Environmental awareness may be rising, but when it comes to buying a home, green by itself is not an easy sale, according to green market experts who spoke at “The Business Benefits of Green” during the 2007 REALTORS® Conference & Expo last week.
Daniele Loffreda, a consultant with Plateau Enviro Associates, a Denver sustainability consulting company, says people assume green is more expensive. Real estate practitioners can help consumers understand that any higher cost can be earned back quickly on their energy bills.
“Some consumers want third-party proof about energy costs, so you can direct them to an energy consultant ,” says Suzanne Shelton, president of the Shelton Group, a green marketing firm in Knoxville, Tenn. “Other buyers may want to go green, but aren’t able to afford the expense.”
How to Get Buyers to Think Green
Janet Rosenberg, broker/owner of two Intero Real Estate Services offices in Santa Cruz and Capitola, Calif., has integrated green practices into her business. She has a list of vendors and other experts on green that she works with and refers to customers.
She even holds classes about green homes as a way to bring together buyers and sellers. Working with green doesn’t mean you have to be an expert on the subject, she says. “Just be an expert in the real estate business and rely on others.”
Another key to getting consumers to go green is financial. “If consumers aren’t going to save money in this, it’s not going to work,” Rosenberg says. “If the clients don’t see the value, it is going to be hard to push a theory.”
To sweeten the financial equation, Rosenberg has persuaded lenders she works with to offer green mortgages. And as part of each deal, lenders contribute $2,000 to a vendor of the buyer’s choice for additional insulation or other energy-efficient measures.
John Stovall, vice president of business development with Ecobroker® International, a company that offers a “green” designation, says green homes can play an important role in a soft housing market that gives buyers a lot of options. “If you can show a difference, a home can sell more quickly,” Stovall says.
Stovall suggests that sales associates take a soft-sell approach with green; don’t force the idea on a buyer. It’s all about contributing to the cause of green, he says. Stovall also cautions real estate practitioners against throwing around the word “green” in their listings, something he sees regularly.
Features of the home that are considered green should be identified, instead of applying a blanket expression, he says. “Just saying ‘this is a green home’ has zero meaning.”