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Hi, I’m a new real estate agent and I would like to sell energy efficient, clean and safe homes.

Telia Rivers | Posted in General Questions on

I’ve never spoken with a builder before but would love to learn how to sell these homes. I really want to feel good about the homes that I help sell. Any advice or opinions that you give are welcome. Thanks.

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Replies

  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    Telia,
    What makes you think that the homes you are selling are more energy-efficient than average? Do you have any evidence of that claim?

  2. Lucy Foxworth | | #2

    Telia,

    The problem is that in general the homes in the US are not really very energy efficient. So finding energy efficient homes to sell may be more difficult than actually selling them.

    There is evidence that certified energy efficient homes sell faster and for more money than do non-certified homes. The research that I found is from the Earth Advantage institute in Portland Oregon http://www.earthadvantage.org/resources/library/research/certified-homes-outperform-non-certified-homes-for-fourth-year/.

    You have to realize though that people in certain areas of the country are more informed about energy efficiency than other places. I live in South Carolina where people think a wall built with 2 x 4s and insulated with fiberglass is well-insulated. The west coast and the northeast are the "hotbeds" of green building where your buyers would be more educated and actually need less "selling" than here in the South.

    I think you first have to educate yourself on energy efficiency so you can ask good questions about the energy efficiency of the homes you sell.

    Two important questions are:
    1. Energy bills - how does the house you are trying to sell compare to the "average home" with similar square footage in your area?
    2. What kind of heating and/or cooling do the homes use? Oil, gas, electricity? How efficient and how old are the heaters or AC or heat pump?

    My best advice is to read websites like this one so you know what is really "green" vs. "greenwashing" (greenwashing is defined as something that is advertised as green, but really has no significant green features - doesn't really reduce energy use or only has a low percentage of recycled material, etc.)

    Insulation and heating/cooling are the two most fundamental topics that I would start with in learning about energy efficient homes.

    It is important to understand the differences between types of insulation, advantages and disadvantages. Martin Holladay has written many articles about this topic.

    Great articles here - http://www.finehomebuilding.com/PDF/Free/021029110.pdf https://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/green-basics/insulation-overview
    http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/types-insulation

    There have been advances in heating and cooling that people need to know about - heat pumps and efficiency, mini-split heat pumps, and geothermal heat pumps in particular.

    That's where I would start. Read the blogs and pertinent questions in QA section of Green Building Advisor and you'll be able to ask good questions of the sellers and give good information to the buyers.

    Good luck with your real estate career. Hope to see you post more questions soon.

  3. Telia Rivers | | #3

    HI Martin. I'm certainly not certified to make any claims on knowing a lot about energy efficient homes. I'm here to learn how to sell them....and that's why I welcome any advice and opinions on this forum. Thanks so much I look forward to reading your post.

  4. Telia Rivers | | #4

    HI Lucy,

    Thanks so much for response and this great information! I look forward to reading the great articles and posting more.

  5. Lucy Foxworth | | #5

    Telia,
    One advantage of using energy efficiency as a selling point is that you educate people - both when you ask questions and when you tell people about these features.

    I don't think the average homeowner or homebuyer knows nearly as much as they should about energy efficiency. So when you ask the seller, for example, how is the home insulated? You let them know that this is important and maybe it is something they should look into for their next home.

    Same thing when you tell a potential buyer, this home is insulated with closed cell foam in an R-40 wall. They may not have any idea what you are talking about until you explain and further state that it uses 50% less energy to heat and cool that comparable home in the area, not to mention that it is much more comfortable.

  6. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #6

    Telia,
    You wrote, "I'm certainly not certified to make any claims on knowing a lot about energy efficient homes. I'm here to learn how to sell them." You can't inform buyers that a home is energy-efficient unless you know that it is. So the first step, before you can sell a home, is to find out what its features are, and whether those features are any different from average homes in your area.

    So ... you can't learn how to sell an energy-efficient home unless you are first willing to educate yourself about what makes a home energy-efficient.

  7. John Brooks | | #7

    Martin,
    I think you may be "reading" Telia's question the wrong way.
    My impression is that she wants to learn more about healthy low energy homes.

  8. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #8

    Telia,
    If you want to learn more about energy-efficient homes, green homes, and healthy homes, then you've come to the right website. I would start by browsing the GBA Encyclopedia.

  9. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #9

    Once you've figured out what a true high-efficiency home is and how it's built, the way to SELL them is to focus on the comfort factors, more so than the heating/cooling/lighting costs. If you spend too much time on the costs issues, the nerd-accountants get out their spreadsheets and take a (usually clumsy and none-too accurate) net present value (NPV) calculation on the projected energy savings, and shrug. The savings are there, but the ROI is a long term issue, and in the US anything longer than 6 years is considered the far distant future, at the rate of housing turnover. In fact, there isn't much of a financial rationale for CODE MINIMUM R-values & U-factors in low energy cost markets, if it needed to be NPV positive in 6 years.

    But there is a significant comfort difference at the climate's temperature extremes when you go 1.5x code-min or more on the "whole-assembly" R-values (with all thermal bridging of framing etc factored in), with commensurate upgrading of window U-factors.

    For example: A code-min wall for US climate zone 5 is 2x6 framing with R20 fiber, which at typical framing fractions has a whole-wall R of about R14 after thermal bridging of the framing factored in. When it's -5F outside, 68F inside, the average temperature of the inside of the interior walls is about 66F, but over the studs it's about 63F, and this is something you can FEEL with bare skin just standing next to it. But if you add 4" of polyiso foam on the exterior, in a 68F room the wall temp at center cavity when it's -5F is now ~67.2F, and over the studs it's only 66.7F, hardly different from the average room temp- the cold-wall effect is nullified. Similarly, the surface temp of a code-max U-0.32 window is more than 10F colder than with a U0.20 window (cold enough to condense moisture out of the air), and if the high-performance window has a low-E coating on the interior surface (at any U-factor), it reflects bare-skin's heat back, making the cold-window effect all but disappear, from a comfort point of view. High performance windows are expensive, but the payback in comfort is high, even if the NPV on heating cost savings is dismal.

    Also, high efficiency mechanical systems (in general) do NOT add anything in the way of comfort, unless you're going full-out with low-temp heating radiation like radiant floors & ceilings, which add a lot of comfort, but also a lot of expense. Spending the money on a truly high-performance building envelope is usually the better place to spend it, particularly on new construction, where things like R75 attics and R40 (whole wall) walls are comparatively cheaper than retrofitting a home to high-R.

  10. Telia Rivers | | #10

    Hi John Brooks,
    Thanks! That's exactly what I was trying to say. I'm here to learn more about affordable, healthy, energy efficient homes. I want to be able to help people in the long run, give them tools to take with them to keep cost low and stay healthy. Not just sell them a house and wipe my hands after. Thanks.

  11. Telia Rivers | | #11

    Thanks Dana! Good info! I'm still trying to wrap my head around some of terms that you used. I have a long way to go! :-)

  12. Telia Rivers | | #12

    Martin,
    Thanks for the the GBA Encyclopedia link. I'm taking notes!

  13. Richard Patterman | | #13

    Telia,

    You don't mention what area you are in, but your education in low energy construction should be specific to your climate zone. Some one else already mentioned that it is much easier to sell "comfort" than insulation. Call all the "green" builders in your area and ask to see their homes, you will get a good idea of what is being done in your area and who the good builders are.

    It would help if more realtors understood good construction. Good luck!

  14. Telia Rivers | | #14

    Hi Richard, I'm in Charleston SC. Thanks so much! That is a great idea! I will do that!

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