What Market Transformation Means to Me

When I talk about market transformation with some of my real estate colleagues they sometimes will react by nodding there heads and politely smiling, but you can almost hear their minds saying, "WTF is this guy talking about, real estate market transformation? Seriously? Just concentrate on selling homes, dude"

When I reference market transformation in my head I see the images of hundreds of devoted individuals who are spending their professional careers working on and delivering tangible outcomes. I love these people.

Pic from yesterday's #HELIX Summit in Providence, RI#sustainabilitywarriors

Green Certifications for Homes? What's the value proposition?

Highland Street Weston project article on the green certifications we are pursuing by developer Steve Snider. If you have wondered about the value proposition of independent 3rd party certifications, this article should help clarify your thinking…


My Predictions for 2018

Good news:

)      Long-term investors- including banks, GSEs, and insurance companies- take a serious look at the impact of climate change on their bottom line

2)      The high-performance home market continues to gain traction, particularly in the new construction market

3)      Consumer demand for sustainable products continues to rise

4)      Backlash against climate-change deniers increases

5)      Science/data makes a comeback

6)      The National Association of REALTORS® makes major advances at the intersection of sustainability and real estate

7)      Inman makes sustainability a key talking point

Bad news:

1)      Stock market experiences a correction

2)     Interest rates rise

3)     Affordability remains a major concern in the real estate industry

HPH Market Update MLS PIN

Using data from the multiple listing service most real estate agents use in MA, MLS PIN in Shrewsbury, MA, here is a quick update on the high-performance home market. MLS PIN is a leader in advancing green data fields in their MLS. They were an early adopter of fields in 2009, and did a significant update of fields at the beginning of 2015.

As I have blogged, under-reporting of green certified homes is a problem. There is clear evidence that agents without knowledge and competence in green features and certifications have under-reported green certified properties in MLS PIN by as much as a 3.5 to 1 ratio.

Currently there are 34 single family homes with some type of green certification currently available. Single family homes with a reported HERS Index Score is 72 properties that are currently for sale.

There are 16 condos currently active with some type of green certification and 28 active condos the listing agent has entered a number for the HERS Index Score field.

Increasing use of term "energy efficienct" used in real estate agents marketing of homes...

When a listing agent enters information into their MLS to market a property, there are a number of fields that they can use as a quick reference guide for a potential home buyer. These fields include items such as square footage of the lot and home (often times auto-populated from a tax record database) the number of rooms, bedrooms and baths. Fields may even extend to green features -  green certification of a home (LEED, NGBS) or if the homeowner/developer has had HERS Score completed on the property are becoming more coming in MLSs.

MLSs also have a remarks section where the listing agent is able to describe the home and its features in more detail than just the fields. The remarks section is what most home buyers view when the go to Zillow, Trulia or Realtor.com - the description of the property and its features was entered into the MLS.

Times "energy efficient" used in MLS PIN 2011-2015

Real estate agents are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of a home with lower operating costs. A thorough review of the total cost of home ownership should include not only principal, interest, taxes, and insurance, but utility and transportation costs as well as upkeep.

MLS PIN #s HERS Ratings and Net Zero Homes

In 2015 MLS PIN, the largest multiple listing service in the state of MA, updated their green data fields. Data base fields in the MLS are the central nervous system of the real estate transaction. The fields are used by consumers searching for specific features different homes offer, and by appraisers searching for accurate sold comps to establish valuation. Accuracy of the fields is essential for a healthy marketplace.

In April, 2015 MLS PIN added the last field of the 16 upgrades to their green data list: the HERS Index Score. A HERS rating is a rigorous third party verified evaluation of the home's energy efficiency. The U.S. Dept. of Energy estimates a typical existing home to have a HERS score of 130-140. New construction homes modeled from the IECC 2006 building code rates at 100 (like your golf score the lower the better with your HERS score). In order for new construction in MA stretch code communities, a home must reach HERS scores between 65-70 depending on the gross living area of the home. LEED Platinum homes many times reach HERS scores in the 30's - and, the holy grail of building science is a HERS score of 0. Net zero homes include some source of energy production on the end user side of the meter (in MA solar PV is the typical choice). The energy production coupled with an extremely efficient design produces homes that produce as much energy as the use on an annual basis, hence the term net zero.

Reviewing the 2016 numbers to date in MLS PIN: 305 single family homes were listed with a HERS Index Score field entered. Of these 55 single family homes indicated the home had a HERS Score of 0 - the holy grail of building science.

In order for a home to reach net zero it must be utilizing some type energy production on site. Of the 55 homes that said their homes had a HERS Index Score of 0 only two had any evidence of solar PV in the pictures or remarks and one indicated the home had geothermal (this home also was marketed with rigorous R-45 wall and R-65 ceiling insulation).

Of the 55 homes listed with a HERS Index Score 40 were built in 2015-16. 18 were marketed as Energy Star Certified, 2 as LEED certified and 1 was NGBS certified.

I also did a key word search of "net zero" and 11 additional properties were marketed using the term, none of which used the HERS Index Score data field in MLS PIN. Ten of these properties were built in 2015-16, and nine of the properties indicated they were "net zero ready" if the buyer purchased a solar package with the new construction.


1) It is clear that many listing brokers are confused about what a HERS Index Score is, and what the score means.

2) The misinformation could lead to significant distortion of the high performance home market as appraisers look for accurate comps.

3) Agents using inappropriate HERS Index Scores could be accused of greenwashing.

4) More real estate industry education on this subject is needed.

#s from my FB Ad

Just did a massive $30 ad campaign on Facebook, lol. Here are the numbers by gender and age of responses. I found it interesting...

                     People reached                  Clicks to website

W                         1828                                   20

M                          1321                                   14

Unknown               27                                     0



18-24                     22%                                

25-34                    12%

35-44                    9%

45-54                   14%

55-64                  24%

65+                      18%

Clicks to website percentage 18-24 21%, 55-64 27%, 65+ 27% - 75% of clicks to the website were in the outer ends of the age brackets. You can find my FB page at: www.facebook.com/SustainableRealEstateConsultingServicesbtw


Under-reporting of Green Certified Properties in the MLS

In Massachusetts, we are fortunate to have one of the top ten multiple listing services (MLS), the data base that real estate agents use to market home features.  Multiple Listing Service Property Information Network (MLS PIN) located in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts (MLS PIN) was one of the first MLSs to adopt green fields in 2009. These fields support high-performance home features.

MLS PIN’s green data fields include several fields for listing agents bringing a high-performance home to market. For a developer that has hired a real estate agent to bring their HPH to market, it is critical that the listing agent accurately enter all of the homes features in the data base. Inaccurate representation of a home’s green features are problematic for a variety of reasons. Over stating the homes energy features is known as ‘green-washing’ and opens all of the parties in the transaction to potential litigation; under-reporting of the homes green features is marketing opportunity lost to a growing audience of home buyers searching the data base for energy efficient homes built with sustainable products.  Under-reporting of data also can make valuing the home accurately by real estate appraisers and underwriters a challenge.

In my 2014 report on the MA HPH marketplace, I discovered evidence that both under-reporting and over-reporting of a home’s green features was prevalent in Massachusetts real estate sales of 2013.

MLS PIN offers a listing agent an opportunity to note a home that was certified by third party institutions like LEED. By checking a box in the MLS an agent can indicate if a home has been green certified.

I first discovered there might be a problem of under-reporting when I was searching green certified condos for a buyer in 2013. When I searched for available green condos, I realized that there were LEED certified condos not appearing in the MLS, although I knew that they were LEED certified condos in the price range and area that my buyer was interested in. I decided to investigate this issue more closely for my 2013 report.

I discovered that there was evidence that supports for every one green certified single-family home accurately recorded in Massachusetts in 2013, 1.5 single family homes were under-reported. For condominiums sales, evidence of accurate reporting by listing agents was even worse, for every one condo accurately recorded two were not. The evidence was clear that real estate agents were unaware of the tools their MLS gave them to market properties to buyers.

There was also evidence that the MLS PIN data field ‘Solar Features’ was over used by listing agents. Evidence suggests that this field may have been inappropriately used 39% of the time in 2013, up from 28% that I reported in my 2012 study.