Making Green Decisions on Earth Day—and Every Day

April 22, 2020

As a real estate professional, you may be a welcomed source for clients looking for ideas on how to make a home more environmentally sustainable. Earth Day, being celebrated today, is a great time to review the wide range of options for buyers seeking green features in a home, and ways that current owners, including sellers, can renovate their homes to improve energy efficiency.

An important first step is for sellers and other home owners to sign up for an energy audit through their utility company or another local provider to get a clearer picture of a home’s energy consumption levels. This will enable owners to assess which changes may have the biggest impact. The most common areas targeted for energy improvements: furnaces and other heating systems, cooling systems, windows, and doors.

If replacing every window in a home is not in your client’s budget, Rick Thompson, managing partner of BrightLeaf Homes in Hinsdale, Ill., advises air-sealing windows that have the greatest energy leakage. The energy audit can determine which windows to prioritize. Thompson’s custom homebuilding company follows Zero Energy Ready’s certification checklist when designing and building sustainable homes.

Kerri Hartnett, GREEN, GRI, principal broker with Premier Property Group LLC in Portland, Ore., says making your eco-friendly approach relatable to clients is essential. Highlighting potential cost savings will get many clients’ attention, but she hopes  people will eventually take the initiative to make green improvements because it’s the right thing to do for the environment.

“When it comes to the general person who doesn’t necessarily get it, it’s about how we can sell those features,” she says, noting that saving money may initially be the most compelling aspect.

A neighborhood’s walkability—its proximity to the grocery store, schools, or a job—should not be overlooked when discussing a property’s appeal. Less reliance on a car helps the environment while reducing gas expenses.

Another great energy saver is installing smart lighting and HVAC systems. Voice platforms, like Alexa on the Amazon Echo, can be connected to lights and controlled easily on a cell phone or through a timer. Programmable or smart thermostats are other methods for reducing energy consumption.

These additional tips promote eco-friendly living at home:

  • Use green cleaning products. To promote healthy indoor air as you clean, use all-natural sprays and wipes. Hartnett recommends Mrs. Meyer’s brand. They eliminate the risk you’ll breathe in toxic chemicals in your home.
  • Set up a diffuser. A constant stream of essential oils flowing through the house also enhances air quality. The doTERRA brand is considered to have high-quality oils.
  • Use low- to zero-VOC paints. When it’s time for a room refresh, use paints with no volatile organic compounds.

As more millennials become home buyers, they’re likely to welcome suggestions for green living that reinforce the sustainable ideas they grew up with. “There’s this large consumer group that’s getting ready to make all these decisions about real estate and where they want to live, and that demands being there,” with your recommendations, Thompson says.

As for your own business practices, here are sustainable practices you can easily incorporate into your daily routines: 

  • Aim for low or no paper use. When you must print, use both sides of a sheet, and use printouts with mistakes as scrap paper for note-taking. Use programs like DocuSign, a REALTOR Benefits® Program partner, for documents that require a signature. If your seller clients receive multiple offers, organize documents on your screen as you would on paper so they can easily follow along.
  • Use a USB flash drive. Once a transaction is finished, give your client a USB flash drive that includes all of their documents and is branded with your information.
  • Make online calls. While the pandemic has spurred a tidal wave of web meetings, continue to use online platforms like Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime for conversations even after stay-at-home orders are lifted.