MLS system needs to accommodate “green” searches

Most Canadians who have ever bought or contemplated buying a home know of the online MLS, or Multiple Listing System. Found at www.mls.ca, it allows you to search for homes and properties for sale across Canada — very convenient, and for some quite addictive. But the search engine has some limitations in an age where the energy-efficiency and other “green” features of homes are more desired and demanded.

You can ask to see homes with fireplaces, pools, central AC; you can specify price ranges and how many rooms and bathrooms you’re looking for; and you can indicate the type of property you want, whether it be a condo, townhouse, detached house or ranch.

Unfortunately, you can’t search for homes that have solar thermal, solar PV systems, geothermal systems or small-scale wind. You also can’t search by EnerGuide efficiency rating, or stipulate you don’t want homes with features such as electric or oil-furnace heating.

Perhaps this is a premature request, but doesn’t it make sense to build these search features into the system now before the number of property owners looking to promote the “green” aspects of their homes begins to increase materially? Same goes for property hunters: If I know I want a home with a geo-exchange heating and cooling system, why make me filter through hundreds of other homes in the hope I’ll luck out.

Until this ability to find and promote green homes emerges, it will be difficult to price in a green premium for a home, or appreciate why a highly efficient home or one heated/powered by renewables is more expensive than a similar home that wastes energy and sucks exclusively from the grid. Without this ability to differentiate, there will also be less pressure on homebuilders to construct green homes, and less motivation to keep up with the *green* Joneses.

Just a thought… Consider it my own personal request to the Canadian Real Estate Association.