4 Tips for Talking Green to Your Home Buyers
By Don Knapp
Green and energy efficient home features appeal to home buyers for a wide range of reasons. As a real estate agent, you can help your clients understand their options. It’s one more way to exceed their expectations and serve as a trusted adviser to help them stretch their dollars and find a home that makes them happy. Below, we’ve assembled four tips on how to open up a conversation about green and energy improvements to a home.
#1. Focus on their needs
This is the essential tip and your overarching strategy: Frame green/energy upgrade options around the expressed needs of your clients. Keep it on their terms, focused on their priorities.
“I don’t just bring up ‘green home upgrades’ in a conversation,” says Marcia Tolentino, a REALTOR and Build It Green’s Real Estate Project Manager. “I find out what’s most important to my clients.”
“Most clients aren’t going to tell you directly that they want an energy efficient home,” explains Tolentino. “They may convey that being comfortable in their home is important because they work at home. Or keeping monthly costs and utility bills low is important because of their income.”
This intel presents opportunities to suggest home features or upgrades—from HVAC and insulation to on-demand hot water heating—that match with their stated needs and interests. You can also take a moment to educate your clients about the basics of home energy efficiency—why some homes have high utility bills and rooms that are draft and cold or oppressively hot.
#2. Ask the right questions.
You already ask your clients a raft of questions to learn what matters to them most—location, school district, number of bedrooms, kitchen size, etc. But do your questions include health, safety, energy, and environmental concerns? Are you able to uncover, for example, that one member of the family suffers from asthma, making indoor air quality a key priority? Or that they want to use sustainable materials and products whenever possible? Or that in their previous home, it drove them crazy that some rooms were hot and others cold, and that their utility bills were astronomical? You won’t know unless you ask.
#3. Make green benefits easy to understand.
When talking about green homes features and benefits, avoid technical jargon and remember what’s important to your clients—typically comfort, health, safety, and value. Provide examples, paint mental pictures, and share your own experience. For example:
- “Running your furnace without good insulation is like turning up the heat in your car and driving with the windows rolled down.”
- “Many home heating systems have enough air leaks in the ductwork to equal a window being open all winter long.”
- If you know you're touring a well-insulated home, have your clients stand on the basement floor and ask if their feet are cold. Explain why the answer is no (because the insulation is under the slab). Then tell them to stand on the basement floor of other homes and notice if their feet are cold. Use this trick for insulated windows, which reduce outside noise, or for attic insulation, which keeps a home cool on a hot day.
- Realtors Pat and Carlos Samuelson have real-world experience with their own energy upgrade. “Before our remodel,” says Pat, “we were paying about $380 monthly, balanced over the year. My last bill was $1.62!”
#4. Understand the research.
Each of your clients brings unique needs and experiences to their home buying journey. That said, it’s good to understand what research tells us about the general preferences of home buyers and various demographic sectors.
Home buyers in general
The environmental features considered important or very important to home buyers, according to a 2015 National Association of REALTORS study:
- Heating and cooling costs (84%)
- Energy-efficient lighting (67%)
- Conservation landscaping (38%)
- Community features (35%)
- Solar panels (11%)
Older home buyers
A study conducted by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) found that buyers facing retirement age (55 and older) are most likely to demand specific, high-performance green criteria, such as energy efficiency, healthier indoor environment and durability. Baby Boomers (between the ages of approximately 52 and 70) are particularly interested in green certified new construction, green certified renovations, energy efficient home systems and reduced maintenance.
The leading edge of the millennial generation—now between 20 and 35 years old—are reaching their prime first-time home-buying years. A few thing to keep in mind about this demographic group:
- They have a strong sense of social responsibility toward the environment.
- Many prefer a “car-optional” home or residence.
- They want a walkable, vibrant location that offers social networks, employment.