If you want to get the full value for your green home when it comes time to sell, use a green real estate agent and a green MLS.
You've upgraded your home with the latest green features and there's an eco-friendly buyer out there looking for a green home. How can the two of you connect?
Hire a real estate agent who knows as much about green homes as you do. About 5,000 REALTORS(R) nationwide have earned the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS(R) Green Designation by taking classes in green building, sustainable business practices, and green home marketing. A private company offers the EcoBroker designation.
Questions to ask a REALTOR(R) who specializes in green homes:
Have you had special training in selling green homes?
Do you serve buyers seeking green houses and do you have a list of buyers actively seeking green homes?
How many green home sales have you completed in the past year?
How do you market a green home differently than a regular home?
About 30 to 40 of the 900 home MLSs nationwide (databases where agents list properties for sale) have special fields in which your agent can identify your home's green features. Agents for potential buyers can search a green MLS to look for a green home or green features like solar panels or an energy-efficient furnace.
Over time, as the home MLS data grow, the results will help appraisers easily find comparable sales of green homes, which they can then use to more accurately value a green home like yours.
On the web, large sites that use home MLS data offer some green home search capacity. At www.Realtor.com, you can search broadly for energy-efficient homes, but not for specific features like solar panels. At Trulia.com you can use keyword search terms like "solar" or "green," but in addition to pulling homes with green features, that search will also bring back listings by real estate agents named Green and homes on streets with the word "solar" in the name.
Curious if your area has a green MLS? Among other places, you'll find them in:
Austin, San Antonio, and Houston, Texas
Memphis and middle Tennessee
Santa Barbara and southern California
Traverse City, Mich.
Triangle region of North Carolina
Tucson and Phoenix, Ariz.
You can trumpet your home's greenness in two ways in the typical green MLS.
Your real estate agent can note if your home or its features have been officially certified or designated green. Then, agents for homebuyers interested in green homes can search for local designations as well as national designations and certifications like:
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
Enterprise Green Communities
The Environmental Protection Agency's airPLUS Guidelines and Water Sense programs
Home Energy Rating System (HERS Index)
Living Building Challenge
National Green Building Standard
The other way to highlight your house's green features is to specify them in the home MLS' searchable fields. For example, if you have solar panels, water-saving devices, or geothermal heating, your agent can check those fields. Real estate agents helping buyers interested in a green home can also use the search function to find green homes with specific features.
In some green MLSs, your agent can highlight the brand and model of energy-efficient appliances and building materials. The result is a movement toward a more standardized and accurate way for buyers to find the type of home they want and for you to highlight your home's green upgrades.
What if your local home MLS isn't green? Your agent can market your home's green features in the home MLS by listing them in the additional remarks space. Work with your agent so she knows which features you'd like to highlight, which feature she recommends highlighting, and how those features contribute to your home's energy efficiency and eco-friendliness.
Data show your green home could sell faster and at a higher price than a similar house without green features. In 2009, certified green houses in Atlanta sold 31 days faster than traditional homes, according to the Earth Advantage Institute, a Portland, Ore., nonprofit that certifies green homes. Certified green houses in Seattle built from 2000 to 2008 sold for 8% to 9% more per square foot than traditional homes, according to local sales statistics.
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G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer. A frequent contributor to publications including Bankrate, REALTOR Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, personal finance, and legal topics.