Should homes that are green, and therefore better for the environment, come with an increase in price tag?  Should a house that has a LEED rating be more expensive than one without it, based solely on the green attributes?  Or, if a house has solar panels to help offset the use of purchased electric energy, should that cost more?  These, and others, are much needed questions requiring answers before the information is published and becomes quantifiable on MLS listings.

My hat goes off to Sandra Adomatis, from Adomatis Appraisal Services, for her recent report “What is Green Worth?”  The report was funded by The District of Colombia’s Department of Energy and Environment and supported by the Institute for Market Transformation. The report asks What is Green Worth?, referring to the cost of a green house.  It opens the door for further research and the need to have this information on the MLS listing.

The caution is in understanding a home’s green information given to the realtor from the seller, which is then provided to the potential home buyer.  This information could easily be misconstrued and, therefore result in a court dispute.  The report states the challenges of relaying this information and potential resolutions to conveying the sustainable attributes, or claims, of the home. One of the issues is that real estate agents can be open to potential liability if they do not understand the green claim, and consequently misrepresent the property.  

In the states that require attorney review this might not be a problem, but how would attorneys even know enough about the subject matter to provide adequate representation?  It should be as simple as the required disclosures statement regarding lead paint.  If the solar panels are 10 years old, the owner should know this and be able to provide documented proof.  How much energy do the solar panels yield per calendar year?  What level of certification from the USGBC, under LEED for Homes, was achieved for the home?  Copies of the certification should be part of the disclosure package.  Sustainable design claims that can be backed up with credible information from consultants and organizations could also be important for an MLS listing.  

This topic should be added to The Sins of Greenwashing on the Underwriters Laboratory web site.  I am supportive of paying more for positive, environmentally-friendly homes that are good for the environment and good for people who live in them.  I am also all for it if homeowners want to “keep up with the Joneses” and take positive action for the environment, if the “green home” statements are truly accurate claims. We just need to keep greenwashing out of the conversation and make sure there are requirements or restrictions on the documentation of the sustainable attributes of a home.