By Abby Esch and Kenedy Witherow
Last week, my fellow intern Kenedy Witherow and I had the opportunity to interview Catherine Hope-Cunningham, who considers herself to be a green realtor. We asked Catherine questions about her career history and start, what it means to be a green realtor, and whether the field and interest in sustainable realty is growing.
What is a green realtor?
According to Catherine, there are two answers to this question. Officially, a green realtor is a realtor that has taken classes and gotten their certification that allows them to officially be considered a green realtor. However, unofficially, a green realtor is any realtor who incorporates energy efficiency, green features, solar, walkability, and other aspects into their work.
How did you get started with green realty?
Catherine began her career as a solar industry consultant, and in 2015 she took a class that allowed her to take the Electronic Tech Exam to become licensed in solar design and installation. Through this designation, she found herself in people’s homes quite frequently and realized that she loved that aspect of the job. Catherine says that solar and real estate are complementary industries – one being home ownership, and the other – energy ownership.
What are your residential solar classes like?
Along with realty, Catherine also teaches classes about residential solar at the Columbus Garden School. She teaches attendees about a wide array of different aspects to consider before making the choice to install solar in their homes. One of the things that she highlights is the importance of getting a full home energy audit before adding solar to the house. By doing this, home-owners can understand if there are areas of improvement in their homes – places where there needs to be added insulation, places where there is thermal transfer and shouldn’t be. This allows for residents to purchase the right-sized solar array, which she argues makes her an oddball in the solar industry. A lot of solar companies don’t want you to find out where there are energy inefficiencies in the house, because they want customers to purchase larger (more expensive) solar arrays, because it brings them extra profit. Catherine prioritizes teaching home-owners how to reduce their energy output because she seems to value sustainability and her clients well-being first and foremost.
What does the future of green realty look like?
Catherine is a long-time resident of Gahanna, Ohio, and just sold her own home where she lived for 19 years. The main aspect that piqued the interest of the buyer was the home’s solar arrays. Hope-Cunningham believes that the interest in sustainability is increasing for potential home-buyers, and therefore that the field of green realty will grow in the future as well.
She argues that businesses and corporations are catching on to the idea first. Big businesses often have huge buildings – tons of real estate that they need to power, and that they could cover with solar panels. These businesses are realizing that it is cheaper to produce their own energy via solar panels in the long-run. However, corporate consumers have a much shorter return on investment than residential consumers. Even so, Catherine believes that residential consumers will soon start to realize more-and-more the benefits of owning one’s’ energy, and that it will save them a lot of money in the long run.
How can I learn more?
If you want to learn more about residential solar systems, I would recommend signing up for one of Catherine’s classes! Her next class, Residential Solar Systems, will be online through the Columbus Garden School on March 12. Click on the link below to register.
March 12, 2023 | 4:00 PM | $15 | Online
Here is the class description:
This ONLINE workshop provides homeowners with answers to many frequently asked questions about home solar systems, and empowers them to make educated decisions regarding ownership of energy vs. buying from a utility. We’ll cover topics including:
> the science of solar
> basic design concepts
> site assessment