On March 8, 2012, Metrolist, Denver’s real estate colossus, will finally unveil its “green-field addendum.” And it’s been a long time coming, says Jamil Dillon.
Dillon would know because he helped hatch the idea. He was the Residential Program Senior Associate at the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) in 2010 when he and green home builder Sean Smith began conversations with some Colorado MLSes, including Metrolist, to provide “green” and energy-efficient home-listing info. Dillon says that even GEO management was at first hesitant about promoting and helping fund such a far-reaching initiative, affecting all the state’s listing services. But like Tim Tebow spotting an upfield opening, Dillon and Smith grabbed the ball and bolted for it.
“In hindsight, people commend it. But at the time, they were like, ‘They’re doing their own thing. Can we do that?’” Dillon recalls. “Sean and I formed our own [working] group [within the GEO], started talking to Metrolist, to the folks on the western slope and with the U.S. Green Building Council.” Fast forward to today, and their conversations have become bricks-and-mortar reality.
Metrolist is the 800-pound gorilla in Colorado real estate with approximately 50 percent of the state’s REALTORS and almost 70 percent of the real estate transactions. Compiling this data in Colorado is critical because green-building advocates say it will mirror what’s been happening in the Pacific Northwest – that, in fact, green homes sell faster and for more money than conventional, code-built comparables. Cities like San Antonio, Santa Barbara, Phoenix and Charleston already have green-field addenda (GFAs) in place. Though several MLS’s in Colorado already have GFAs, when Metrolist snaps this new lens in place, nearly everyone will see green.
Kirby D. Slunaker, Metrolist’s chief operating officer, says the organization had to cover ground quickly against the backdrop of other sea changes – rolling out new software and real estate tools to Metrolist members, plus a rental property database. Also, Metrolist’s founding president of 27 years left the organization in fall 2011, and the organization is exploring a possible merger with IRES – Boulder and northern Colorado’s MLS.
Slunaker identified two major reasons why he and Melissa Olson, Metrolist senior manager for marketing and sales, recently punched the gas on the GFA. “Social responsibility – it’s the right thing to do,” says Slunaker, noting that buildings consume 39 percent of the nation’s energy use. “And REALTOR differentiation – there’s a value proposition here,” he says, noting that anything REALTORS can do to differentiate themselves is good.
Until 2009, there was a disconnect between hearth-and-home green improvements, and increased appraisal values. And in fact, some additions like solar panels historically decreased the value of a home. One Boulder banker and appraiser aptly named Elizabeth Million says all this re-tooling and data capture is largely focused at loan underwriters.
“The ultimate decision maker in the green real estate chain is the underwriter,” says Million. “An owner says, ‘This home is worth 20 percent more because it’s energy-efficient.’ When it gets to the underwriter, the underwriter says, ‘What’s a PV panel?’ We need these data points because underwriters make decisions based on the data they have in front of them,” she says. And that translates into higher appraisal values for green features.
Million also notes that GFAs don’t just benefit listing agents (with bigger commissions) and sellers (with higher sales prices), but GFA data can also help buyers’ agents. That, however, hinges on two critical words – searchable fields.
“If someone is here from California, they want to see four properties, and they want them to be energy-efficient. That client has half a day. You have to be able to search quickly,” she says. “Addenda are great for documentation, but really what we need is more searchable fields.”
Slunaker points to a couple of issues that could significantly slow adoption of the GFA. The first is the age of Metrolist members, 40 percent of whom are 55 years old or older. Many may not be earth-friendly natives like younger REALTORS.
Also, real estate agents may be slower on the uptake to learn how to use the GFA. MLSes across the country, and even IRES, deep in the heart of Boulder, have experienced a much slower adoption than expected.
Slunaker also says some of these older brokers feel like their older, affluent buyers don’t care about lower utility bills or other green benefits. Yet hardly anyone, even the wealthiest, wants to pay Xcel Energy $800 (or more) every month because their homes are energy hogs. “If you miss an opportunity to help buyers and sellers, hey, you’re glossing over something.”
Dillon agrees that it’s up to Metrolist to make this a bottom-line concern. “I consider myself an environmentalist, for sure,” he says. “But the primary benefits have to be about the bottom line – saving money on utility bills and health. Money’s very in-your-face. Explaining to people about formaldehyde and paints is much more abstract.”
- Melissa Baldridge
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