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By Kari Klaus, Founder of Realty Sage
Purchasing a net zero energy (NZE) home can be challenging, but a knowledgeable green real estate agent who has experience with high performance homes, or who has earned a green real estate credential such as NAR Green Designation, EcoBroker, or LEED Green Associate, can help tremendously. NZE homes generate as much energy as they consume, yielding substantial cost savings and reduced environmental impact, but eco features are often “hidden” from the average appraiser, listing agent, or homebuyer.
Why a green real estate agent?
1. A better home search and transaction
A real estate agent with experience in NZE homes can guide buyers through the search and transaction processes. Green real estate agents understand the specific features, benefits, and certifications associated with highly sustainable properties. These homes require extra steps in the transaction process for inspection, appraisal, and proper financing due to their unique features like renewable energy and high-performance systems. Specialized expertise ensures buyers make informed decisions about future expenses, and helps guide buyers through a more complex transaction process.
2. Understanding performance metrics and certifications
NZE homes meet specific energy performance metrics such as Home Energy Rating System (HERS) scores or energy efficiency certifications like LEED or Energy Star. The metrics can be difficult to understand in conjunction with various certifications, and a savvy real estate agent can help to tease out the long-term cost savings and other sustainability aspects of each property.
3. NZE home listings
Finding an NZE home can be demanding, as the information is not always accessible through standard online platforms or multiple listing service (MLS) sources. Sites like www.RealtySage.com list thousands of eco-friendly homes for sale, but there may be even more homes that you’re missing. A specialist agent has access to exclusive listings that may not be readily available online. They can connect buyers with sellers who own and understand net zero homes in your target area, or provide information about upcoming listings. This broadens the options for buyers seeking their ideal net zero home.
4. Making an offer
When evaluating net zero homes, there may be unique considerations related to the home’s eco features, warranties, financing, and the transfer of ownership for systems like solar panels. An experienced green real estate agent can negotiate on behalf of and guide the buyer, ensuring they get the best deal while addressing any potential pitfalls. This skill is crucial in securing a fair and advantageous purchase.
5. Not just eco features: benefits
A green real estate agent can educate buyers about the numerous benefits of NZE homes. From cost savings to health, comfort, resilience, and environmental impact, they can highlight how a specific NZE home supports an overall greener lifestyle and provides long-term value, including when you want to resell your home in the future.
6. Finding the ideal NZE home
While NZE homes share a single performance metric (i.e., generating as much energy as they consume), their shapes, styles, sizes, and settings (e.g., urban versus rural location, climate zone, etc.) vary widely. Green home agents understand the specific needs, values, and preferences of individual buyers and can assess their priorities.
7. Local market knowledge and sustainable communities
More states and localities are setting high performance and renewable energy standards for home building. For instance, California has a mandate that all new home construction, as of 2020, must be built to net zero energy standards. States and localities also offer rebates and incentives for renewables and energy efficiency upgrades. Fortunately, a local green real estate agent can provide insight into local codes for new construction and renovations, and how various incentives and mandates will shape these areas in the near future.
8. Connecting with green lenders
Financing an NZE home may involve specialized green lending programs or incentives, such as GreenCHOICE mortgages by Freddie Mac. An experienced agent can connect buyers with lenders that offer these types of loans and favorable terms for energy efficient properties. They can also point homebuyers to financing and professionals to help with any next-step upgrades, such as adding solar to a zero energy ready property.
9. Advocacy for sustainable living
Green real estate agents are advocates for sustainable living in their communities and beyond. Often, they continue to support buyers on a journey towards greener living. Local agents can connect buyers to community resources, eco professionals (like the solar installers mentioned above) and important maintenance services, as well as new rebates and incentives that may come available. They are a go-to local resource for many homebuyers for years after closing.
Finding a Green Real Estate Agent
Word-of-mouth recommendations from someone who’s recently purchased a NZE home can provide a resource. But perhaps not in the areas where you’re shopping. Green credential sites like LEED, EcoBroker, and NAR Green Designation are also helpful resources for cold-calling local agents.
For more comprehensive analysis, buyers can check out www.RealtySagePros.com. This website connects homebuyers (and sellers) with knowledgeable green real estate agents—based on the buyers’ needs and preferences as well as local agents’ professional credentials, dynamic profiles, and home listing data. RealtySagePros will match buyers with up to three specialized local agents. (Matching with only three top agents, ensures you won’t be hassled with numerous calls and emails.) There’s no fee or contracts required.
By understanding and embracing the expertise of a reputable green real estate agent, buyers can navigate the market with confidence and uncover the “hidden” benefits of comfort and affordability that net zero energy homes provide for years to come. Don’t just buy a house. Invest in your dream home and your values.