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Sustainability: How NAR Is Responding to Growing Interest

When you hear the term “sustainable real estate,” what topics come to mind? Perhaps your first thoughts are environmentally-friendly properties, or creating walkable communities, or using fewer resources in your real estate practice. Each of these topics, and many more, fall under the umbrella of sustainability.

Regardless of how you think about sustainability as a broker, we all need to recognize that it plays an increasingly important role in real estate, especially as certain aspects of sustainability are becoming mainstream, moving beyond a “nice-to-have” and becoming a top priority for consumers’ life at home.

NAR’s Sustainability Program

For decades, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) has supported sustainability in numerous ways. Last year, in response to strong member interest, our efforts were centralized and expanded into an official NAR Sustainability Program. This program serves as a hub to support member resources and a platform for leadership in the real estate industry, with coordination and outreach to allied trade associations and organizations.

Among the new initiatives launched under the program is a special Sustainability Summit, hosted by NAR, and including representatives from other cooperating industries such as the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the Urban Land Institute (ULI), and the Council of MLS (CMLS). The first summit, held in July, offered an excellent forum to discuss where sustainability and real estate overlap, and to explore collaboration among industry groups for the future of our industry.

Member Research

Another new initiative sponsored by NAR’s Sustainability Program is an annual survey of members. Some of the noteworthy facts drawn from NAR’s benchmark REALTORS® and Sustainability Report include:

  • A significant majority (60 percent) of agents surveyed agreed that consumers are somewhat or very interested in sustainability.
  • Eighty percent of respondents said that solar panels are available in their market, and 42 percent said solar panels increased a property’s perceived value.
  • Seventy-one percent said that energy efficiency promotion in listings was very or somewhat valuable.
  • Forty-three percent of respondents report that their MLS has green data fields.

Additional Resources

With each passing year, it becomes more and more apparent property buyers and sellers place a priority on the benefits provided by sustainability. NAR’s Sustainability Program pulls together extensive resources—including publications, research, advocacy, grants, and links to existing NAR programs—all designed to help you respond to growing consumer and professional interest, and to position your brokerage for success as market shifts continue to urge adaptation. To learn more and access these additional resources, visit www.nar.realtor/sustainability.

Steps to Take

There are many things you can do to raise the bar on sustainability within your brokerage, including:

Help your listings achieve certification. In particular, take a look at Pearl Certification, a company recently selected for NAR’s 2017 REach® technology accelerator program. Pearl’s third-party verification system for new and existing homes provides a market edge through a property certification by awarding up to 1,000 points for a property’s performance across four key dimensions (insulation, heating/cooling system, ENERGY STAR appliances, and smart thermostats).

Support efforts to green your MLS. Buyers, sellers and appraisers all rely on a green MLS to help ensure fair value for sustainable, healthy, and energy-efficient homes. With new standards, many MLSs have adopted green data fields. If yours is one of them, make sure your agents are using such fields to convey the value of energy-efficient or high-performance home features. When agents use the fields when listing a property, interested buyers will be able to find your listings with these marketable assets—and your sellers get top dollar for these features. To learn more, visit greenthemls.org.

Help your agents gain information, confidence. Nearly 40 percent of agents surveyed by NAR expressed at least some discomfort with answering clients’ questions about property performance. Closing the gap can be as simple as sharing resources or facilitating discussions at your sales meetings.

The top three issues and considerations cited by agents in NAR’s sustainability survey are: 1) understanding lending options for energy upgrades or solar; 2) improving the energy efficiency of existing housing stock; and 3) lack of MLS data about property performance and/or solar install.

You may also want to support your agents in earning NAR’s Green designation, which provides comprehensive training across each of these, and many other sustainability topics. Learn more at greenresourcecouncil.org.

Sustainability is about adaptability, viability, resiliency, and resource efficiency. These words can describe elements of any market. Overall, becoming aware of the current and upcoming integration of sustainability in real estate positions brokers as leaders in industry shifts, prepared to engage proactively in new market and business opportunities.

Bob Goldberg is CEO of the National Association of REALTORS®.

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