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Brett Vredevoogd is a real estate professional with a secret weapon: Pearl Certification. “Too often energy efficiency upgrades take a back seat to cosmetic updates,” he says. Granite countertops and luxurious master bathrooms were the easier selling points, but with Pearl, monetary value can also be put on energy-efficient upgrades. Vredevoogd now prides himself on giving his clients the best of both worlds.

I spent 10 years in construction in Montana. I knew I didn’t want to just do cookie-cutter frame houses. I wanted to be in the sustainable building industry,

Brett Vredevoogd Real Estate Salesperson — Grand Rapids, MI

If you haven’t already heard, the real estate market is booming. So much so that homes across the country are being purchased — well over asking prices — before they’re even listed. The pandemic sent home prices skyrocketing, and as more people stayed in their homes, the number of listings declined rapidly. What that means now is that real estate agents are met with more demand than supply. It also means that agents need to find a way to stand out amongst the crowd. Pearl Certification is helping them do just that.

About Brett

Over the last two decades, Brett Vredevoogd has been a carpenter, general contractor, solar installer, and now he’s a real estate professional who sees Pearl Certification as a means to separate himself from his competition. “I spent 10 years in construction in Montana. I knew I didn’t want to just do cookie-cutter frame houses. I wanted to be in the sustainable building industry,” says Vredevoogd. He worked for several sustainable contractors in Bozeman. “It was a good area for that specialty. I learned about a lot of newer products and sustainable building methods,” he says. But Vredevoogd’s next turn in his career path brought him home to Grand Rapids, Michigan. “My mom was about to retire, and I went back to Michigan in 2013 to learn real estate from her and to start my own career,” says Vredevoogd. Vredevoogd worked with Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors for seven years and joined Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Incorporated, a large residential real estate brokerage service, in October of last year.

Pearl Certification allows me to take normally hidden features that buyers and appraisers don’t look for and make their value visible

Brett Vredevoogd Real Estate Salesperson — Grand Rapids, MI

Vredevoogd’s extensive background in sustainable home building would give him an edge over most other real estate agents who have never worked in the building trade. “I needed to differentiate myself in the market, and I always wanted to incorporate energy efficiency into my real estate business,” he explains. Vredevoogd wanted to offer an energy audit to all his clients at the time they were selling their homes. “I have the opportunity as a realtor to show my clients how they can save energy and be comfortable,” he says. Vredevoogd also wanted to give sellers a way to increase the value of their homes. “Too often energy efficiency upgrades take a back seat to cosmetic updates,” he says. Granite countertops and luxurious master bathrooms were the easier selling points, but Vredevoogd knew his clients were missing out on a lot of value in energy-efficient upgrades.

Discovering the Power of Pearl

After trying to come up with ways to incorporate energy efficiency into his real estate business on his own, he realized he needed some help. That’s when he discovered Pearl. “In 2018, I was giving a course in marketing green homes and educating people how to use the GREEN MLS in Grand Rapids. There happened to be several people from Pearl there. We talked afterward and I instantly knew what they offered me was what I was looking for,” he says.

Working with Pearl gave Vredevoogd a way to differentiate himself from other agents in his area. “Pearl Certification allows me to take normally hidden features that buyers and appraisers don’t look for and make their value visible,” says Vredevoogd. “On the buying side, we’re going to help new homeowners to create a path to a greener home. For me, it’s important to stay in front of clients long term.” In that regard, there is another benefit of working with Pearl Contractors. “If you can hook [clients] up with a quality contractor you can trust, they remember that,” says Vredevoogd.

This is proof, though market conditions did play a part, that Pearl Certified homes sold for 6% over non-Certified homes

Brett Vredevoogd Real Estate Salesperson — Grand Rapids, MI

So, how exactly does Pearl work for Vredevoogd and his clients? Here’s an example: “I had two houses sit on the market for two months with no offers. The houses were well-built but outdated with poor layouts, and they were relatively small,” says Vredevoogd. “Then, at the beginning of 2020, we put them back on the market. But first we got them both Pearl Certified,” he says.

One of the homes was occupied and the seller was there during a blower door test with George Clark, a Vice President at WMGB Home Improvement, who is also a Pearl Contractor. “George noted extensive mold in the attic because the previous contractor did not install the insulation correctly. This led to significant moisture problems. We were able to catch that. It was almost like a pre-listing inspection, which was great for the seller,” explains Vredevoogd. “Both homes sold within a couple weeks and the clients were so happy we went the extra mile,” says Vredevoogd. The homes both sold for around $300,000; the average sale price for similar homes in the neighborhood last year was $284,000. “Though market conditions did play a part, this is proof that Pearl Certified homes sold for 6% over non-Certified homes,” says Vredevoogd.

Vredevoogd offers another example of the benefits of Pearl Certification. “We listed a house right when in-person showings started again — there was so much pent-up demand. These people hoped to get $270,000 for their house and we listed it for $279,000. The sellers accepted an offer for $306,000 but they also had a cash offer at $300,000,” he says. The sellers were nervous about taking conventionally financed offers when a cash offer was nearly as good but wouldn’t entail an appraisal. “I said to them, ‘We’ll get an appraisal package for this appraiser so we can ensure you get the value you deserve.’ I’ve had several cases like this where I have been able to present to them that Pearl Certification provides tons of relief for homeowners who are comfortable accepting offers. On the buying side, too, Pearl is a great tool for a realtor's tool belt that gives added value to their clients,” says Vredevoogd.

Looking Ahead

But some big challenges remain. “Three times in the last year we got a house that’s listed well over asking or there is a buyer who gets $30,000 to $40,000 over asking and is worried about the appraisal,” says Vredevoogd. So, they sent George from WMGB to get the home Pearl Certified. Pearl’s Certification System, including the appraisal addendum, makes a huge difference. “We typically don’t have the data for appraisers. When we give them Pearl, they have that data,” says Vredevoogd.

For Vredevoogd and others who offer Pearl Certification to their clients, it all comes back to educating realtors. “We need to show the importance of documenting green features on the MLS. Until realtors start documenting correctly, people won’t look for the value of those green features,” says Vredevoogd. Why would they value them if the appraisers and realtors don’t?

“People use agents who have no idea about the value of an energy-efficient home,” says Vredevoogd. But he’s doing his part to educate others on the value of energy efficiency and other home performance benefits. Now, with the help of Pearl Certification, he can actually give real dollars and cents to that value.

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