Realtors in a Green Society

by Chicago Agent

By Eugenia M. Orr

Our city is filled with people who want to be globally responsible, but don’t know where to start. As a real estate professional, there are many ways that you can point out features, items and benefits that will save your clients money and help the environment at the same time. Also, for those clients that are dying to go green but can’t find an eco-friendly house to fit their needs, it’s helpful to have the skills to show them how any home they desire can be made into a green home.

For starters, when showing a new house or condo, point out features such as energy-efficient windows. High-performance windows provide energy and cost savings, improved interior temperature comfort in winter and summer, reduced condensation, increased daylight and clearer views and reduces fading on furniture and flooring from direct sunlight. This is achieved with multiple panes of glass that are filled with a gas to keep the elements out, along with glazing on the surface for glare and light reduction, known as low-emission coating.

Replacing existing single pane windows with Energy Star windows can save upwards of $500 per year. Even replacing a double pane window will save close to $100 per year. When looking for a new home, your clients will have enough expenses to worry about and saving money wherever possible is always appreciated. There are also tax credits available to homeowners, a maximum $1,500 for improvements, which include windows, doors and roofs.

Clients should also look into adding an energy-efficient water heater, or tankless water heater. Instead of heating and reheating the same water, a tankless water heater works by heating water on demand. Not only will homeowners save on energy costs of constantly heating and reheating the same tank of water, a tankless water heater provides an endless supply of hot water. For a home with a 41-gallon tank usage, a tankless heater can typically be 24 percent to 34 percent more energy efficient than a standard tank.

If the home you are showing has a tank water heater, ask the homeowner or developer if it can be insulated. As much as 33 percent of a hot water tank’s inefficiency occurs through heat loss through the walls. Simply covering the tank with an insulating jacket will reduce this surface heat loss, resulting in savings on energy and money.

When viewing homes, Realtors should suggest that their clients turn on all the faucets and flush commodes to check the water pressure when the homes have not been winterized. Check for low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators that can reduce water consumption by as much as 50 percent. Aerators mix air into the water stream, sending a strong flow, but using only half the amount of water. For the commodes, look for ultra-efficient models. Conventional commodes use five gallons of water per flush, while a low-flow commode uses three and one-half gallons of water and an ultra low-flow uses only 1.6 gallons. With a commode upgrade, homeowners can save 30 percent to 70 percent of water usage per flush.

Another eco-conscious option is to look for programmable thermostats. For an investment of under $100, a programmable thermostat allows for only heating or cooling a home when needed. During the day if no one is at home, the temperature can be set lower in the winter and higher in the summer. The return temperature will heat or cool before the owner arrives home. Most programmable thermostats also have wake and sleep settings for further control over the temperature.

One request of most clients is energy-efficient appliances, known as Energy Star appliances. Energy Star is a rating system created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Energy to help homeowners save money and protect the environment through energy-efficient products and practices. According to the Energy Star Web site, the use of energy-efficient appliances can save about a third on annual energy bills in comparison to appliances that do not carry the Energy Star logo. Energy Star qualified products include appliances, such as refrigerators, stoves, washers, dryers and dishwashers. Also included are heating and cooling units, water heaters, televisions and DVD players and even light fixtures. Roofing, insulation, doors and windows have also been rated through the Energy Star program, so look for the Energy Star logo when showing homes.

These are some of the simple ways to be green. More in-depth green aspects include solar panels, rooftop or open garden spaces, compost pounds in developments and automatic sprinkler systems set to water lawns during non-peak hours. In general, there are many ways for your clients to make their new homes environmentally friendly, and having the knowledge to help them with this task will make you that much more indispensable as a Realtor.

With more than 10 years in the Interior Design and Real Estate industries, Eugenia M. Orr believes that good design is about form, function and beauty and affordability. For more information log on to i4interiors.net or eugeniaorr.com.

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