What do Green Consultants and Brain Surgeons Have in Common?

by | BiggerPockets.com

When I tell people I am a green consultant for real estate investors, they invariably say, “Oh! That’s so cool”  Then there’s a pause and then they say, “So what do you REALLY do?”
I explain that’s really what I do, it’s the only thing I do and it’s a full-time endeavor.  I can’t hit a curve ball, get queasy when I see blood (there goes the medical career) and don’t know anything about tax law but I believe there is no one better at green real estate consulting than me.  I know that sounds arrogant (my apologies) but as Dizzy Dean said, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it”.

With that said, here’s a quick break-down of the role of a green consultant and how best to leverage them in your investing.

FIRST, a green consultant should be able to develop a complete green strategy for any property you’re thinking of buying/selling/renting/rehabbing.  From the Taj Mahal to a one bedroom shack in Ohio, almost every property can be greened up.  This strategy should include a complete assessment of the property as well as a targeted retrofit plan that leverages all available applicable rebates and incentives. See below for the top 27 things I do on every project.

SECOND, your green consultant should have a network of green vendors and suppliers they can tap to help you with your project.  If they can’t recommend a green painter, plumber, green HVAC company, etc. run for the hills.  They should have these contacts at their disposal.  Also, make sure that they do not accept any kickbacks or referral fees from anyone they recommend to you. Ditto for any materials/products supplier.

, make sure this is the only thing your consultant does.  Don’t hire someone who sells eco-products on the side or encyclopedias door-to-door.  This business changes so quickly and moves so fast you need someone who is committed to it and is on top of the game.  You wouldn’t go to a part-time brain surgeon would you?

Here are three good questions to ask your potential green consultant:

1. ‘How many real estate projects have you done?’  Make sure they’ve at least done a few in your area or specialty (sfr, for ex.)

2. ‘How will your recommendations make my property more valuable?’ If they can’t pencil out exactly what their recommendations mean to you in dollars, then you shouldn’t hire them.

3. ‘Should I pursue LEED certification on my project?’  This is a trick question.  If someone says yes right away, don’t hire them. The correct response is “Why are you considering LEED?”  For most RE investors LEED is too costly and delivers marginal returns at best.  There are exceptions (as I’m sure someone will email me) but this is a general rule of thumb.

Hiring a green consultant should deliver tremendous returns to you financially and to society as a whole.  When you create green (re: high-performance) homes, you’re also creating sustainable communities. And as a true tree-hugging capitalist, I applaud your efforts in this area whether you hire me or choose to work with someone else. We ALL benefit from your efforts.

Quick word about comments/questions: I always appreciate your comments and questions.  Your insights make me better at what I do and bring light to topics I might not have considered.  I might be an expert in this field but by no means do I know everything. So thanks again..jim

Some (not all) of the things I do on a typical project:

  1. Assess property indoor plumbing
  2. Assess property irrigation system including system design, sprinkler-heads, valves, weather sensors, etc.
  3. Assess property HVAC systems
  4. Assess property duct work
  5. Assess property structure
  6. Assess property Indoor Air Quality observations
  7. Assess property materials and fixtures
  8. Assess wall insulation
  9. Assess attic insulation
  10. Assess property appliances
  11. Assess property windows
  12. Schedule energy audit (if applicable)
  13. Locate and interview all potential energy auditors
  14. Create punch list of all target retrofits to be completed
  15. Create list of all available rebates and incentives applicable to property
  16. Create process flow to submit and follow-up on all rebates/incentives
  17. Create scorecard on projected ROI of targeted retrofits
  18. Recommend which appliances should be installed (if applicable)
  19. Recommend which irrigation system optimization methods should be pursued (including which products) if applicable
  20. Assist with green vendor (Painter, plumber, HVAC, contractor) selection
  21. Review all green vendor contractor bids
  22. Develop selling points for property for all marketing efforts
  23. Create a list of retrofits that was completed for all marketing efforts
  24. Create a 1-sheet sales slick explaining the cost benefits/health benefits of the property over others
  25. Conduct a brief training for front line PM’s to educate them on communicating the ‘green’ benefits of the property
  26. Create youtube video of retrofit work being completed for all marketing efforts
  27. Contact local TV media for case study/segment on specific property    (The 1st story angle  is on the 1st property; the 2nd story angle (after the 5th property) is on the investor)

About Author

I help real estate investors increase profits and property values through a variety of green strategies. I help clients find hidden rebates, tax incentives and credits to maximize returns on any property. www.JimSimcoe.com


  1. Stuart Cowan on

    Jim Simcoe makes some great points about selecting green consultants that can genuinely increase real estate values, tap into available resources, and make sensible choices about what kind (if any) of certification to pursue. However, often the best green consulting studies are ignored or only partially carried out because of the specialized project management skills required to coordinate multiple contractors in a busy building. Full lifecycle green retrofit providers can determine the optimal portfolio of retrofit measures based on a client’s internal investment models, manage the retrofit and commissioning process, and even stay on board for long-term green operations and maintenance. Some are even offering external financing options that eliminate any upfront cost to owners.

  2. Interesting approach. I like the inclusion of so many different pieces in the package you offer, Jim. I’d like to make two recommendations for any homeowners or homebuyers:

    1. You can finance a lot of this work with an Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM), sometimes called an Energy Improvement Mortgage (EIM). See this description of them for more info: http://www.energyvanguard.com/energy-efficient-mortgage/. You can also use a 203k loan to cover improvements not allowed by an EEM, and they can be used in combination.

    2. There are two certifications for home energy auditors: RESNET/HERS and BPI. Before hiring someone for an energy audit, ask if they have one or both certifications. If they don’t, they may not have much understanding of building science and may not even know how to do diagnostic testing for infiltration and duct leakage.

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