For years, I’ve been working towards processes that link data on energy efficiency improvements to the real estate transaction. And every step of the way I’ve been honest: that every improvement bridges the industries by easing the liability concerns of real estate agents, appraisers and other professionals. You know this data best. And we don’t want to touch this stuff it means we could get sued. Bottom line is we want to point to you as the data source so buyers and sellers can find someone else to sue!
My warnings and your observations about the intense concerns over misleading or incorrect information about “green” properties has been mostly treated with eye-rolls and ridicule. It’s been an obstacle to progress. Quite frankly, the efficiency world thinks the real estate world is paranoid.
Well, it’s time to stop worrying about us and worry about yourself.
On September 3rd I learned about the first lawsuit (as far as I am aware) over misrepresentations of a “green” home. The Colorado Springs Business Journal provided details in their article, “Home Not Effectively Green, Lawsuit Says.” They report that the plaintiff claims her family was misled and purchased a home from a builder that was LEED-Registered rather than LEED-Certified as promoted. The homeowners also were told the home was “near net-zero” and were disappointed to find it received a HERS Index Score of 13.
If you are ready to squabble over the distinction between registered versus certified, or 0 versus 13, you’re missing the point completely!
The lesson here for builders, contractors, efficiency programs, third-party verifiers and others is that the days of “buyer beware” are long gone. The public relies on a transaction system built upon the sharing of honest and reliable information about the material facts of a property. The justice system holds the experts involved in any transaction to a high standard to uphold the truth. REALTORS directly address honesty in their 100 year tradition of a Code of Ethics that every member retests on every four years.
REALTORS® shall avoid exaggeration, misrepresentation, or concealment of pertinent facts relating to the property or the transaction.
Good news is that high-performance home data right from the source really does make the transaction better, and protects all parties in the transaction. More and more progress is being made to link data on efficiency scores, certifications and labels to MLS and other real estate transaction steps.
The more the efficiency industry understands the risks of a lawsuit and the absolutely non-negotiable requirement that data be credible and reliable, the better for all of us. The industry has to be so sure of its data its willing to stand behind that data in a courtroom!
Stay tuned to see how the HERS lawsuit in Colorado shakes out.
And if you’re still thinking real estate is paranoid about lawsuits, check out this video as a reminder from a two-year-old to worry about yourself! (I couldn’t help myself!)