Luxury Real Estate: You can't escape it. Everything appears to be an eco-development or a green-building these days. Just like a few years back when the term sustainable was used everywhere but rarely ever defined, green real estate projects are popping up all over in urban and resort settings.

While in the past, marketers could use the green story to attract some media attention, the products rarely came across as sophisticated luxury offerings. More often they were small cottage-y dwellings that didn't appeal to the masses or the media focused on some feat of sewage engineering -- hardly appealing to the average consumer.

Even in the past two years, I've noticed a change (although I've been working in the environmental epi-centers of Costa Rica and Vancouver, Canada). Certain green elements can not only appease buyers, but it can make real estate developments more successful in the long-term. For the purposes of this discussion, I lump social responsibility in with the notion of green developments.

More than ever before, when selling a second home development that lists Mother Nature as one of the biggest amenities, buyers are interested in how your project fits in with the surrounding community. Eco-features are great, but still they need to be tangible and highly desirable to affect a developer's bottom line in a positive way. So while, dual flow flush toilets certainly do save water and help the environment, they still aren't sexy enough to add money to the bottom line.

However, these green building features can add up to profit when they align themselves with the needs of the luxury consumer. So keep the dual flush toilet but make sure you appeal to the emotional needs of the real estate buyer. These are the types of questions that seem to be coming to the forefront for a large percentage of real estate prospects:

  • Will there be wilderness areas or green space be preserved around the development -- what is the developer doing to help this cause?

  • How does the community at large benefit from new development? Especially in developing countries, does the developer give back to the community?

  • Are there opportunities for owners to volunteer and get involved in some of the social and environmental initiatives? This is a growing desire among our real estate clients, so developers and marketers take note.

    Why this sudden shift in green real estate thinking? Well, I don't think it was all that sudden actually, but it has finally reached a point that is meaningful to real estate buyers. The masses are educated and much larger slice of the population is putting a priority on the environment. When buying a vacation home in particular, it may be seen as a chance for the owner to do things right or to even assume a new lifestyle. Their primary residence has a lot more demands and pressures while a vacation home is all about living the perfect lifestyle and that now includes going green.

    Stewart Winter

    Managing Partner - Marketing

    TS Water Real Estate Sales & Marketing Contributor