Greenrealestate: Saving money interests everyone

Green Real Estate Dec 7, 2010

shoppingcartBy Elden Freeman
The price of a home is the largest concern for prospective home buyers or sellers. Mortgage payments serve as monthly reminders of the value of the investment that people have made. Traditionally, the real estate agent’s role has been to work with buyers and sellers to get the best deal for everyone involved. Yet the price of a property, like any investment, is a representation only of its perceived underlying value. Other costs must be factored in.

A typical 2,000-square-foot home, for example, will cost a homeowner in Nova Scotia $250/month in water, heating, and electricity bills (and sometimes several times more depending on provincial rates, type of heating and existing systems). Homes built or renovated to lower these costs will typically see their value rise as savings can free up disposable income.

To add value to the service provided, a Greenrealestate agent must make a compelling case for the cost savings and bump in property value associated with certain improvements. Home buyers come with varying degrees of knowledge and interest in green home upgrades and varying levels of interest and concern in environmental issues – but everyone is interested in saving money.

The complications of contracting for home improvements can be so overwhelming that buyers may simply shy away. Making “green” investments in a property at the outset means the initial investment is recovered as quickly as possible. A real estate agent with expertise in these areas can walk clients through every aspect of the improvement process. This includes explaining the initial investment and payback periods, changes to be made, arranging for initial assessments and/or quotes and even recommending reliable contractors.

Making “green” home improvements can have other indirect positive effects on a home as well. A home that lets in more natural light can not only save on heating costs in the winter due to the effect of passive solar heating, but also boost the mood of its inhabitants. More drastic changes such as the installation of a green roof or a solar PV system can not only provide energy savings or provide streams of income (in the latter case where feed-in-tariff programs are in place), but help to advertise a home as more efficient or environmentally friendly.

There is a compelling economic case for picking the low-hanging fruit – the improvements with little upfront investment and less risk around payback timelines. These include the installation of programmable thermostats, lighting upgrades (switching to CFLs or LEDs), improving attic insulation, weather stripping and caulking. Such investments can help to lower operating costs of a home, saving money for homeowners and having an immediate environmental impact. This value proposition is what can grab the attention of the client and help to differentiate the Greenrealestate agent from the competition.

The popular image of a “green” home is that of an unconventional structure with elaborate integrated systems for grey water collection, rooftop solar photovoltaic and the like. The mass adoption of “green” home upgrades rests partly on the fact that many, if not most installations and investments, can be made to seemingly normal homes, and is a key caveat when discussing any improvements with new homeowners.

Elden Freeman B.A., M.E.S, broker is the founder and executive director of the non-profit National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB). 1-877-524-9494;