Real estate broker pushes for home ‘green auditing’

Friday, July 27th, 2007

Industry group’s director calls for mandatory energy evaluation before property can be put on the market

Kathryn Young

Every Canadian home should have a mandatory energy evaluation before it can be put on the market, says a Toronto real estate broker who is setting up a national green real estate association.

“Within five years, we hope to have mandatory energy audits right across Canada on every resale home,” said Elden Freeman, executive director of the non-profit National Association of Green Agents and Brokers, which has 15,000 members.

Freeman plans to join forces this fall with James Rodgers, executive director of B.C.’s Greener Realty Association, to help teach real estate agents — about 88,000 in Canada — how to promote green homes and encourage homeowners to make energy-efficient upgrades. In Canada, 40 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to the construction and operation of homes.

“Realtors have a huge opportunity to be very effective communicators,” said Rodgers. “They’re the ones sitting down at kitchen tables chatting about houses.”

He and Freeman believe mandatory energy evaluations — which assess insulation, appliances, furnaces, air conditioners and exhaust fans, and measure how airtight a home is — are the way of the future. Britain plans to introduce them Aug. 1 for houses with four or more bedrooms.

Freeman has begun talks with Ontario officials in the energy and environment departments about energy evaluations as a way to reduce power consumption.

“Weak houses would be forced to improve or sell for less money,” he said.

Rodgers began his green realty company in the Kootenay region 18 months ago. He offers buyers $500 towards an energy audit or site assessment for solar, wind or micro-hydro system.

He also uses such tools as a solar pathfinder to tell clients how much sunlight they’ll have for their solar panels or gardens, a handy tool in a mountainous region.

“The response to green real estate has been incredible,” said Rodgers, who can provide potential homebuyers with references to green real estate agents in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. “There’s market demand right across the country.”

Hundreds of realtors have taken the first course Freeman set up on energy efficiency, which can earn Ontario realtors credits towards their re-licensing, which is required every two years. Participants learned what to look for while examining houses, how to help clients collect rebates for upgrading energy efficiency, find an energy auditor, and determine which changes to make.

A new course this fall will examine sustainable design. Next year, Freeman will add courses on healthy homes and green financing.

Real estate agents and brokers are good at “staging” a home to boost its curb appeal, but rarely mention energy-efficient windows, insulation, low-flow showerheads or high-efficiency furnaces, Freeman said.

Freeman, who has a master’s degree in environmental studies and has been selling homes since 1989, offers an energy audit on all the houses he lists.

“I think this is a fabulous initiative,” said Kathrin Bohr, vice-president of Canadian Business for Social Responsibility. “Small changes can have a cumulative effect. I certainly wish it had been around when I bought my home.”

© The Vancouver Sun 2007


Comments are closed.