Becoming a Green Resource
Jacquie Lewis of Coldwell Banker in Highland Park has two segments of buyers. The first is focused on finances and how they can save money, while the second wants to purchase a home that won’t affect their child’s allergies and wasn’t built using a lot of chemicals. Both segments, Lewis says, are typically open to eco-friendly homes or retrofitting older homes to achieve greater efficiencies.
As a green-certified real estate agent, Lewis is well positioned to give her clients the tools and info necessary to make eco-friendly changes to the homes they’re either looking to buy or sell. “I have a strong moral climate,” Lewis says of her passion for green living. “It’s our responsibility to inform and educate about the hazards of not being knowledgeable.”
For many of her buyer clients, she talks about different green ways to save money during inspection. Some of her tidbits of advice include investing in compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs. While she admits the initial purchase price of these bulbs is higher than incandescent ones, “these are long-term decisions,” meaning they’ll save clients money in the long-run. That sentiment holds true for many of Lewis’s suggestions to her clients, and it’s something she stresses when someone is skeptical about making green changes.
Making these changes are important, Lewis stresses, because there’s a lot of older homes for sale in Chicago that can use some updating. While she is green-certified, she represents about half newer homes and half older homes in the Highland Park, Deerfield and Glencoe area. Plus, while newer homes are sometimes built with green intent, not all of them are; in today’s market, builders don’t always want to risk building an entirely green home. Even so, some developers that Lewis works with have been innovative in the homes they build. For example, she has two current listings in Glencoe that have Energy Star-rated appliances, radiant-heated floors and Hardie siding, among other green, sustainable features.
With Lewis staying on top of new green initiatives – such as ComEd’s RRTP program – and ways of updating a home, she’s becoming a resource in the Chicago suburbs. As she says, her green certification and passion for green living, “gives me more information to share than the average agent.” And being a resource has its benefits. Because of her background, one of Lewis’s past clients recently referred her to a family who had a child with a respiratory situation. They needed a home that was airtight and clean, and Lewis helped them find it.
Helping the Planet–and Client’s Wallets–Stay Green
With the current market so focused on price, Laura Reedy Stukel of L.W. Reedy Real Estate focuses on green living, as well as green in her client’s wallet. “What’s good for your wallet,” Stukel believes, “is good for the planet.”
Considering EcoBroker-certified Stukel works with existing homes and “Not-Yet-Green” homes from the 1970s and older in the Elmhurst area, it’s no surprise that she focuses on energy efficient remodeling. For her sellers, she encourages staging a home to showcase its green features, including a programmable thermostat and Energy Star-rated appliances.
As for her buyers looking to save money, Stukel teaches them to pay attention not only to what’s inside the potential home, but also to where it’s located. With a green designation since 2008, Stukel focuses on helping her clients choose where to live not only based on the home’s inside features but also based on a location’s walking score, which shows how walkable a neighborhood is, as well as its Abogo score, which estimates how much one will spend on transportation/gas costs in a given month.
This way, when one of her current clients starts evaluating between two homes – an older one near a train versus a newer home further away – transportation costs become a factor that should be factored into their big decision.
Stukel believes her focus on budget-friendly green living works because of what’s important to her clients. She’s done the research – and keeps up with green trends and how they change – to prove it; according to NAR, 88 percent of all buyers think heating and cooling costs are very important to their home-buying decision. “I realize you’ve got to be looking five steps ahead, but leading clients one step ahead,” she says. In recognition of how well she keeps herself – and her clients – informed, she recently won a Consumer Advocacy Award.
But she’s helping more than consumers and clients. By working on the Green MLS committee, she’s also actively helping agents recognize the benefits of encouraging green living in their own businesses. As a part of this committee, Stukel and other agents are working towards including and utilizing more MLS data fields that can be verified by a third party Energy Star home certification and highlight green features, such as Energy Star appliances as well as a home’s walking score.
After all, just as Stukel has proven throughout her real estate career, the more informed you are as a real estate agent, the easier it is to help buyers, sellers and appraisers understand the difference between Energy Star appliances and Energy Star certification.