Purchasing a property or improving an existing property can be one of the largest investments a person may ever make. Realty Sage asked sustainability expert Miriam Gennari, President of MetroMakeover LLC, and real estate agent with Ikon Realty in Annandale Virginia, to share her story in a 3-part series about working in the emerging eco-real estate industry — the challenges, the opportunities, and the details about her career choice.
It’s really no surprise that the primary source of real estate knowledge for homebuyers is the Internet. According to the National Association of Realtors, 99% of Millennials search for homes using online websites, often before contacting a real estate agent to begin their home search. And Millennials are the largest group of first time homebuyers at 66%.
With buyers primarily gaining their knowledge early on from real estate sites, it is startling to know that buyers are not getting the full picture of the homes they are looking at online, and that includes the potential cost savings and other benefits like eco-friendliness, money savings as well as benefits for their health and comfort.The features that often buyers don’t see include: higher quality building construction, which means lower long-term maintenance and ownership costs, along with more comfortable living conditions; high tech and automated features which bring about lower maintenance; and better systems and finishes which are not just more environmentally friendly, because they use less water and energy, but they can improve the air quality and save the homeowners money.
Knowledgeable agents, like Miriam Gennari, are working hard to fill that gap of information when they can. “I prefer to put the green features out in front.” Miriam adds, “In my brochures and on the Internet, I make sure that customers and their neighbors feel informed about the sustainability of a home and where opportunities exist to increase the value of a property either before they list or even after they buy.”
Real estate sites often limit the display of important home information to the listing’s comment section. This means that homes with premium features do not stand out, and buyers don’t fully understand the differences and the benefits in the homes that they are considering.
Home Features that Matter
Buyers (and even agents!) are often unaware of the cost-saving features that many homes have, until the time of a home inspection. Homebuyers want — and will pay more for — sustainable features like energy-efficient appliances, windows and the like, alongside features that ensure better air quality, according to the Forbes article, The Increased Importance of Environmental Sustainability in Real Estate.
So when buyers ask Miriam which improvements they should make, she often tells them, “If you have to choose between a new kitchen and new windows, I tell my clients choose the windows. What’s the point of a beautiful home if no one can enjoy it because you’re worried about the cost of utilities or you’re uncomfortable because of fluctuating temperatures?”
Eco-friendly features are not just environmentally sustainable, but they can provide a sense of fiscal sustainability too. Miriam believes that "In the future, nothing will be more important to home buying than controlling energy costs. Go solar if you can.” One good option for being able to compare the costs of solar from top providers is through Pick My Solar (a Realty Sage Partner).
Online Resources for Buyers
According to Miriam, “People are eager to learn about the value and benefits of an eco-friendly home and love to brag about it once they become aware.” And yet, while buyers would like to have eco-friendly, cost-saving and low maintenance features, they are not getting this information when it’s most important -- early on, during their online home searches.
One way buyers can obtain this information is through RealtySage.com, a new real estate platform that enhances listings with more and new types of data, and gives buyers comparison tools, such as the Sage Score and Livability Categories.
The e-Harmony of Real Estate
When buyers have expert real estate agents, like Miriam, help guide them through the process she can educate her buyer clients early on. But buyers being able to easily find expert agents, Miriam acknowledges has also been problematic in the real estate industry “...Until Realty Sage, I had not seen a site that spotlights the value of smart, eco conscious agents.”
The agent-finder Realty Sage Pros is the only site which connects the best local agents to the real estate needs of buyers and sellers using data-driven matching based on their knowledge and experience with homes. This is innovative because Realty Sage Pros first evaluates the customer’s criteria the and cross compares that with the experiential data of agents in brokerages across the country, to find the most ideal local agents to work with those buyers and sellers. It’s like e-Harmony for real estate agents and customers.
Miriam emphasizes that, “A home purchase is a big decision, and one that can have a huge impact on the wealth and success of a person’s or family’s future.” Having both — more information upfront and being able to connect to local expert professionals — is essential for successful and educated home buyers to make the right decisions for their lifestyle needs.
For updates with Realty Sage, sign up for the e-newsletter. You can connect with Miriam or your local agent through RealtySagePros.com. Miriam Gennari is in the DC area and Ikon Realty, serving Northern Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC. Read all of Kari Klaus' MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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