Real estate professionals are the key to helping buyers and sellers access the
benefits of green homes
Build It Green and its partners recognize that the existing home real estate market presents an incredible opportunity for green home upgrades and certification. The Joint Center for Housing Studies has estimated that home buyers spend more than $6,000 per year on home improvements in the first two years after buying homes, so it's an ideal time to integrate energy efficiency, comfort, and indoor air quality into those improvements. Certifying those improvements can also add to a home's value at time of sale: A 2012 study by UC Berkeley and UCLA showed that home buyers were willing to pay up to 9% more for a home with a green label.
In 2011 and 2012, Build It Green targeted this opportunity by training real estate professionals to assist home buyers in identifying energy improvement opportunities in a home. We connected them with the technical and financial resources needed to make those improvements and to get their home GreenPoint Rated.
"It all begins with real estate professionals because they're the gatekeepers for green upgrades," says Bruce Mast, Build It Green's Deputy Executive Director. "They're the ones who can connect buyers to inspectors, contractors, and loan officers, and that's why it's critical to educate them about green building and all the benefits and options for their clients."
Green Training for Real Estate Pros
Build It Green helped to design and launch a groundbreaking new real estate training and certification initiative in 2011. Through 2013, we trained 238 real estate professionals in the basics of green building and green labels, green financing, and how to help their clients undertake energy retrofits. Ninety-seven percent of the trainees received their certification, giving them a new means to differentiate themselves in a competitive market.
Incentivizing Green Certifications
In tandem with the real estate trainings, Build It Green embarked on additional strategies through the Green Building Label pilot programs with Energy Upgrade California in Los Angeles and Alameda Counties, which provided rebate incentives to homeowners not only to complete energy upgrades, but to go a step further and achieve a home certification like GreenPoint Rated or LEED for Homes. To make it as easy as possible for real estate professionals to help homeowners get their home GreenPoint Rated, Build It Green developed a quick and easy survey called "Is Your Home GreenPoint Ready?" Using this survey, available through web, mobile, or print, real estate professionals could walk around a home with a client and know within 10 minutes if the house was a good candidate for the green label.
Build It Green also streamlined the rating process for homeowners who needed to do a few upgrades in order to qualify for GreenPoint Rated. Starting in 2012, home performance contractors were trained and certified as GreenPoint Raters and allowed to both do the work and provide the verification documents to Build It Green. By allowing the contractor to serve as the rater, the amount of time for a rating was reduced from weeks to hours and the cost of the rating was brought down considerably. This made GreenPoint Rated a much more viable and attractive option for home owners who only had a few upgrades to do to get the green label.
The results of these efforts were encouraging. In Los Angeles County, more than 600 GreenPoint Rated certifications were completed by May 2013 by Energy Upgrade contractors who were also trained as GreenPoint Raters—more than triple the pilot program goal!
"The big lesson we learned," says Mast, "is that all these efforts hinge on our ability to make the process as easy as possible for contractors."