An Inman analysis of NAR data on residential sustainability over the past seven years reveals that fewer agents and brokers believe touting energy efficiency in listings elicits meaningful results.

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Interest in environmental sustainability among consumers has declined over the past seven years, particularly over the last three pandemic years. So have the share of agents and brokers who find promoting energy efficiency in listings valuable and who report that their multiple listing service has green data fields.

That’s according to an Inman review of the National Association of Realtors’ Realtors & Sustainability – Residential reports, the first of which the 1.5 million-member trade group released in 2017 and the latest of which NAR released on Wednesday.

Back in 2017, 56 percent of nearly 3,000 Realtor respondents said that their clients were at least somewhat interested in environmental sustainability. That figure rose to 61 percent the following year, declined slightly in 2019, and rose again to 61 percent when NAR surveyed its members in March 2020.

Members subsequently reported declines in client sustainability interest for the following three years, coming it at just under half, 48 percent, for the first time this year.

Clients are at least somewhat interested in sustainability
2017 56%
2018 61%
2019 59%
2020 61%
2021 55%
2022 51%
2023 48%

Source: NAR Realtors & Sustainability – Residential reports 2017-2023

Similarly, in 2017 more than 7 in 10 agent and broker respondents reported that energy efficiency promotion in listings was very or somewhat valuable. Starting in 2021, there was a five percentage-point drop in the Realtors finding such promotion valuable, to 65 percent, and for the past two years, that figure has stood at 63 percent.

Energy efficiency promotion in listings was at least somewhat valuable
2017 71%
2018 71%
2019 69%
2020 70%
2021 65%
2022 63%
2023 63%

Source: NAR Realtors & Sustainability – Residential reports 2017-2023

Jessica Lautz

“The decline in interest is very likely to just be a result of the lack of housing inventory,” Jessica Lautz, NAR deputy chief economist and vice president of research, told Inman in an emailed statement.

“Buyers are mostly focused on finding a home. The buyer very well may remodel once in the home, but we know that especially first-time buyers are making compromises on the condition of the home, and with that, any additional sustainable features are put on the back burner until they are living in the home.”

In an announcement for this year’s report release, Lautz said, “While each area of the country has a unique climate and community resources, Realtors are finding the need to embrace their clients’ sustainability interests.

“Buyers often seek homes that either lessen their environmental footprint or reduce their monthly energy costs. There is value in promoting green features and energy information to future home buyers.”

Although the share of Realtors reporting that their MLS has green data fields has never hit 50 percent, in 2017 it wasn’t far off with 43 percent reporting their MLS had such fields. But in 2021, that percentage fell six percentage points to 36 percent and this year came in at 32 percent — the lowest in the report’s seven-year history.

Their MLS has green data fields
2017 43%
2018 40%
2019 41%
2020 42%
2021 36%
2022 35%
2023 32%

Source: NAR Realtors & Sustainability – Residential reports 2017-2023

That’s despite half of respondents saying in March 2023 that they were directly involved with a property with green features on either the buyer or seller side in the previous 12 months. The decline may be in part to lower awareness of MLS green fields than in previous years. In the 2021-2023 report, majorities of respondents (between 54 percent and 59 percent) reported they didn’t know whether their MLS had green data fields while in previous reports between 38 percent and 46 percent said they didn’t know.

“Many MLSs do contain green data fields,” Lautz told Inman. “There has been a wave of new agents who may not be aware of the fields. This is more of an awareness question than whether the MLS has them.”

Just over a third of respondents, 37 percent, said they used those fields to promote green features, while 24 percent used them to promote energy information and 14 percent to promote green certifications, according to NAR.

This year’s report found that almost a third of Realtors, 32 percent, were concerned about the effects of climate change events on the real estate market. About a sixth of respondents, 17 percent, said at least a quarter of their clients consider environmental risk in the purchase process, according to NAR. About a seventh of agents and brokers, 14 percent, had clients ask for advice about energy efficiency upgrades very often or often, NAR added.

Respondents believed the green home features that were “very important” to clients were windows, doors and siding (39 percent); proximity to frequently visited places (37 percent); a comfortable living space (37 percent); and a home’s utility bills and operating costs (25 percent), according to the report.

Agents and brokers listed the top sustainability issues and considerations in their market as understanding how solar panels impact a transaction (35 percent), understanding lending options for energy upgrades or solar installations (33 percent) and valuation of solar panels on homes (32 percent), the report said.

Other issues were a lack of information and materials provided to Realtors (28 percent), a lack of MLS data about home performance and/or solar installations (25 percent), improving the energy efficiency of existing housing stock (24 percent), valuation of green-certified homes (19 percent), and liability of misrepresenting a property with green features (18 percent).

Kenny Parcell | Credit: NAR

“The first words of the Realtor Code of Ethics are simple, yet powerful, and well understood by members: ‘Under all is the land,'” said NAR President Kenny Parcell in a statement.

“Good stewardship of the land – and the built environment – is critical to the real estate industry. Realtors who can speak with authority about a home’s sustainable features and convey the value, health benefits, energy savings, durability and operation costs provide a major advantage in every market.”

For the 2023 report, NAR received 2,062 usable responses from members to an online survey in March. The margin of error is plus-or-minus 2.2 percent.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional comments from NAR’s Jessica Lautz.

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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MLS | NAR | realtors
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