Greenrealestate: Green practices for Realtors

Green Real Estate Nov 11, 2008


By Elden Freeman
 
For anyone whose business involves consultation with the public, and advising individuals on business transactions, the ability to tap into a general sense of the important issues of the day is vital. That’s especially true in a business like real estate, where people make decisions about large and momentous transactions. An outside advisor can place the entire deal in a larger context that aligns with the values of the times. It goes a long way towards buttressing the confidence of the parties involved.
 
Case in point: it was impossible to watch coverage of the recent Canadian election, or from the U.S. election, and not pick up on the prevalence of environmental concerns. There wasn’t a single major candidate on the continent who didn’t give serious airtime and discussion to this subject, and opinion polls indicate that, especially in Canada, environmental concerns rank high on the list of issues that voters care about. These same voters are also buyers and sellers, and potential clients.
 
One of the jurisdictions furthest ahead on this curve in Canada is British Columbia, whose Liberal government recently introduced the first carbon tax in the country. Cognizant of the raised environmental awareness in their market, the Victoria Real Estate Board aims to be the first board in Canada whose members are all NAGAB certified. Given the raised profile of environmental concerns, the board has introduced three initiatives.
 
“First, we established a Green Task Force at our real estate board,” says board president Tony Joe. “The mandate was to focus on educating our members and finding resources to assist in that area. We then found an online course through NAGAB that we could offer to our members. As a board, we are subsidizing the cost of the course as a way of encouraging interest in becoming accredited as a Greenagent or Greenbroker through NAGAB.
 
“Finally, we started to talk to local developers who were employing green building standards so that we could learn more about the marketplace and what the construction industry was starting to adopt in terms of their own practices. Part of that practical learning experience was to order an energy audit on our board building. I also invited an energy consultant to conduct an audit of my own residence so I could get a sense first-hand of what an audit looked like.”
 
The utility of energy audits and home inspections isn’t limited to British Columbia – the Ontario Ministry of the Environment recently funded NAGAB to help provide information to Realtors in the province via NAGAB’s Realtor Energy Conservation Kit. The initiative is part of the Community Go Green Fund.
 
“The goal of the CGGF program is to engage individuals and communities in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, which helps Ontario achieve its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets (six per cent below 1990 levels by 2014),” says Robert Musgrove, program evaluation/business review co-ordinator at the Ministry of Environment. The kit offers Realtors a great opportunity to provide their clients with services that extend beyond closing deals. “Buyers are excited about their new purchases and would be receptive to information that would help them to save energy while cutting down expenses. The motivation for a homeowner to make energy-efficient, energy conservation improvements peaks when the home buyer initially moves into their new or resale home,” says Musgrove.
 
The kit was developed with Realtors and home buyers in mind. “It has been designed to be provided by Realtors to homeowners as a way of conveying information about tips they can implement in their homes to save energy,” says Jennifer Sikic, instructional designer for NAGAB.
 
“It also provides information on rebates that are available through the provincial and federal government for replacing things like toilets and hot water heaters, along with other grants that are available to them.” It includes a useful room-by-room checklist for Realtors that allows them to evaluate a home’s energy efficiency. “It lets them have a snapshot of the energy use in the home and where they can make changes,” says Sikic.
 
In all, the opportunities for green agents and brokers to provide valuable environmental information to their clients are continually expanding, and have never been timelier. For more information, visit www.nagab.org.
 
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). He cares passionately about the environment and  practices what he preaches, powering his house with solar panels, driving an eco friendly Toyota Yaris and biking when possible. Freeman says he believes that Realtors across Canada can play an important role in educating their clients on increasing energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (416) 536-7325; elden@nagab.org