As the price of energy continues to increase, consumers are looking for efficiency in their properties and some consumers are even looking for properties that have had lesser environmental impact or even that create a more healthful environment inside via incorporation of ‘green’ design, technology, construction and maintenance elements. As these practices become more common and consumers want to find properties with them, they will need to be accommodated in the MLS system as a property feature. The question is how to add enough MLS fields to accommodate the differences between “green” and regular properties, yet make them easy to search, and end up with data that will stand the test of time?
I’d suggest standardizing on the most robust “green” standard, the “U.S. Green Building Council” (http://www.usgbc.org/) LEED standard. They have developed LEED certifications for different property types, including New Construction, Existing Buildings, Commercial Interiors, Healthcare, Homes, Neighborhoods, and more. Each property type has checklists with scores or features that affect different “green” aspects that a consumer might care about, such as energy efficiency, water efficiency, and indoor environmental quality to name just a few. A certifier goes through such checklists and adds up points gained for each good practice and the property may attain one of four LEED levels: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. So, for example, a newly constructed home may attain a LEED New Construction Gold Certification. Note that the property may or may not be located in a place that has achieved LEED Neighborhood Development certification of any level, or which has LEED certified schools, healthcare, or retail. I doubt that an MLS is going to add the scores of green features that make up the LEED checklists for a property to the MLS, let alone add all of the fields that make up the certifications for surrounding neighborhood, schools, etc. – but they may want to at least pick the correct LEED type and level for the property, and may additionally have a separate field for searching out LEED certification for neighborhood, nearby schools, etc. All the detailed information on LEED certification for a property could be made available as an associated document for a listing in the MLS, and eventually some elements of the LEED checklist may merit listing as a separate MLS field.
If you’re a consumer that wants to know, in general, what to look for in a “green” home – or you are a REALTOR® that wants to be a better guide, you can always read the detailed checklists on the aforementioned web site, or just read this handy, short Green Homes Checklist:http://www.greenhomeguide.org/what_makes_a_green_home/green_home_checklist.html
Of course, there are also numerous companies trying to make a buck off their own certifications – and various cities and locales have created their own standards – for example, see http://www.floridagreenbuilding.org/db/. If your area has created a popular “green” certification of its own, or if one of the commercial certifications has made inroads in your market, you may need to have these additional property certification statuses searchable in the MLS. Just make sure that the certification is robust, and like the LEED certification, auditable and verifiable. If your MLS allows for associated documents to be uploaded and linked to the listing, I’d suggest that certification documents become required attachments for listings which claim to have achieved a certification.
According to NAR, “Forty percent of Realtors® report that green building is important to their business and clients, while 87 percent believe it will be of even more interest a year from now.” So, last week (September 04, 2008), the National Association of Realtors® introduced a new Green designation for Realtors®. To earn the designation, Realtors® must complete a core course plus one elective. The program is designed to help Realtors® understand green properties, explain green features and practices to clients, understand the ratings systems, list and market green homes and buildings, and discuss financial incentives for going green. It looks like soon you’ll have another option to add to your MLS roster search as well! For more information on NAR’s Green designation, seehttp://www.greenresourcecouncil.org/
UPDATE: other links of interest:
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