By Jessica Smith
There are a lot of things to consider when buying a house - price, location, size - and recently a "green" category, referring to energy efficiency and environmental impact of a home, has been added to that list.
The Colorado Energy Office has been working with local communities statewide to add "green fields" to the multiple listing service (MLS), the database Realtors use to find information about homes for sale. In Frisco, the High Country Conservation Center in Frisco has been working with the energy office and the Summit Association of Realtors to get the same category listing for homes in Summit County.
There are four main categories under the green listing, which include LEED certified homes (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), Energy Star homes, National Green Building Standard homes and homes with a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) index.
"We're basically trying to encourage energy efficiency, low energy cost and environmentally friendly features in homes," said Lynne Greene, energy programs manager at HC3. "A lot of people want these features in their homes for various reasons. There's a pretty high culture of sustainability in Summit County; people really care about these things, but they also want to receive a return on their investment."
Recently, HC3 was approved by the DORA Division of RealEstate to provide a course to local Realtors on understanding and utilizing the new green features. The course is being provided free of charge, thanks to a grant by the Colorado Energy Office. By taking the class, Realtors and appraisers can earn four continuing education credits.
Teaching the course will be Matt Wright, energy operations manager at HC3. Wright has been involved with the Colorado Energy Office grant process and is a certified energy auditor, as well as certified in all four of the new green field categories.
"We're getting the ball rolling, getting people thinking about it, getting it listed on the MLS, getting Realtors thinking of it," Wright said, of the green fields. "Hopefully it will change the whole atmosphere in the county.
"Having these green features in the Realtor database is huge, for just opening the door for people to receive the value from the improvements that they make to their home," Greene said. "It's really big as far as linking the economic impact with the environmental impact. We believe it can be a good decision for the environment and the economy."
Having the green categories in the MLS may eventually benefit home buyers and home sellers, in addition to Realtors and appraisers, said Wright.
Realtors, for example, will be able to give even more information to their clients about potential homes, as well as qualifications for loan programs related to environmental or energy efficiency upgrades. Those selling their homes, who have put resources into making their houses more green, may see an increase in value. People buying homes will then have more information regarding not only the environmental impact of a house, but the potential cost of running it.
For example, House A and House B might have the same mortgage, Wright explained, but House A's energy bills cost twice as much as House B's energy bills.
"That's something that people should really know before purchasing a home - how much is it going to cost you to run," Wright said. The green MLS information can tell people that.
"Hopefully, it's supposed to be a win-win for everybody," he said of the new listing.
The "Understanding the Green MLS and Green Construction" class will take place April 17 at the Summit Association of Realtors classroom. There will be a morning (8 a.m. to noon) class and an afternoon (1-5 p.m.) class. The event is open to the public. To register, call HC3 at (970) 668-5703 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"The Summit County Realtors deserve some credit for making the effort to add the features and also to educate the local realtors," Greene said. "It's really a good thing."