Green shoots

Green Real Estate Apr 9, 2010

By Elden Freeman

The colder months arenít generally thought of as the real estate season. Houses donít always show as well as they would in warmer months, and getting to and from listings consumes more time. But as we  move along into warmer seasons, just as green shoots begin to sprout from the ground, opportunities for renewing and improving your real estate practice abound as well. It provides a new opportunity for re-invention, and real estate professionals looking to give their business a boost can give themselves a leg-up by adopting greener practices.

The most obvious signs that people are going green can be seen in the sale of lower-emission automobiles, but that is only one example of how consumers are changing their behaviour. The number of LEED-certified developments in Canada has skyrocketed over the past five years, and the number slated to begin development keeps growing. As well, increasing numbers of existing housing stock are being retrofitted to improve energy efficiency. The buildup of green properties is not just part of a passing trend. With energy price stability a question mark and energy independence a high priority for governments everywhere, increases in energy and resource efficiency are becoming important factors in the development and sale of any property.

ďGoing greenĒ is sometimes looked at as a fad, but more and more the public is becoming more educated and concerned about the environmental impact of their lifestyle. In residential real estate, the majority of the buyers who are attracted to green properties tend to be a wealthier and better-educated demographic. Mastering information that will appeal to this group is always useful to the real estate professional, but itís also important to note that their status as early-adopters is a bellwether for overall trends. What makes sense at the top end of the market makes sense at any level. Investments in green home construction lead to higher rates of homeowner satisfaction, and ultimately pay off with savings in ownership and utility costs.

Itís not just single-family residential real estate that is affected by these changes. Large developers have devoted resources and in some cases established departments to determine how to cut emissions in the construction and operation of their developments. As well, many new industrial, commercial and government buildings are being built to LEED or equivalent standards. This means the public is more likely than ever to work, play, visit or live in a green building, or know someone else who does. Public awareness of and demand for these kinds of buildings is already significant, and will only grow in the future.

Anyone operating in the real estate industry needs to get a handle on the changes that going green entail. Green real estate doesnít just mean anticipating what the next government regulation about efficiency standards is going to dictate Ė it means understanding why the biggest developers in Canada are sinking their money and resources into making their projects more green, and how that affects your clients. It also doesnít just mean having a sticker on your car window or a logo on your newsletter, but examining the efficiency of your own real estate practice Ė how green your office is, whether you are using efficient light and water fixtures, how well-insulated your office space is, whether there are low-emission options for employee commutes.

hs-green-EldenGreen real estate isnít just about installing a new, more efficient furnace, and getting some money to do it from the government Ė though it does include that. It also means understanding the whole spectrum of resources that go into the construction and maintenance of properties, including freshwater, lumber, electricity and others. It means understanding and communicating all this to help educate those in the market who donít yet fully grasp it, and by doing so help them save money while simultaneously benefiting your business.

For more resources on how you can improve your real estate practice through green real estate, visit www.NAGAB.org online for information on education, certification and business strategy. Elden Freeman  B.A., M.E.S, broker is the founder and executive director of the non-profit National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB) Phone 416-536-7325; Email  elden@nagab.org.