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.