A key part of any real estate transaction is the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). For sellers it’s the foundational start for marketing their home, as its data feeds popular consumer sites like Zillow and Realtor.com. For buyers it’s where to find accurate information on a home and its features.

We expect to see certain features like square footage and number of bedrooms in most listings, but as homes have changed so have the fields that represent them. Carbon monoxide detectors, for example, now have their own field in the MLS. It’s the same for LED lighting, smart thermostats, foam insulation, solar panels, and more. Ten years ago features like these were rare or nonexistent, but not anymore.

The MLS has a special set of data fields called “Green MLS” fields which capture these attributes and others that contribute to sustainable living and increased home performance. Energy efficiency assets are considered performance features of a home in the same way that cars might have a performance package that improves its comfort and efficiency.

Don’t Leave Money on the Table

The US Department of Energy found that 40% of homes have energy related features which could be included in a Green MLS. Unfortunately, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and Appraisal Institute (AI) have found that most homes are not properly valued due to a lack of verifiable data on their high-performing, energy efficient features.

Given that third party certified homes sell on average for 4% for more in most markets, this is a huge missed opportunity that collectively costs American home sellers hundreds of millions of dollars in lost home value. For an individual homeowner, this translates into $15,000 left on the table at closing when the home has upgraded, efficient features that aren’t captured in the listing and marketed with the home.

Tools for Real Estate Agents to Master the Green MLS

NAR, the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO),the Council of Multiple Listing Services (CMLS), and the Appraisal Institute worked with the energy efficiency community to align MLS data fields with available technical information on a home’s green and energy efficient features. Information for these fields ultimately usually comes from a contractor, manufacturer specs, or a firm like Pearl Certification. It can include a visual inspection or diagnostic testing of the installation.

The tricky part for agents is that these features are not always obvious. An agent may know that the home has newer air conditioner, but is it energy efficient? What’s the SEER and EER of the unit? What is a SEER and EER anyway?

Fortunately there are resources agents can access to help. The Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors (CAAR) has developed a Green MLS Toolkit that has great advice for agents. Agents seeking professional development can sign up for NAR’s Green Designation course which will be taught October 16 – 17 by Pearl Certification CEO Cynthia Adams at CAAR’s office.

For brokers, Pearl offers a “Using the Green MLS to Put Green in Your Pocket” course for agents that gives them training on how to recognize certain home features for inclusion in the MLS. Agents may also find helpful Pearl’s free “Certify My Home” app, whose guided question set helps them identify Green MLS home features and provides information that can be used to make adjustments to a Comparative Market Analysis. (Here’s a good place for agents to get started.)

Savvy agents who understand how and when to use the Green Fields have an advantage that can help them win a listing. And, of course, today’s listing is tomorrow’s comparable. Entering important data on a home’s performance and green features enhances the accuracy and professionalism of the whole industry – it helps buyers find what they’re looking for, appraisers properly value it, and puts more green in your sellers’ pocket.

This article first appeared in The Daily Progress.