What is a “green” home? While you may not know the technical definition of the term, you probably know that it has to do with the energy efficiency, the comfort, and the sustainability of a home. But precisely because “green” is such a vague term, it’s important for a real estate agent to understand the specific features and benefits of homes that are truly high-performance green homes – energy efficient, sustainable and non-toxic.
When a homeowner proceeds with the sale of their home, naturally you would think they would choose the best agent for the job. But oftentimes it’s the first agent that a homeowner meets. Wouldn’t it be great if every agent understood that energy efficiency and sustainability are important to a consumer? And wouldn’t it be equally as great if agents understood how to command a higher price for homes with these features versus others that did not have sustainable, energy efficient, features? The answers are yes and yes.
When a real estate agent comes across a home of this nature and they are not familiar with the green features it boasts, they are actually doing a disservice to their client by listing that home for sale. These features generally sell for more money, so if an agent is not familiar with what makes a “green home” green, then they could be leaving money on the table for that home seller.
Understand that in the sales process, appraisals are required by lenders in order for the mortgage company to know they are lending for the fair value of that home. If the agent is not familiar with the energy efficient and sustainable features, they may not ask the right questions of the homeowner to correctly market those features. If the features are not marketed properly then value may not be given for those features in the sales process.
If the agent is not familiar with the process of selling homes such as these, they also will not know that there are appraisers who are trained in appraising these homes. It is critical during the sales process for the listing agent to reach out to the buyers’ lender and inquire if the lender’s appraisal management company (AMC) has an appraiser on their list qualified to appraise homes with “green” features. If not, then the listing agent knows to refer the AMC manager to a list of appraisers with this training. Unfortunately, not many agents know that list exists.
This process is especially true of homes with “owned” solar panel systems. If a solar panel system is leased, there is less value. But if the system is owned, the full value should be considered in the list price of the home. A qualified appraiser will know to use the income approach on an appraisal versus the typical cost approach. Would an untrained agent recognize that distinction? It’s unlikely that they would. Data that is required for an income approach will be pre and post solar utility bills, a copy of the sales contract, a copy of all disclosures, copy of solar data, and a list of comparable sales. Will that agent who is not trained in recognizing this procedure accurately produce the right data, contact the lender to command a competent appraiser, and fairly represent that home seller? Probably not.
Learn more about how to ensure that energy efficient and sustainable features can be fully accounted for in an appraisal, and sign up for realtor courses on high-performance green homes, at ZeroEnergyProject.org.
By Jan Green
REALTOR®, GREEN®, SFR, EcoBroker®