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The Importance of Sustainability Knowledge in Real Estate: What Buyers Want
by Kari Klaus, Founder of Realty Sage
Purchasing a property or improving an existing property can be one of the largest investments a person may ever make. Realty Sage asked sustainability expert Miriam Gennari, President of MetroMakeover LLC, and real estate agent with Ikon Realty in Annandale Virginia, to share her story in a 3-part series about working in the emerging eco-real estate industry -- the challenges, the opportunities, and the details about her career choice.
How Home Buyers Get Informed
It’s really no surprise that the primary source of real estate knowledge for homebuyers is the Internet.
According to the , 99% of Millennials search for homes using online websites, often before contacting a real estate agent to begin their home search. And Millennials are the largest group of first time homebuyers at 66%.
With buyers primarily gaining their knowledge early on from real estate sites, it is startling to know that buyers are not getting the full picture of the homes they are looking at online, and that includes the potential cost savings.
Even more importantly, most buyers are not seeing the potential benefits that they gain with some homes and not with others. These benefits include: higher quality building, which means lower long-term maintenance and ownership costs, along with more comfortable living conditions; high tech and automated features that bring about lower maintenance; and better systems and construction that are more environmentally friendly, because they use less water and energy, and are built with sustainability in mind.
Knowledgeable agents, like Miriam Gennari, are also working hard to fill that gap of information when they can. “I prefer to put the green features out in front.” Miriam adds, “In my brochures and on the Internet, I make sure that customers and their neighbors feel informed about the sustainability of a home and where opportunities exist to increase the value of a property either before they list or even after they buy.”
Real estate sites often limit the display of important home information to the listing’s comment section. This means that homes with premium features do not stand out, and buyers don’t fully understand the differences and the benefits in the homes that they are considering.
Home Features that Matter
Buyers -- and even agents! -- are often unaware of the cost-saving features that many homes have, until the time of a home inspection. These features frequently extend to benefits in the form of eco-friendliness, lower maintenance, and automated technology features — features that are very desirable.
"Homebuyers want — and will pay more for — sustainable features like energy-efficient appliances, windows and the like, alongside features that ensure better air quality," according to the Forbes article, The Increased Importance of Environmental Sustainability in Real Estate.
So when buyers ask Miriam which improvements they should make, she often tells them, “If you have to choose between a new kitchen and new windows, I tell my clients choose the windows. What’s the point of a beautiful home if no one can enjoy it because you’re worried about the cost of utilities or you’re uncomfortable because of fluctuating temperatures?”
Eco-friendly features are not just environmentally sustainable, but they can provide a sense of fiscal sustainability too. Controlling utility costs can be entirely out of reach unless you have a hand in producing the energy for your home. Miriam believes that "In the future, nothing will be more important to home buying than controlling energy costs. Go solar if you can.”
One good option for being able to compare the costs of solar from top providers is through Pick My Solar, a Realty Sage Partner.
Online Resources for Buyers
According to Miriam, “People are eager to learn about the value and benefits of an eco-friendly home and love to brag about it once they become aware.” And yet, while buyers would like to have eco-friendly, cost-saving and low maintenance features, they are not getting this information when it’s most important -- early on, during their online home searches.
One way buyers can obtain this information is through RealtySage.com, a new real estate platform that enhances listings with more and new types of data, and gives buyers comparison tools, such as the Sage Score and Livability Categories.
Realty Sage is different than other sites because it offers buyers more information about a home and its potential benefits compared to other sites. This helps buyers make informed decisions about a home's benefits, including its solar potential, home automation, potential cost savings, commute-friendliness, eco-friendliness, and its reduced maintenance.
In 2019, RealtySage.com hosted 336,000 homes primarily in the states of Virginia, Washington, DC, Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey--with plans to greatly increase listings in many other parts of the country. For updates on Realty Sage’s progress, .
The e-Harmony of Real Estate
Having expert agents, like Miriam, who can help guide you through the process is key. While Miriam does everything she can to educate her buyer clients, she realizes that more needs to be done in the industry to connect expert agents with the needs of real estate customers; “...Until Realty Sage, I had not seen a site that spotlights the value of smart, eco conscious agents.”
The agent-finder on Realty Sage is called, Realty Sage Pros https://www.realtysagepros.com/ and it connects the best local agents to the real estate needs of buyers and sellers using data-driven matching. Realty Sage Pros evaluates the customer’s criteria with the experiential data of agents in brokerages across the country, to find the most ideal local agents to work with those buyers and sellers. It’s like e-Harmony for real estate agents and customers.
“Sustainability to me is the foundation of every purchase,” Miriam emphasizes. “Whether it be making the mortgage payments during a government shutdown, to being able to sell in a hurry because of a new job or life change.”
Miriam emphasizes that, “A home purchase is a big decision, and one that can have a huge impact on the wealth and success of a person’s or family’s future.” Having both -- more information upfront and being able to connect to local expert professionals -- is essential for successful and educated home buyers to make the right decisions for their lifestyle needs.
The next two series will look at how sustainability impacts real estate for a seller and real estate professionals.
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