Sustainability enters the mainstream

10 November 2021

By CATH DICKINSON

More and more, homeowners are attracted to sustainability features because of the lifestyle benefits they deliver beyond their environmental impact. Here’s how you can incorporate the language of liveability into conversations with your clients.

Buying or renting a home is about far more than simply putting a roof over your head. It’s also about lifestyle, comfort and affordability.

“Over the last 10 to 15 years, due in large part to increasing energy efficiency building compliance standards, the design and construction industry has been delivering better houses in regard to energy and water efficiency, targeting indoor comfort, as well as the potential for reduced running costs,” Cecille Weldon, Director at WeldonCo Consultancy and a subject matter expert in the convergence of sustainability, energy efficiency and property value, explained.

“We need to increase our energy productivity moving forward, and this means getting more from using less energy. This is why there has been so much innovation in home design and renovation.”

Ms Weldon explained that the language of real estate has tended to focus on features.

“Agents talk about bedrooms, bathrooms, parking and appliances, and there’s a disconnect with how the design of the home responds to a range of other needs,” she said. “But our language needs to change.

“Knowledge adds value to the face-to-face agent-client relationship. Sellers, buyers and renters want more information in this area, and we can give it to them.” – Cecille Weldon

“For example, the new TV series Renovate or Rebuild, airing on the 9Life lifestyle channel, reflects the shifting narrative around sustainability, positioning these features for the lifestyle benefits they provide.

“It’s not just about what the home has, but also about what the home can do. This is where the all-important lifestyle experience conversation comes to the fore and how the home’s sustainable property features impact all-year-round comfort and ongoing affordability.

Ms Weldon noted that the word ‘sustainability’ can be a barrier.

“Use of the word ‘sustainability’ can be confusing, because it means so many different things to so many different people,” she said. “This is perhaps why agents haven’t seen or understood the rich marketing opportunity that’s lying behind the word relating to the real, tangible lifestyle benefits that sustainable features can deliver to a homeowner.

“Sustainability is about much more than energy efficiency and what certain features of the property can do for the planet. Sustainability also encompasses ‘liveability’, which is about how sustainable building design can deliver a better life in your home.

An innovative approach

Ms Weldon firmly believes that agents can demonstrate innovation by building their knowledge in this space and reframing the conversations they have with their clients and potential buyers.

“Our industry tends to associate innovation with technology,” she said. “But future-focused property knowledge can also be innovative. Understanding the detail about how our homes are changing is central to the evolution of property marketing.

“We all know that technology can help with efficiency and productivity. However, at the most fundamental level, selling is about knowing your product – and, in today’s market, this knowledge needs to go beyond a property’s traditional showcase features.

“Agents can be innovative by reframing the conversation. We’re used to thinking of a property as a static thing and talking about its obvious features. However, there’s a more valuable conversation to be had about what a house can deliver overall. How does the house respond to the surrounding environment? How does the house perform in terms of cost and efficiency? And how does the house deliver in a way that ensures a healthy, comfortable and connected lifestyle?

“This is a far richer and more meaningful conversation, because it demonstrates the true value of the property – and, by default, the value the agent is bringing to the transaction by virtue of their ability to highlight sustainability features and the overall lifestyle benefits of the property.”

Ms Weldon pointed to a property’s aspect by way of example.

“All agents know that a property facing north is highly desirable,” she said. “But which room should be north-facing? It’s the main living space, because natural light is maximised as the sun moves from east to west. This access to sunlight and the correct shading can dramatically affect the temperatures within the home throughout the seasons, especially in winter when the sun is at its lowest.

“Going beyond simply stating the obvious throw-away lines about the aspect of the property and adding extra details about how the aspect will impact efficiency, comfort and lifestyle adds tremendous value to the conversation. You’re moving beyond what the house has to what the house does and the experience of living in it.”

Other examples include cross-ventilation, insulation, solar panels, water tanks and more.

“It’s about knowing how all these things come together to make the property ‘liveable’,” Ms Weldon said.

Building knowledge

According to Ms Weldon, agents will certainly yield results from building their knowledge of sustainable property features and the lifestyle benefits they deliver.

“Research by the NSW Government found that 89 per cent of consumers would find a home more attractive if these features were identified at the point of sale,” she said. “This is where building your knowledge comes in.

“Agents are able to provide a better overall client experience because they know more about the property and its features – and more about what the client really wants to know.

“Trust is pivotal to any sales relationship, and research shows that real estate agents aren’t trusted in this area.”

Unlike other property features, Ms Weldon said agents can’t just “wing it” when it comes to sustainability.

“Agents need to be trained to understand the ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’,” she explained. “If consumers don’t trust us to know about these more technical features of a property, then how can we position ourselves as property experts?”

Future proofing

Understanding and identifying sustainability and liveability features, knowing how they work and the benefits they deliver adds value and relevance to client conversations.

“It should be seen as an exciting opportunity,” Ms Weldon said. “Knowledge adds value to the face-to-face agent-client relationship. Sellers, buyers and renters want more information in this area, and we can give it to them.”

“As an industry, it’s important that we lead this conversation and retain our relevance in the transaction going forward. Otherwise, we’ll be left behind and disconnected to changes in the community’s mindset – or, even worse, know less about these features than our clients.”

“Knowledge adds value to the face-to-face agent-client relationship. Sellers, buyers and renters want more information in this area, and we can give it to them.” – Cecille Weldon

Communicating sustainability features to your buyers

Want to learn more about sustainability? This one-hour webinar is sure to pique your interest and will give you the information you need to start building your sustainability knowledge.

The webinar covers:

  • Home energy ratings
  • Scripts and dialogues
  • Marketing sustainability features
  • Assessments and appraisals
  • Identifying sustainability features
  • Extending your knowledge

You’ll also receive an extensive range of resource links.

Cost: $71.50 (GST inc)
CPD: 1 elective hour
Format: Online

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