Mortgage advisers to focus on sustainable living in client consultations

More sustainable homes offer owners big advantages, starting with lower energy costs and more comfort. Equally important, these improvements help tackle climate change. In many cases, they also add value to the property. All the same, private homeowners have yet to fully embrace this growing trend, for the simple fact that many don't know what they're missing. That's why ABN AMRO and a number of other major players in the mortgage market have agreed a set of incentives.

The stakeholders recently committed to actively sharing expertise on making homes more sustainable. Mortgage lenders will be educating their clients on the advantages of a sustainable home and making it easier for them to finance these improvements. Basically, the idea is that when they take out a mortgage, a client will be co-financing the sustainability of the home without committing to the specific energy-saving measures they'll actually end up taking. That's because many homebuyers simply don't yet know at this stage exactly what improvements they should undertake to make the home more sustainable. Expectations are, though, that this combination of measures will lead to more clients opting to make their homes more sustainable.

Energy label A

Claire Dumas, Director of ABN AMRO's Mortgages entity, says she's excited about this next step towards a sustainable private housing market. "Last year," she explains, "we set out exactly how we intend to help reduce carbon emissions. That objective states that all homes and office space financed by the bank must have earned an average energy label A by 2030. Obviously, that applies to the bank's own premises as well. Having goals is one thing, but making them a reality is quite another. So from now on, all our advisers will be making the sustainability of the home an integral part of their mortgage consultations with private clients. We launched this initiative on 1 March and plan to roll it out in phases. Our main focus will be on clients who need to decide whether to buy a new home or renovate their existing one. It used to be that clients in this situation had to specifically ask for our advice, or advisers could introduce the subject if they were particularly passionate about it. Now all our advisers will be making it a part of every conversation they have - at the appropriate time, of course. As an additional incentive, we're letting clients know they can access an extra 6 per cent in financing if they choose to make the home more sustainable."

The Energy Savings Check

The bank is now offering a special service to private clients. Claire explains, "Thanks to the Energy Savings Check, an initiative of our partner De Energiebespaarders, we're giving clients an idea of how they might make their homes more sustainable. Plus the tool calculates just how much they'll save if they opt for energy-saving measures like solar panels, a new boiler or extra insulation. Users can also request a quote or tailored advice with the push of a button. If they choose the latter, an adviser will be happy to call on them at home. Users who request and accept a quote for a high-efficiency boiler, for example, can rest assured that De Energiebespaarders will also oversee the installation. It really is a complete solution." Claire is very enthusiastic about the initial results achieved by De Energiebespaarders. "In just three months," she says, "we've approached some 45,000 clients, 8,000 of whom have completed the check. And 1,200 clients have already taken steps to make their homes more sustainable. It's obvious that the time is right for this initiative. My expectation is that once our advisers start systematically focusing on sustainability in their discussions with clients, many more users will soon be availing themselves of the Energy Savings Check." 

But the package of measures the bank is offering doesn't stop there. Claire says, "We're also hard at work internally to get the green wave rolling. The bank now boasts over fifty highly committed green mortgage advisers throughout the Netherlands. They all have the very latest expertise, and actively share their knowledge and experience with other green colleagues. In their market segment and team, they're experts in the field of making homes more sustainable. They pass on their knowledge to our other mortgage advisers so that they, too, can discuss sustainable living with clients. Before the mortgage consultation, the client is sent a link to the Energy Savings Check, which facilitates a conversation about sustainable living. We're seeing that clients often want to include the financing of these improvements in their initial calculations. Our initial results show that 30 per cent of clients are interested in having sustainability included in the official mortgage advice they receive at the end of the process. We're also encouraging our intermediaries when talking to clients with an ABN AMRO or Florius mortgage to actively draw their attention to the advantages of making their homes more sustainable. Plus we're asking them to tell all their clients about the Energy Savings Check. After all, it's by promoting sustainability on multiple fronts simultaneously that we'll make the greatest impact. And that's vital considering the goals we've set for ourselves."

Reducing carbon emissions

"Sometimes it helps to express the notion of 'impact' in numbers," Claire continues. "40 per cent of all carbon emissions in the Netherlands are generated by the built environment. The properties we've financed emit about six megatons of carbon dioxide a year. When the homes and office space financed by the bank have earned an average energy label A by 2030, we will have reduced those emissions by two megatons a year. That's equivalent to the emissions of 800,000 passenger cars. If you add up all the clients who have a mortgage with us, you realise the bank has enormous potential to make a positive impact. We can be instrumental in helping some 3.3 million people live and work in a cheaper, more comfortable and environmentally friendlier way. And when we work together with other stakeholders, that impact can only grow. That's why we're so enthusiastic about the agreements we've made with other banks and the Home Ownership Guarantee Fund."