The Green MLS: Energy Efficiency and the Multiple Listings Service

Date Published: June 25, 2019

If you have bought or sold a home with a real estate agent, you likely interacted with the MLS. MLS stands for Multiple Listings Service and is a compilation of all the homes for sale at any particular time. The listings can be accessed through certified brokers, and there are many companies that offer MLS access tools across the country.

The listings within the MLS have a wealth of information about a property that has been carefully filled out by a listing agent and homeowner. There are hundreds of fields to be compiled including property information, broker information, neighborhood and HOA data, financial statistics and much more.

For a very long time, one category was missing…

Energy efficiency.

A home’s energy efficiency has become an increasing topic of interest to home buyers. An energy efficient home can save you a lot of money on energy bills, and can significantly increase the home’s comfort level. It also reduces the cost of home ownership, especially in larger homes.

However, all these savings should be factored into the listing price of the home. A home with a large number of energy efficiency items in place will typically have a higher value than the exact same home without the energy efficiency features.

Until recently, there was no place within the MLS to list energy-saving equipment, energy ratings, or ENERGY STAR certifications.

To address this concern the National Association of Realtors formed a group entitled, The Green REsource Council. This group has helped to “green” the MLS and define the energy efficiency fields and information that should be added to listing service software across the country.  As these additional fields are implemented, buyers will look to these areas to be further informed about the home before purchasing.

Green MLS has fields for wind energy and onsite wind energy.

What type of info was added to the Green MLS?

So what types of things are actually included in the Green MLS? It can be broken into 3 categories.

  1. Updates to existing categories to point out energy-efficient items.
  2. New categories specific for energy efficiency
  3. Green Verification Programs and any scores or certifications the house has received.

These 3 updates consist of all the changes made. We will break down each of them below. These changes in categories were pulled from the Council of Multiple Listing Services – Quick Start Guide MLS Green Fields.

Updates to existing MLS categories

The Green MLS updated 9 of the existing categories to give the option of highlighting energy efficiency. Further definitions can entice buyers and list features that can help efficiency and determine the selling price. The 9 categories are as follows:

  1. Appliances – Options were added in this area to account for Energy Star-rated appliances and high-end equipment such as tankless water heaters and solar hot water systems.
  2. Construction Materials – Options are added in this section to highlight insulation and air sealant materials around the home.
  3. Cooling – ENERGY STAR equipment and alternative cooling sources are available here.
  4. Current Financing – Along with other items currently financed in the home, you can now add leased renewables like solar PV.
  5. Door Features – Addition of ENERGY STAR-rated doors and storm doors.
  6. Electric – This category can now highlight solar power and wind power, and who they are owned by. Also, you can disclose if the house is pre-wired for renewable energy options.
  7. Heating – Similar to cooling, you can point out ENERGY STAR heating systems, geothermal systems, and ductless heat systems.
  8. Window Features – Options are added here to feature ENERGY STAR-rated windows, triple pane windows, and shutters.

New Categories Added to the “Green MLS”

The following fields have been added to highlight items which may have an environmental or efficiency impact on the home.

  1. Architecture Style – Indicate a home was built with a passive solar design.
  2. Interior Features – Smart home devices, solar tubes, and more.
  3. Parking Features – Electric Vehicle charging stations present.
  4. Pool Features – If a pool is present, is there a solar cover or an ENERGY STAR-rated heating device?
  5. Roof – Highlighting any ENERGY STAR-rated roofs which can reduce heat transfer.

These additional categories fill in some of the gaps that the other sections miss. You can see how adding these items can be beneficial for someone with an electric vehicle. Also, if the home is full of smart home devices, these devices should be priced in as well. Now buyers have a lot more information on the home’s energy devices.

Many new categories added to the green MLS. Taking into account energy efficiency. Green Disclosure.

Green Building Verification Programs

Arguably the most important addition to the Green MLS is the ability to include the results from a third party energy efficiency verification programs.

Builders are held to extremely high standards when it comes to building a green home. Because of this, many 3rd party programs were created to enforce energy standards during the building process.

Unfortunately, these programs and the scores that the homes achieved are not usually communicated to the buyer of the home, especially if you are not the first owner.

To address this issue, the MLS updates contain sections to input energy scores from the following reports, as well as links to the original documents and further information.

An example of some of the Green Building Verification Types:

  1. HERS Rating
  2. Home Energy Score
  3. ENERGY STAR-Certified Home
  4. LEED for Homes

There are many more of these programs that are included in the Green MLS, but the 4 above are some of the most used and recognized.

Breaking down some of the widely used green building verification types.

HERS Ratings:

A HERS rating is one of the most widely used energy compliance methods use by builders. A HERS Rating is generated by having a certified HERS rater input information about the home including insulation levels, the efficiency of appliances and HVAC devices, solar equipment, air leakage tests, and much more.

These components are calculated against the house size and climate zone to generate an energy score index. A HERS score of 0 (zero) means that the house is essentially net zero or energy neutral. As the number increases, the projected energy usage in the home increases as well.

Sound simple? Once the report is finished, it is fairly easy to understand which makes it a great information tool for builders and potential homeowners.

Building a house that is HERS-Zero or close to it can be very difficult. High-quality insulation, building materials, windows, and typically solar power energy will need to be installed to reach this score. Because of this, it makes sense that a home with a low HERS score should be priced higher than one with a higher score.

This is a great addition to the MLS and will help buyers understand these efficiency metrics before they buy.

As Certified HERS Raters, many inspectors on our team have a deep understanding of home efficiency. If you are buying a home or listing a home, consider adding an Energy-Check to your inspection to help determine where a home stands and where energy improvements can be made.

ENERGY STAR-Certified Home

ENERGY STAR is one of the most recognizable energy efficiency names in the nation. You will find the tag on many major appliance brands. However, not a lot of people know that ENERGY STAR also has a home building certification process.

This program is very strict and has many rules around how you can build a home. It is many times more difficult to achieve than the standard energy efficiency codes, but the results are great.

The ENERGY STAR program requires the use of a HERS Rating as part of the certification process. An outline of the requirements can be found here.

However, because the brand is so recognizable, as a broker or agent this is a great piece of information to have on your listing. People generally want to buy energy-efficient homes, and having the ENERGY STAR seal of approval may give you an extra edge when listing.

The green MLS takes solar panels into consideration as well.

The Green MLS Is A Great Upgrade

To wrap up, the benefits of having this energy information when listing a home is very high. It is also in the best interest of both the seller and the buyer in many cases.

Home buyers will increasingly demand to see the home performance indicators on listings and as due diligence documents when available.

Scott Home Inspection works in the energy service field and in the real estate market, and it is encouraging to see the cross-over taking place. It is great to see the MLS policymakers update these systems as technologies emerge and market demands change.

Because there are many different providers of the MLS system, (some local and others nationwide) these changes may not have taken place on your MLS system. As a broker, inquire with your current provider to understand if the Green MLS field and data changes have been updated on their systems.

If you have further questions or are interested in our energy services, contact us today.

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About the Author: Joe Ophoff

Joe Ophoff has been working as an energy efficiency specialist since 2014. He is the Energy Services Manager at Scott Home Inspection in Colorado.

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