October 25, 2016

Making the Case for Energy-Efficient Homes

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Making the Case for Energy-Efficient Homes

What does energy efficiency mean?

You might say, “solar panels.” Your neighbor might say, “low utility bills.”

You’re both right.

“[Energy efficiency] means something different to everyone,” said Nate Ellis, director of education for the Contra Costa Association of REALTORS®, who spoke at Friday’s “Marketing New and Energy-Efficient Homes” session.

And that means you need to customize your message.

To do so, Ellis said, you need to first understand your market. Start by tapping the big data available through such sites as the REALTORS Property Resource®, an NAR-owned, members-only, searchable property database that overlays property tax records with MLS data, where available.

In RPR’s “commercial section,” you can find demographic reports and maps, such as which areas are dominated by wine drinkers and which by beer drinkers. Information like this gives you financial insights, because wine drinkers tend to have higher incomes.

Another source of demographic data: Nielsen’s My Best Segments, which will serve up the top-five profiles of people who live in a particular ZIP code. 

How do you come up with concepts for multiple pieces of marketing?

  • Take a phrase like “energy efficiency” and free associate 20 related words, such as “saving money,” “comfort,” and “utilities.”
  • Do the same exercise for each of those 20 words. For instance, from “utilities,” you might come up with terms like “solar.”
  • Brainstorm three questions consumers might ask about solar, such as “How much is it?” “How much will I save?” and “Should I lease or buy solar panels?”

By doing this exercise for each term, you’ll end up with hundreds of marketing messages that you can apply based on demographics. These ideas also double as good topics for blog posts.

Tip: Avoid energy-efficiency jargon in your marketing. You might know that FSC stands for the Forest Stewardship Council, which denotes sustainably harvested wood, but consumers won’t. 

If you’re wondering how you can possibly find the time and money to create all this marketing, Ellis has an answer. He recommends online tools like Canva.com, which let you easily design flyers and other collateral online using templates and fonts. With Canva, you can use your own imagery or choose from the service’s library.

Finally, what are some ways to convince people to invest in energy efficiency, especially when your listing is competing with a less expensive property?

  • Try a little healthy competition. Ellis cited an American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy study that found the most effective way to get people to change their habits is to get them to compete with their neighbors. Some energy companies do that by including information in utility bills comparing your consumption with that of your neighbors.
  • Complete the Appraisal Institute’s “Residential Green and Energy Efficient Addendum” (Form 820.04, which you can find here) to list all the relevant energy-efficient features of the home from insulation to HVAC. And provide that to the appraiser who won’t be able to see things like the fact that the R-value of the insulation is higher than other homes in the area.
  • Keep a record of the home’s utility bills. But make sure to establish a baseline for consumption, because a family four with two infants will have different energy use than a family of four with two teenagers.

—Christina Hoffmann, REALTOR® Magazine