Group wants to give homebuyers access to more information about green home features

Su Verde is an ultra-green house in Norton Commons. It uses almost no energy. | Courtesy of UberGreen Spaces & Homes

A group of local real estate agents, home builders, appraisers and other real estate professionals are taking action to add more information about a property’s sustainability features to “for sale” listings.

The goal of the initiative called Greening the MLS is to educate homebuyers on energy efficiency in real estate and help homeowners get full value for their houses by adding categories of information to the MLS. The MLS, or multiple listing service, is a system in which real estate agents and others list houses for sale, providing details such as the number of bedrooms, the year it was built and how it’s heated.

The initiative started nationally and gained traction in Louisville a couple of years ago.

“Our ultimate goal is to educate sellers and buyers [on] what they’re buying, what they’re selling and what it’s worth,” said James Peterworth, an agent with Kentucky Select Properties.

Already, the group leading the initiative locally has gotten the categories geothermal technology, spray foam insulation, tankless water heater and solar panels included in real estate listings. MLS listings also now includes four ratings and certifications that specifically speak to a house’s energy efficiency — the Home Energy Rating System score, ENERGY STAR rating, the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification and the National Green Building Standard certification.

Cary Thale, a real estate agent with Kentucky Select Properties, said there is “enormous interest” in green features in homes. Even homebuyers who don’t list sustainability as a top priority, ask for energy-efficient windows and blown-in insulation.

“They just don’t use the word green,” she said. “We are hoping the light will go off.”

When homebuyers ask that their second floor be the same temperature as the first floor or that they don’t have doors or windows letting in a draft, they are asking for green features, said Sy Safi, owner of the construction firm UberGreen Spaces & Homes.

“What they are really asking for is better building practices, and green building practices are the better building practices,” he said.

In the National Association of Realtor’s 2016 profile of homebuyers, 84 percent listed lower heating and cooling costs as at least somewhat important.

From left to right: Paul Yankee with Green Building Consulting of Cincinnati; Sy Safi of UberGreen Spaces & Homes; Cary Thale of Kentucky Select Properties; James Peterworth of Kentucky Select Properties; and Shea Johnson of UberGreen Spaces & Homes | Courtesy of Sy Safi

As homebuyers place more value on energy efficiency, features that weren’t previously factored into an appraisal will get more attention, and homeowners who invested in green technology could reap the rewards by way of higher asking and sale prices.

More information will “provide fair value when a home is sold,” Peterworth said.

He also stated that subcategories that focus on energy efficiency and sustainability weren’t part of MLS listings, mostly because there wasn’t great demand for such features in the past.

“In Louisville, it is going to be a growing interest, and it is primarily going to be coming from the millennials,” he said.

Today, Peterworth said, there is support for adding even more subcategories to MLS listings from professionals across the real estate industry including loan officers and appraisers. The local chapter of Greening the MLS is currently working on a new list of categories, ratings and certifications that it believes should be added to the MLS.

“We already got some feedback from industry experts who think we could be even more specific,” he said.

The additions must be approved by the Metro Search Inc. board of directors, which oversees the Louisville MLS. Peterworth said he did not know when Greening the MLS would go before the board.

Having more green-focused categories can also help sustainability-minded individuals connect with local homebuilders who are placing a heavy focus on energy efficiency.

“We just have to find a way to continue to get this product out there and for people to see, create education awareness,” Safi said.

UberGreen Spaces & Homes completed a “custom, ultra-luxury” house in Norton Commons called Su Verde that for the past six months has created at least as much energy as it has consumed, Safi said. On the utility bill for April, the company was only charged a required monthly service fee and taxes, which came to just under $12; it generated 50 more kilowatts than it consumed that month.

The company is currently applying for green building ratings and certifications.