I hereby offer my apologies for my absence. (Max!) Blogging has been interrupted with contracts and home sales. Although most of the country is in a housing slump, the South SF Bay Area is still going strong.
It is a relief to receive emails from people requesting more writing on the subject of green real estate. Lately it feels that green real estate expertise is an unwanted commodity. I was at an office meeting last Tuesday where Bay Area real estate leaders proclaimed an anti-environmentalist agenda. Home buyers are much more interested in a home’s school district than whether or not it is oriented well for passive solar heating.
Reading my RSS feeds had to take a backseat while I studied up on the meanings behind public school API scores. My mother is known within the office as an expert on which schools are desirable. You tell her an address, and she will tell you what school district it is in. While I still have to look the address up, I feel confident in knowing on which homes buyers are still outbidding each other.
Still, within these school districts it is possible to search for home features that encourage energy efficiency, good indoor air quality and water conservation. I try to point out such features and be an environmental educator as I go. I am sure other educators will share in my frustration in not knowing whether I am getting through to anyone. People do not want to be preached to when buying a home. They want someone to listen to their needs. So my ideals should always take a back seat to my client’s ideals. In this market, public school test scores are the ideal.
Last Tuesday at our weekly office meeting, Mark Burns, president of the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors (SILVAR) came with Adam Montgomery, the Association’s Government Affairs Officer to speak to our office about the Association’s political action committee, and to ask us to donate more money to the cause. They were bragging that on a local level the Association of realtors is one of the largest PACs and whomever they back has always had enough money to win.
While speaking of whom they were backing, Mark Burns also entertained the group by talking down candidates and measures in need of defeating. The act was much in the vein of Rush Limbaugh entertainment, causing the group to laugh and shake their heads. To disagree with such statements would make one seem foolish and deserving of ridicule from all the jocks in one’s high school graduating class.
He then went on to describe with disdain an example of New Urbanism being backed by a candidate that simply must be defeated. His reasoning was entertaining, but familiar. I know of numerous studies that have proven that more lanes of traffic actually do not ease but increase congestion, but I kept quiet. The candidates had already been chosen by committee and were not up for debate.
Later he mentioned the need to block initiatives in Cupertino trying to make building and remodeling more Green. We are already Green enough and such laws would make development worthless. I was overwhelmed by the groans of agreement within the room.
I used to think that becoming a Green-focused Realtor might be redundant. SILVAR has already attained a Green business certification. The debate over the existence of global warming has ended, and the movement is well underway. If everyone has heard of a straw bale home, surely everyone knows the need for more sustainable housing.
However, the general attitudes of those in the real estate industry are far behind public opinion, especially in the Bay Area. What seems like a logical next step in action to me is impractical and inconvenient to those whom are in a position to take action.
No, being a Green Realtor is not cliché yet. All the same, your emails of encouragement are a huge help to remind me to not just give up and join the rest of the crowd. Now, if only one of you Green-minded readers would just buy a house from me! Putting your money where your mouth is sends much more of a statement than any writing or petitioning.
No study proving the value of new urbanism will change the mind of Mark Burns. Customers demanding to only spend money on environmentally conscious homes will change the mind of Mark Burns. The people in power are only following what will most easily turn a profit for them. The power to make the world a better place is in your hands.