours each and educate real estate agents on environmentally friendly home design, including energy efficiency and non-toxic building materials. Agents learn how to assess homes as well as how to assist clients in refurbishing a home with eco-friendly products. In addition to the class time, agents must perform fieldwork, required reading, written assignments, and view a DVD to receive EcoGreen certification.

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