National and State Realtor Associations Make the Environment and Sustainability a Priority Issue  

Many people, I’ve found, assume that Realtors, especially the top producers, must be conservatives who resist social policies, tax increases and liberal agenda items in general. That could include denial of human-caused climate change and opposition to any mandates that interfere with “individual freedom” such as mask or vaccine mandates.

Well, I’m pleased to report that, at the association level, we’re a pretty liberal bunch. Yes, I know a few Realtors who are hard-core Trumpers and live by the words of Tucker Carlson, but they’re in the minority.

Those Realtors would not have been pleased when the president of the National Association of Realtors apologized for NAR’s support of racist policies earlier in its 110-year history in his speech to the annual convention. Compare that to conservatives across the country wanting to ban books and classroom discussion about “critical race theory,” intended to rally the conversative base to vote out liberals on local school boards and elsewhere.

Then I read on pages 16-18 of the May issue of Colorado Realtor Magazine about NAR’s commitment to “ESG+R,” which stands for Environmental, Social, Governance + Resilience.

As the article explains, ESG “is a set of standards for a company or practitioner’s operations that investors (or consumers) use to screen potential investments. Environmental criteria measure how that company or practitioner perform as a steward of nature. Social criteria examine how it manages relationships with employees, suppliers, customers, and the communities where it operates. Governance refers to policies around leadership, executive pay, audits, internal controls, and shareholder rights. In short, ESG evaluates if a company, organization, or practitioner is operating sustainably. Globally, sustainability is rated as an important purchase criterion for 60% of consumers.”

The Realtor associations go beyond ESG to add R for Resilience, which is an aspect of sustainability.

Knowing Golden Real Estate’s (and my personal) commitment to such issues, you can understand how pleased I was to read of NAR’s commitment to the same values.

The fact that the Colorado Association of Realtors (CAR) featured this NAR initiative in their monthly magazine suggests that Colorado Realtors are, through their association, fully on board with this issue.

What follows are some excerpts from the article which spoke to me:

“Sustainability is the evolution of long-term value creation for people, planet, and the economy. If sustainability is the journey, then ESG is how we measure progress,” said Ryan Frazier, CEO of Frazier Global, a Colorado-based management consulting and environmental, social, governance (ESG) advisory business.

“We must integrate a culture of sustainability throughout our association and industry. By building a resilient real estate market today, we can create healthy, vibrant, and diverse communities for generations to come,” said 2022 NAR President Leslie Rouda Smith.

“Leading by example, NAR is driving the real estate industry toward a more efficient and sustainable future,” said NAR CEO Bob Goldberg. “As part of this responsibility, we are strengthening the association’s support of sustainability efforts and increasing engagement on policies and programs that prioritize viability, resiliency, and adaptability. We are working to generate meaningful, lasting change that will benefit both current and future generations.”

Millennials now make up 43% of homebuyers, the most of any generation, according to a 2021 report from the National Association of Realtors—and that number is only predicted to rise. And this generation has a reputation for being values-driven in their approach to their money and their careers. These choices drive where they choose to work, play, and buy a home. About one-third of millennials often or exclusively use investments that take ESG factors into account, compared with 19% of Gen Z, 16% of Gen X and 2% of baby boomers, according to a Harris Poll on behalf of CNBC, which surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults ages 30 to 40 on a variety of topics. The escalating importance of ESG doesn’t just impact homebuyer sentiment. It will also matter to brokerage firms looking to hire the best and brightest agents. Companies that promote strong ESG values tend to attract and retain the best talent.

The Purple Report on ESG and Real Estate [by NAR] had 703 respondents. 51% live in Colorado and own a home or want to own a home in Colorado and 49% live outside the state but expressed an interest in buying a home in the state.

KEY FINDINGS:

When asked, are you more likely or less likely to work with a Realtor who has a proficient level of knowledge and training on sustainability and sustainable housing practices when it comes to buying, selling, or investing in a home? 70% of respondents were somewhat or much more likely.

When asked, do you agree or disagree with the viewpoint that as the number of severe weather conditions, droughts, wildfires increase due in part to climate change, and with the potential risk to homes and commercial properties, Realtors need to be helping provide solutions that address climate change risks? 67% of respondents said they agree. The number jumped to 80% among those ages 18-24, and to 79% of those earning $150,000 a year or more.

As the National Association of Realtors Code of Ethics preamble tells us, “Under all is the land.”  Our planet is the one resource we all depend on, as will our heirs. The best time to care for it — and for them — is now.

The Rule Against Showings and Open Houses Shouldn’t Hamper Home-Buying…

…that is, if the listing agent does what Golden Real Estate has done for over 13 years — create a narrated walk-through video of each listing.

Our narrated video tours are just like a showing. They are live action videos which start in front of the house (just like a real showing) and then go through the house and into the back yard, pointing out features as we go. 

Check out the video tours for any of our current listings at www.GRElistings.com to see what I mean. They really are like an in-person showing with the listing agent. For example, the video camera points down to the floor and up to the ceiling as I describe the hardwood floor or the sun tunnels which bring natural light into the home’s interior.

But, you say, you’re not going to buy a home that you can’t see in person.  Right? You don’t have to, because the rules allow for inspection once the buyer has signed a purchase contract. Your visit (presumably with an agent)  the very next day constitutes an inspection. That can be before you even have to deliver your earnest money check, since you may not even be under contract yet. The guidance from the Division of Real Estate says, “home inspections and final walkthroughs after a buyer has signed a purchase contract (emphasis added)… is also considered to be an essential part of the real estate transaction.” The buyer is not under contract simply by signing a contract that has not also been signed or countered by the seller.

That “guidance” from the Division of Real Estate was issued on April 9th and has not been updated as of April 18th, which is when I am updating this blog post.

Scott Peterson’s April 15, 2020 “Legal Bite”

However, Scott Peterson, general counsel for the Colorado Association of Realtors, maintains in a video recorded from quarantine on April 15th that the governor’s executive order prohibits any “marketing” that involves entry into a property – no photos, no video, nothing at all – without a contract in place. If that’s true, however, why isn’t it reflected in the April 9th guidance and why hasn’t that guidance been updated?

I tried Googling the governor’s executive orders and looked at his web page on www.colorado.gov/governor and saw only two executive orders on other matters and no link for all his executive orders. So, for now, I lack evidence of Scott Peterson’s claim and am relying on the April 9th guidance, which I keep checking for updates.

Therefore, a visit to the home by a buyer immediately after signing an offer to purchase the home does, in my opinion as a broker, comply with guidance currently in effect from the Division of Real Estate. Then, if the buyer is able to get under contract with the seller, he or she can schedule a second inspection by a professional inspector.

So, here’s a possible scenario: You look at the video tour of the patio home or the ranch-style luxury which you found at www.GRElistings.com. I guarantee you’ll have a pretty good sense of the home from viewing that video. You’ll experience the flow from kitchen to dining room, to family room, to back yard, etc., because you are being walked through the home. It is not a slideshow of different rooms, giving no indication of flow from one room to the next.

Let’s say you call me or your agent to submit a contract and let’s say that it is accepted by the seller. You’re under contract!  The typical contract has a 7- to 10-day inspection period. You schedule your personal inspection with your agent (or me, if you don’t have one) the next day, before delivering your earnest money check, which is typically due in 3 days.  You can terminate immediately if you have buyer’s remorse, and go back to looking at other houses.

If you don’t terminate, you still have a week to hire a professional inspector and submit a detailed inspection objection.

What if you’re a buyer, and there’s no such video for a house that interests you, but you don’t want to sign a purchase contract? I believe you’ve got three choices here.  One, your agent (me, for example) could ask the listing agent to create and provide a narrated walk-through video. Second, I could preview the home for you since the guidance make no mention of banning previews, and shoot my own rough-cut video tour of the home, post it as an “unlisted” video on YouTube and send you the link. Or, third and perhaps best, we could use Facetime, Zoom, or another app to have you see what I’m seeing as I walk you through the house. (NOTE: Scott Peterson believes that previews and videos shot by anyone other than the seller are not allowed. I just don’t have any documentation supporting that position.)

Therefore, while it may be inconvenient not to have an in-person showing of a listed home, there are work-arounds that can make it possible to get under contract and confirm your interest in the property before you are fully committed to it or put down any earnest money.

Finally, I’d like to note that many listings are empty and vacant.  I see no reason why in-person showings of those listings should not be allowed. I know that builders are letting buyers view their empty homes. Again, Scott Peterson maintains that empty homes cannot be visited either. Show us the actual orders from the Governor or guidance from the Division of Real Estate, Scott!