For real estate agents, showing off for-sale homes’ “green” features could be a boon to their business, but the tool that nearly all use — the multiple listing service — often does not have a way to do so.

The National Association of Realtors today released a new “Green MLS Implementation Guide” designed to help MLSs promote energy-efficient and environmentally friendly homes by implementing designated “green” data entry fields.

The proposed fields include verified certifications such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for Homes and Home Energy Rating System (HERS), and features not verified by a third party such as solar panels or Energy Star appliances.

NAR’s 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers found that 36 percent of buyers considered heating and cooling costs “very important” to their purchase, and 49 percent considered such costs “somewhat important.” More than two-thirds considered energy-efficient appliances and energy-efficient lighting very or somewhat important.

“The demand for green is growing; NAR’s research consistently shows that today’s consumers want homes and communities that are environmentally sustainable and resource-efficient,” said NAR President Steve Brown in a statement.

NAR believes the new fields will help buyers quickly locate listings that have the green features they want and allow agents to market themselves as a “local go-to green agent.”

The fields will also allow appraisers and others to make apples-to-apples comparisons of green homes and determine market trends, such as time on market and sale-to-list-price ratios, for green homes versus nongreen homes, NAR said.

“Accurate marketing and assessment of green homes can only move forward with more standardized language among MLSs,” Brown said.

The guide, part of NAR’s “Green the MLS” campaign, is provided as a blueprint for MLS staff or their software vendors to deploy green data fields in a systematic way. For agents whose MLS does not have green fields, the guide offers tips to help them advocate for the change.

The guide will also help protect agents, appraisers and other users from the liability of posting incorrect information, NAR said.

The proposed fields are compliant with the Real Estate Transaction Standard (RETS) Data Dictionary, a uniform set of terms to describe properties in MLS entry fields. The Real Estate Standards Organization, which oversees RETS, participated in developing the green MLS guide along with NAR’s Green REsource Council and another nonprofit group, Elevate Energy.

CoreLogic, an MLS platform provider for some 145 MLSs representing more than 600,000 subscribers, told Inman News the company has already incorporated green data fields in its platforms.

“We review green fields as part of our standard system design process and implement all green fields requested by our clients,” said Chris Bennett, CoreLogic’s vice president of data and analytics, in a statement.

He said the company fully supports RESO standards and the green MLS effort, though it has no opinion on NAR’s implementation guide itself and does not plan any changes based on the guide.

According to NAR’s most recent data, 79 percent of the top 100 most-populous metro areas have access to an MLS with green fields.

One of these is Midwest Real Estate Data LLC (MRED) in the Chicago area, which has already added green data fields, including the ability to upload supporting disclosure documents. One of those includes a checkbox for Illinois Home Performance certificates, a program that connects Illinois homeowners with certified contractors to complete energy efficiency retrofits to their homes. The program has reportedly helped more than 2,500 homeowners save a combined total of more than $1 million in utility bills since its inception in 2011.

A recent analysis from MRED found that while only 10 percent of single-family Chicago homes and condominiums listed for sale between July 2013 and February 2014 disclosed annual energy costs, those homes were more likely to sell and more likely to sell faster, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to note that an MLS with green fields is available in 79 percent of the top 100 most-populous metro areas, according to NAR.

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