By Mary Azzi
16 December 2010 A lobby group of real estate agents established to promote sustainable residential property has launched a new website aimed at educating and linking people – including agents and buyers – on the benefits of sustainable housing.
Sustainable Housing and Australian Real Estate was established earlier this year, after founder and real estate agent, Lisa Roberts, felt disillusioned by the lack of awareness about sustainable residential property among real estate agents and buyers across Australia.
Roberts, who promoted WestWyck in Melbourne – a residential eco-development incorporating sustainable development and aesthetically appealing design – said that after working on WestWyck, she was surprised at the lack of sustainable housing in Sydney.
“[T]here wasn’t enough awareness about sustainable residential property in Sydney as there was in Melbourne and I wanted to do something about it,” says Roberts. “Even major developers like Australian Living didn’t know about the developments in Melbourne, such as WestWyck.”
Wanting to facilitate change, she was given practical advice by climate change campaigner Sir Bob Geldof at the Australian Real Estate Conference in May this year, when she asked what more she could do. “Why don’t you start a lobby group?” he asked her. Within days, Roberts had come up with a name for the lobby group.
She says the aim of the new website is to share examples of sustainable residential property and information between Australian states.
“We want it to be a federal resource where people can look on our site and see examples of houses and information on sustainable property with simple explanations and terminology – involving a crossing of boundaries of states.”
In five or 10 years’ time, the aim is to turn the site into a not-for-profit, widely accessible national resource, she says.
SHAARE currently has members from the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia. Roberts says she wants people to feel comfortable approaching SHAARE members and asking questions and that ultimately, the purpose of the site is to act as an educational resource.
“We also want to be a resource for other agents,” she says. “[A]gents can communicate and explain things better to buyers [than councils], for example.
“We want to get to groups that councils can’t get to – agents can make suggestions to improve ratings and get increased house sales.
“We also want to teach people that they can save money and save the environment in the long term,” she says.
Roberts says the focus is on economic advantages to buyers – sustainable features can reduce the costs of living, for example, through reduced utility bills and buyers also have the benefit of government rebates.
“The house as an asset also increases in value – sustainable development adds money to the resale value.”
Buyers in Victoria, for example, have reacted positively to sustainable residential property – they could see that they were going to save money, says Roberts.
“However, we need more examples of sustainable houses in NSW,” she says.
Roberts believes that the key to getting more people on board is motivation – “we need to motivate people about why they should do it.”