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The Business of 'Greenwashing' (And We're Not Talking About Laundry)

LEED: As Kermit the frog might say, "It ain’t easy bein' green."

Well, it seems Kermit is on to something in the real estate market too. As homes flood the real estate market claiming that they have green features or energy efficiency and ask for a premium price tag because buyers think that they are getting an innovative, eco-friendly and energy-efficient home, the real question is, "How do they know?"

The Business of 'Greenwashing'

The practice of using eco buzzwords and claiming various green features to overly hype a property is known as "green-washing", and it can make it confusing for buyers in the market for eco and energy efficient homes.

Many builders are taking the extra step to complete their homes with a third party certification from a national certifier like Energy Star, LEED, and even Net Zero or the many local or regional certifies. While others rely on the marketing of their real estate agent to boast about how "green" the home is. But unless you have a run-down of all the green and energy efficient features and can weigh how green or energy efficient they are, will you fall into the trap of buying a "green" home just because someone said it was so?

Tips to Ensure that Your Prospective Home is Actually Green

1. Ask if the home has any certifications, either nationally or locally. Because there are a variety of certifications, check to see if that one focuses on the features that matter to you most. Are you interested in energy saving primarily or would you like to be sure the home hosts a combination of energy saving features like high R-value insulation and high efficiency systems as well as healthy finishes such as no VOC paint and zero-off gassing flooring?

Some of the most well-known certifications are LEED, Energy Star, Net Zero, and Built Green. 

2. If the home is being marketed as "green" but all you notice is Energy Star rated appliances in the kitchen (good, but far from what you might consider to be "green" home) ask for a full run down of the features, systems, and building materials.

 

One of the newest MLS type real estate sites that lists eco-friendly and energy efficient homes for sale is Viva Green Homes They found that in general green certifications, locally or nationally, are very helpful to buyers to get a quick sense of how eco-friendly a home is. For that reason, buyers can quickly search by a specific certification(s) on the website. Or, they can browse through all the listings and note the prominently displayed certifications with the listing’s photo, making searching for a green home much easier than ever before.

energy star cert home

LEED cert homes

But the site goes further in an effort to help combat "green washing" of un-certified homes listed for sale (ones with green features but are not third-party certified). The site lists a special Viva Green Homes Score rating of one to five stars based on the quality and quantity of the green features named in the listing. For buyers who want an eco-friendly home but don’t know how to weigh or calculate just how green one home compares to another, this VGH Score helps to quickly identify how green a home is based on the star rating. The details of the green features are listed on the individual listing’s page.

This Harleysville, Pennsylvania home is an example of an eco-friendly and energy-efficient home that received a 5-star Viva Green Homes Score. This home earned the VGH 5 Star rating because of its quality and quantity of green features including geothermal heat and cooling, tankless water heater, radiant floor heat, and its passive design. For its interior finishes it has low-VOC paint and finishes with little to no off-gassing, and more. The home is for sale and you can see more about it here.

At the end of the day, each buyer will pick and choose the right home that fits their needs. I hope that these helpful tips on buying a truly green home helps make sure that you aren’t singing the blues (or the greens).


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