SEE WHAT OTHERS
ARE SAYING ABOUT
THE GREEN MLS TOOL KIT
"I congratulate the National Association of REALTORS® for this essential toolkit that takes the next important step: translating green construction into demonstrable value for brokers and their customers all over the country."
Robert R. Jones
National Association of Home Builders
"The new Green MLS Tool Kit will make it even easier for the real estate industry to connect potential homebuyers to healthy, high-performing homes."
Vice President, Residential Development
U.S. Green Building Council
"National Association of REALTORS® and its partners in releasing the Green MLS Tool Kit will help all homebuyers make more informed choices about the cost of their housing and where up-front payment may lead to long-term saving."
"The Appraisal Institute is pleased to participate in this important effort to enhance the data found in the MLS."
Leslie Sellers, MAI, SRA
Step 2 - Design for Data Integrity
All the players involved in Green MLS are after the same thing: fair value for a green home at closing. Fair value comes only one way — with great data and documentation. This section helps Green MLS design teams understand the field design as well as recommendations for a policy by the local MLS board that requires document attachments in order to use certain Green MLS fields.
There are various risks to home buyers and sellers, to agents and brokers and to the credibility of green in the MLS. Both a lack of representation and false representation of properties' green attributes can result in sellers under pricing or buyers overpaying for a house. Agents and brokers also are legal risk when any aspects of properties are misrepresented in MLS listings.
Plus, exaggerations of green features and certifications can result in a green-washing of MLS listings and cause a decline in the value and desirability of truly environmentally and financially beneficial building attributes and features. There are several different steps and policies that can be implemented to mitigate such risk. The MLS in markets like Northern Colorado and Chicago, for example, require agents to upload certification documentation within a set number of days from entering the listing. If they do not, the listing is deactivated. If your MLS elects to require some form of confirmation, you may decide to simply remove the green certification from a listing or impose a modest fine for failure to provide whatever documentation you decide is necessary.
Agents can educate consumers and make them aware of the value of green attributes of their property. As the economic relevance of green features continues to grow, consumers naturally will become more aware of them and have more resources at their disposal to determine their worth.
Educating agents and brokers also can mitigate some of the legal risk that a misrepresentation of "green" in listings can create.
Further, the design of the MLS fields and enumerations (a list of options in a field) can be done in a way that allows for extensive detailing of green features that attract buyers, but without an implied or explicit representation that features are green. When a property does have verifiably green features, the MLS should offer some searchable means to promote such attributes.
Keeping a separation of normal features that "may be green" and expressions of "verified green" features, too, can aid in risk mitigation. Plus, a focus on verifiability and a separation of detailed features from expressions of "green" all can contribute to reducing risk.
Vigilance in these areas is important to maintain the integrity of the MLS and to ensure the trust of everyone who uses the system.
Reviewing the legal concerns that can ensue after any change to the MLS data structure is an important step. In particular, if you are changing existing data to reflect a new "green" connotation, be cautious of erroneously labeling a feature "green" if listing agents and sellers had no intention of such categorization for previously listed properties. For instance, an agent may have described windows with two panes of glass in a listing without intending to claim that those windows were energy efficient.
The addition of generic green attributes or specific green features can also be challenged by buyers and others. To avoid an accusation of green-washing and misrepresentation, such as for dealing with septic systems, it is prudent for listing agents to have details and documentation of a property's green attributes or an agreement with the seller to support any green claims. For example, the MLS in Traverse City has a voluntary seller disclosure document and places the onus on sellers to properly divulge green features.
Searchability and Statistics
As you are creating your new green data structure, keep in mind how the fields will be used. The most common uses are display, search and statistics. With the display, there are no special concerns other than whether the information fits on the report. Other than limiting field length, simple text boxes that allow the agent to type the desired information is simple for the MLS to deploy and maintain. However, for search and statistics, a text box is far from ideal.
For information like features, certifications and certifying bodies, a pick list is important to ensure consistency. It prevents typing errors, which can result in poor search results. Maintaining the pick lists should be planned for to accommodate the normal churn of features and certifications associated with new features and certifications becoming popular and old certifications and features being retired.
With fields like certification rating or Walk Score, a numeric field is preferable. The approach helps to limit errors by only allowing numeric values and also supports numeric range searching. For example, someone wanting properties with a certification rating of 50 through 90 would not be able to perform such a search unless a numeric certification rating field was available.
Author: Rob Larson