Watch Your Green Language

It might be time to examine the words you use to describe eco-friendly home features.

July 13, 2016

Eco-friendly homes are in demand. But buyers aren’t drawn to environmentally friendly features just because of the fancy names. They want products and systems that make for a comfortable living space and reduced energy costs. With that in mind, NAR recently revamped the GREEN designation’s coursework to reflect the evolving nature of the terminology and help real estate professionals better present the benefits to today’s buyers. There’s a stronger emphasis on using words like “resource efficient” as opposed to more generic terms like “green.” It suggests real estate professionals avoid jargon, such as “low-VOC” (“nontoxic” is better) and “R-value” (instead, say “better insulated”). Also, some buyers may find a political meaning in certain terms—such as “sustainability.”

 “We want real estate professionals to learn more clearly how to speak about the benefits and to understand that their words matter,” says Amanda Stinton, manager of NAR’s GREEN designation and e-PRO certification. “Know what these words clearly mean and then be able to convey the benefits to clients, such as the cost savings, comfort, or walkability.”

For example, to market the financial savings from a highly efficient home, stress the lower utility costs, an easily appreciated benefit of living in the home. “Consumers aren’t asking for green features per se,” Stinton adds. “They may not come to you and say, ‘I want a third-party certification.’ But they likely will be interested in the benefits that greener options can provide.” As a starting place, Stinton suggests a 2015 study from National Association of Home Builders called “What Green Means to Home Buyers: Perceptions and Preferences” for swapping out ambiguous phrases from your business vocabulary. Here are some terms from that study to get you started:

Don’t Say This… 

Instead, Say This …

Green home  

Eco-friendly

Low impact  

Environmentally conscious

Low-flow water features

Water-saving features

Livable

Comfortable

Reduced upkeep

Low maintenance

Advanced construction practices

High-quality construction

High efficiency

Energy-efficient

Aging in place   

Universal design

Third-party–inspected

Independently inspected

Reduced energy use

Lower utility bills

Air pollution control

Ventilation

Facilitates well-being

Facilitates healthy lifestyle

Innovative design

Smart design

Helps save the planet

Reduces your environmental footprint

Built to rigorous standards

Built above code

Optimized performance

High performance

Sustainable lifestyle

Environmentally responsible living

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