Certifications, Green Washing, and How Realtors Can Help You Through it All

We welcome Nest Agent Laura Winn Smith to The Nest Report. As our latest contributor to the “What does it mean to be green?” series, she covers the importance of certifications and the challenges that “green washing” creates for the Central Virginia real estate industry.

All of local builder Smith & Robertson's homes achieve NAHB Bronze Level Green Certification as a baseline.

As Realtors, we’ve witnessed client interest in the green movement steadily increase. The “green” we see in real estate today is derived from the ecology movement of the 70’s, which didn’t really gain much popular steam until about a dozen years ago when our highly technological culture revolted with “back to nature”, farmer’s markets, healthy houses, a local product emphasis, etc. Remnants of the 70’s were solar panels and passive solar, which a number of local builders adopted, then maybe forgot about.

But when gas prices sky-rocketed, and hybrid cars were introduced, it only seemed logical that the housing industry – historically such a big user of natural resources – would step up. Not to mention the public’s response to saving the planet on one side and saving money with energy efficient methods on the other. It became a marketing ah hah, that mentioning the word “green” would bring more readers, more buyers. As Realtors, we have seen the word “green” used for pretty much anything, so its no wonder many of today’s homebuyers need a little guidance navigating through it all.

Overuse of the term “green” watered down the original intent, and frankly became a bit boring, and ripe for teasing.  The term “green washing” was born. But demand for effective results soared, thus the need to find a way to monitor this booming industry. Now there are dozens of designations and accreditations for professionals in the housing industry, as well as certifications for buildings. Some of the Realtor designations are American Conservation Broker, EcoBroker, NAR GREEN, and S.T.A.R. Broker. Builders can be accredited by Earth Craft House Virginia, NAHB GREEN, LEED H, Energy Star among others. The houses they build are certified by testing, measuring and scoring a number of factors from size to siting to use of energy to water use to lifespan of the products used. Having all this information available for green buildings is a great thing for our industry. Being able to decipher and navigate through it all is part of what we do for our clients.

“Green washing” describes products and services, buildings and communities that were jumping on the popular “green” band-wagon, but with no back-up or verification. Today, educated Realtors authenticate claims of “green” by researching the home’s certifications and further measurements beyond energy efficiency. We in the industry are happy to answer any and all questions you may have (the more the better!) and to share our knowledge with anyone who will listen. So please reach out to your local Nest agent should you ever have any questions about “green”.

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