Sean Smith was the man in the middle. – a key figure with a foot in both worlds of business and “green.” 


A high-end general contractor, he built two LEED-certified homes in the Washington Park neighborhood of Denver in 2009.  At an educational session he hosted there, the U.S. Green Building Council approached him to serve on a committee.  “If you’re doing big-picture things, I’m all over it,” he told them.


At a subsequent meeting at the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO), Smith realized he was one of the few businesspeople in a room full of well-intended greenies.


“There wasn’t one REALTOR.  I was the only builder.  There weren’t any bankers or appraisers.  They were talking about moving the market at a macro scale,” he said.  “The market they were talking about was not there in any way, shape or form.” 


The problem Smith and his colleagues want to solve is validating the theory that green homes sell faster and for more money than conventional homes.  It’s a real “chicken-or-egg” conundrum as appraisers, mortgage lenders and underwriters, REALTORS, builders and homeowners look to each other for numbers to prove the claim.  If a market-based case can be made, it would grease the skids for moving the green-building industry into the mainstream.


An important yet imperfect study emerged in 2009[1] from the Pacific Northwest, specifically Portland and Seattle.  The MLS (Multiple Listing Service) had collected sale data from certified green homes that proved the theory there.  What implementers at the GEO realized is that grant money could be directed to Colorado’s 18 MLS’s to add “green  field addenda” (GFAs) to start data collection here.


IRES, the MLS for Boulder and northern Colorado, was one of the first aboard.  Lauren Hansen, IRES’ CEO, said she rolled her eyes when the GEO first knocked on her door about placing GFAs on IRES, but she quickly saw the value of the undertaking.  Boulder’s building codes now require all new construction and remodels to be 30 percent more energy-efficient than conventional codes.  And that’s just the starting point.


“It’s not just about listing and selling homes, but instead how can we gather the right kind of applicable data, meaningful data, so appraisers can start putting these houses side by side [next to code-built twins].” 


The GEO approached Hansen in April 2010, and IRES moved with lightning speed, launching its GFA in August.  She says she had IT support that a lot of smaller MLSs don’t have in-house.  (The GEO MLS grants intended to offset that expense, even if the work has to be sent out-of-house.)


Another reason Hansen moved so fast is because the GEO offered her a data template to facilitate apples-to-apples comparisons.  “This is not the area for you to be creative,” she says the GEO told her.  “If you want to change up data collection, go for it.  But be sure to have at least the same info that we do.”


The 800-pound gorilla, Metrolist serving metro Denver and almost half the REALTORS in the state, has been slower on the uptake, and its founding president resigned in October after 27 years there.  Melissa Olson, Senior Manager for Marketing & Sales, says it hasn’t been a priority for Metrolist because REALTORS haven’t asked for it. 


“In our market, there just hasn’t been a real call in the brokerage community for the green fields,” she says.  She advises brokers who are interested to tack green data on as “additional information.”  Olson does say, however, that a bona fide GFA will be available on the MLS toward the end of this year.


Smith notes another issue with widespread acceptance – no secondary market for energy-efficient mortgages.  “Fannie and Freddie and HUD can come up with energy-efficiency mortgages all day long, all they want.  Underwriters and lenders will add their own layer of criteria,” he says.  “If we get the mortgage industry to really buy into an energy-efficient home with a HERS score of X (a “miles per gallon” comparison) with data from an MLS, appraisers can understand it, and they can get comps from an MLS because it’s all in there.”  


He says one sticking point is that appraisers have lacked mechanisms to value green improvements.  But this year, the Appraisal Institute passed its own GFA with, Hansen notes, fields similar to IRES’s and other MLS’s.  Hansen says it’s a game changer because where appraisers go, lenders and underwriters can follow. 


One more obstacle to a green MLS – and perhaps the biggest – is actually getting REALTORS to use it, and that’s a problem of education.  Even Hansen in green-tinged Boulder says she doesn’t have the acceptance of the GFAs that she’d like to see.


She says acronyms like VOC paints, SIPs and ICFs (both insulative building foam) can be intimidating.  “It’s like looking for a job.  If I don’t know what the acronyms are, I probably shouldn’t apply.”  Hansen keeps up the drumbeat in all her real estate CLU classes, not just green classes.  And Olson says she’s had the same experience in Denver.


As the various components surrounding green-building valuation gel, Hansen says it’s only a matter of time before REALTORS start using them.   “Once the brokers understand this could make my seller’s property more valuable and more attractive, it’ll be easy for them to jump on board.”


-Melissa Baldridge, GreenSpot


[1] Ann Griffin, “Certified Home Performance:  Assessing the Market Impacts of Third Party Certification on Residential Properties,” Earth Advantage Institute, May 29, 2009.

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Tags: Energy, GEO, Governor's, Green, Hansen, IRES, Lauren, MLS, Melissa, Metrolist, More…Office, Olson, Sean, Smith, estate, green, real


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Comment by Tenaya Asan on November 21, 2011 at 1:57pm

Build It Green currently has ARRA funding and is working on this very issue throughout California in coordination with local REALTORS(r).  We are working to develop a Cal specific Guide to Greening the MLS and use the NAR Green MLS toolkit as a reference.   I agree with the two issues addressed here - Green fields in the MLS and education to the real estate professional.   John Carlson and Debra Little are doing some valuations for us and while we do have a couple MLS organizations in So Cal that have some green fields, as John mentioned here, there are few if any comps.  It is a learn curve that will take some time.  


Another issue is implementing green MLS fields that can be substantiated with value.  Low VOC's have value for the consumer but it may take a while to gain appraised value from the perspective of consumer demand.   Energy Upgrades, on the other hand might be used for valuation more immediately as there is an expected cost savings to the HO.  The list of best green fields is an important part of the Green MLS Guide we are working on, and a challenging one for many of the reasons mentioned here.  I will be in touch with you about it John.


Not to use this blog as an advertizement but I want to let people in Ca know that we have a RE specific training coming up Dec 5 + 6 in So Cal.    Subsidizes are allowing us to offer it this one time for $50.   Go to the website.


There is fantastic movement going on in the industry.  Thanks for all the work.

Comment by John C. Carlson on November 17, 2011 at 10:03pm


RE: your comment: "I suspect if you develop a specialty around this, you'll be a busy man"

I'm counting on developing this valuation niche. Thank you for your kind comments.

John C. Carlson


Comment by Sandra K. Adomatis, SRA on November 17, 2011 at 5:20pm


This is a great article and hits the nail on the head.  Education is a credical step in this entire green movement.  The Appraisal Institute has had about 2.9% of all USA licensed appraisers attend one or more of their green classes.  NAR has had approximately 1.8% of all NAR Members attend Nar's green classes.  These numbers are way to low. 

The Appraisal Institute head a webinar today on the new green addendum and it was well attended but did not meet the numbers we expected.  The new "Residential Green and Energy Efficient Addendum" is a starting point to make all the players realize we need more education and networking.


Thank you for the great article.   Sandy Adomatis, SRA  or

Comment by Melissa Baldridge on November 17, 2011 at 4:09pm

Hey John, thanks for your great comments.  I'm sure you'll find some takers on the So-Cal green MLS.  And GOOD FOR YOU about educating yourself.  If I could tell anything to Realtors, it's ... YOU CAN ASK FOR A GREEN APPRAISAL AND AN APPRAISER WHO KNOWS HOW PERFORM ONE.  I suspect if you develop a specialty around this, you'll be a busy man.


Comment by John C. Carlson on November 17, 2011 at 12:57pm

Sorry, forgot to note my e-mail address:

Comment by John C. Carlson on November 17, 2011 at 12:52pm

Ms. Baldridge,


Along with Mr. Smith, I too am "all over this". I am a real estate valuation expert who has been given the fantastic oppurtunity to develope methodologies to measure the value premiums for EE upgrades. My colleague is Debra Little in Truckee, CA and we are working with Build It Green, in collaboration with Energy Upgrade CA and are valuing 3 properties that are part of their Home Makeover Contest.

These properties have been upgraded and base line energy savings have been established. I have found that the MLS Boards in Southern CA are woefully inadequate in presenting ANY data about properties with energy upgrades. CRMLS, in my area of So. CA has at least added search fields, but the way they are presented, they will be useless to search for any EE upgraded property. I initially found over 100 properties with supposed upgrades, but all but one had a SEER rated HVAC or appliances as the upgraded feature. No properties with Solar Systems, air sealing, etc were noted. They may be there, but there is no way to sift them out of the MLS at this time

Agents and my fellow appraisers are going to have to "go to school", as I am with this project. Especially Agents are going to have to be educated about putting the right information in their listings so that they can be found. 

I would be happy to work with any one who wants to develope a "Green MLS" in So. CA, even though I am but a lowly appraiser. I have several Agent friends who I know I could draft to be Agent representatives to any new "Green MLS", or to help the esisting MLS Boards upgrade their "green" searching capabilities.

Please contact me @

John C. Carlson

Diamond BAr, CA

Office: 909-861-6186


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