How to Sell Your Eco-Friendly, Renovated, or Smart Home  

Reader Contribution by Kari Klaus and Realty Sage
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This is Part 2 of Why Sustainability Information Matters in Real Estate. ReadPart 1: Buying a Home? Why Sustainability Information Matters.In this series, Realty Sage’s Founder, Kari Klaus, asked sustainability expert Miriam Gennari, President of MetroMakeover LLC, and real estate agent with Ikon Realty in Annandale, Va., 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.

You have probably heard that the most important factor when selling your home is pricing it, right?

While pricing your home competitively is very important, it doesn’t make much of a difference if you aren’t marketing it accurately to justify the price, nor does it make a difference if you don’t have the most knowledgeable professionals “pros” to assist you through the transaction. 

If you have recently upgraded your home or if you have an eco-friendly home, marketing those premium features accurately and finding the right pros who have the experience and knowledge working with your type of home is incredibly important to getting your return on your investment.

The Right Pros

“Knowing a house has value because of sustainability is one thing, selling it is quite another.”

Miriam Gennari, VA, MD and DC Realtor and sustainability expert with metromakeover at Ikon Realty

Qualifying your listing agent. Typically, people look to referrals from a friend or neighbor, to a well-known agent in the neighborhood, or from an advertisement. But none of these means help you to really qualify your listing agent to market your home accurately and knowledgeably. 

“Most surprising” Gennari explains, “is that most Realtors working opposite me do not understand the value of sustainability, therefore their clients rely on me as their resource even though I am representing the other side of the deal.  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.”

A skilled and knowledgeable agent will take the time to ask you all the right questions about the unique and important details about your home.

”If a homeowner decides to invest in solar, energy star appliances or environmentally-friendly and recycled materials,” Gennari illustrates, “and their real estate agent does not understand the value of those features, the homeowner never sees the reward of their effort.“

Here are two steps you can take to help you qualify your agent. Take stock of your home’s features. By going from room to room, write down the improvements you’ve made, and seek out the documents and receipts on those improvements. Once you have your list, ask your agent questions about these features and find out how knowledgeable they are about marketing them.

One of the best ways to get you started with the process of finding a qualified agent is to fill out a simple, 5 minute, online questionnaire at Realty Sage Pros regarding the features that your home has.

This online tool contains a database of local real estate agents that are carefully matched to your needs, based on their unique experience and knowledge of your home’s features. You receive up to the top 3 agent matches to choose from. There is no obligation, no contracts, and no fees for you to conduct your local agent matching.

Qualified appraisers. Once you accept an offer on your home, the buyer’s lender will need an appraisal of the home. Be careful! If your home is high-performing and/or certified, it should be appraised by an expert who can properly evaluate your home.

According to Vivint Solar, qualified appraisers will know how to utilize the Residential Green and Energy Efficient Addendum that appraisers can attach to a standard appraisal. This addendum gives appraisers additional space to account for an increasing number of green technologies and advancements in today’s homes–from water conservation to Energy Star appliances, and of course, solar panels. Find green qualified appraisers at the Appraisal Institute.

How and How NOT to Market a Home’s Features

Focus on renewable energy, energy efficiency and cost savings

Solar: you have it. Did you know that not all solar systems can transfer to a new homeowner? If you have solar panels, it’s important to double check your solar agreement, before you market your home as a “solar home.” If you cannot transfer the system with the sale of the home, then you will need to disclose that to any potential buyers, upfront.  If you’re unsure about whether you can transfer your solar system in the sale of your home, check your agreement and review these tips

Your agent should also know how to market the benefits of a solar system, including how to discuss them with potential buyers. Check out these tips on, How to Host an Open House with Solar Panels

Solar: you don’t have it.  Even if you don’t have solar, don’t skip out on the opportunity to market your home’s potential to add it! If you don’t have solar, consider getting an estimate to show buyers the potential of adding solar once they own the home. Go to PickMySolar.com (a Realty Sage Affiliated Partner) and simply insert your home address to get started on an evaluation. 

Energy audits. If your home is energy efficient, then you need to show it off. The best way to do that is by investing in an energy audit, which typically costs anywhere from $200 -$600, depending on the size of your home and your location.  Find energy auditors near you.

Tax incentives and rebates. Use tax incentives and rebates to finish your home renovations before you sell. But, if you are unable to get around to doing so, make sure that buyers are made aware of these tax incentives and rebates towards potential renovations so that they don’t feel the financial pinch when considering these improvements for themselves. An eco-friendly agent will know how to help advertise specific rebates and tax incentives for things like solar systems and appliances that buyers may not be aware of. Knowing this, the agent can explain to the buyer, how that outdated refrigerator is something that they could replace with their own preference! Renewable energy tax rebates can be found on energystar.gov.

State tax rebates for appliances. On major sites like Home Depot and Lowes, you can find state rebate options appearing alongside the appliances. 

Out with the Old Real Estate Ways

“Having information on how the property was built, upgraded and maintained as well as its performance is often overlooked by many agents who focus on the photos and only the fundamentals,” Gennari says.

While there are a growing number of homes with third-party certifications, there are still many more homes without a certification that have high performing and high tech features which are very beneficial to homeowners–sometimes even more so than a certified home. Make your home stand out.

Customized marketing materials and documentation. One of the best ways to make your listing standout is to highlight, not bury, the premium features your listing has. Most agents mention the homes’ features in the comments section of listings, where it is difficult to notice and even harder to understand the benefits of such features. 

Agents can customize their marketing materials by promoting the features upfront. One option to do this is through the automated custom marketing materials and Sage Score certificate option on RealtySage.com. Input your property into RealtySage.com and disclose all of its features, and any energy score ratings it may have. Then, select the “Sage Score and Marketing Materials package” at the end of the process. You can continue to edit the property features, photos and description as needed. So, once you purchase a marketing materials package, you can update it at any time. 

Using real estate sites in a new way. One of the most influential ways to distinguish your home from others is through the online marketplace. While most sites have widespread appeal, they offer very little opportunity when it comes to distinguishing your property from others. Gennari illustrates, “No two homes are exactly the same, even if they were built with the same specs by the same builder. Things like Energy Star appliances, maintenance records and general upkeep play a big role in the value of a home.” 

Here are examples of homes with eco-friendly features, certifications and smart technology, that are noticeable only by reading through the agent’s comments. 

On the other hand, when using sites like RealtySage, you can add your listing for free, and your eco-friendly features, certifications and smart technology information will appear ON your listing.  

How Not to Market Your Home’s Features

Greenwashing. Showcasing the benefits of your upgraded and eco-friendly home is important, but don’t overdo it!  Make sure that you are not “greenwashing” the marketing of your property by overly emphasizing its eco friendly features or their homeowner benefits.

According to a  Washington Post article “The practice is called “greenwashing,” and home shoppers need to be on guard: It means a house is being marketed as environmentally friendly and energy-saving when it doesn’t deserve that description.

Greenwashing is a growing issue in real estate as multiple studies demonstrate that consumers are attracted to — and will often pay premiums for — homes that are highly efficient in saving on utility bills.”

So, don’t allow your home to be marketed as “energy efficient” when you’ve only swapped out 3 incandescent light bulbs for 3 LED ones! Being honest about the improvements, and educating buyers about their potential benefits like cost savings, comfort, and eco-friendliness, is the best way to win over new home buyers. If you’re considering selling your home, taking a few additional steps to help make sure that it is marketed more accurately, and that you have the most knowledgeable professionals to help you through the process. These steps will give you the best opportunity to sell your home quickly and with the best possible return on your investment.


Kari Klaus is the founder of RealtySage.com, a data-driven real estate platform which overlays sustainability intelligence onto home listings. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

Increasing the energy efficiency of your home can save you money, help the environment and enhance your comfort, but how do you decide which improvements are the most beneficial and cost-effective? Completely revised to incorporate the latest developments in green technology, The Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings is the definitive resource for consumers who want to better their home’s performance while reducing their energy bills.
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