Cecille Weldon is responsible for the creation and development of the Banksia award-winning Liveability Real Estate Framework. Now owned and backed by CSIRO, this new way of marketing property introduces 17 new property features into the real estate transaction. These Liveability Features, which cover passive building design, energy and water efficiency and renewables, are key to finding a home which is comfortable, efficient, healthy and connected to your community. This Liveability mandate, to create your best home, is deeply ingrained in all Cecille does – she even lived in a contemporary tree house on Sydney’ northern beaches at one time! – and her forays into slow living are journaled in her personal blog cecille.com.au
Cecille, you have over 25 years working across areas including creative and brand management, event design, marketing and systems development. How do you apply these elements along with sustainability to Liveability Real estate?
Well, I guess the interesting set of skills I’ve gather along the way means that I can see opportunities on the horizon, the big picture visions, but I also love the detailed steps that bring it to life which is a little unusual. Initially the Liveability Opportunity, to provide more robust and relevant information about homes when they are in the property market, began as a competitive brand proposition for a large Australian real estate brand. It quickly become much more.
In the development of the Liveability Real Estate Framework one of the first things I looked at was the language – how the opportunity is communicated in the marketplace. My mantra was “meaning not marketing”. This meant that I needed to walk away from the traditional road map for “sustainability” and listen to the heart beat of the business I found myself in .. .real estate. One of the 14 measures of success in the development of Liveability was to reposition “sustainability” in the market place. The word “sustainability” itself had ironically become a barrier to the whole opportunity to engage more people about these new property features. It’s one of the three paradox’s that underpin the power of the Liveability Opportunity that the environment does much better if you never mention it. That’s because the word “sustainability” is very politicised and the focus on the environment has limited everyone’s understanding of the full picture of the benefit it offers – these property features deliver your best home with the potential for comfort and affordability as well.
We found a way to bring all this information together and seamlessly introduce into existing property marketing processes and real estate agent training. This delivers better, more relevant property information which in turn empowers people to make the decision that is right for them and the language of liveability is key to this, and of course the environment is the big winner underneath all this.
It was a great privilege to be embedded in the real estate industry and understand the power of the real estate moment – it’s time sensitive, highly competitive and highly emotional. You must have information that is simple and robust to be effective in this moment and much of the language of sustainability and building performance is too complex to make sense when you’re stressed looking for a home to buy or rent.
Tell us about how the Liveability Features Appraisal works?
If you’re a thinking about selling your home or investment property then normally you would ask any number of agents to conduct a free appraisal to understand how much your home is worth in today’s market. Many people choose the agent they want to list the property with during these appraisals. The Liveability Features Appraisal is delivered free in addition to the standard appraisal process and identifies up to 17 additional Liveability Features which includes the hidden value in your home. The agent must be upskilled as a Liveability Real Estate Specialist to be able to deliver this additional service and marketing benefits to you and your property.
The Liveability Features Appraisal has benchmarks which the home meets into order to achieve the premium Liveability Feature on your property listing. Even one of these features can be showcased in the marketing of your property and increases the opportunity for you to get a higher price in a shorter time frame. Remember, these are features that have been largely missing from property marketing and they are incredibly important for the new buyer and renter to know about. Research shows 89 % of consumers would find a home more comfortable if these features were identified at point of sale or rent as they signal that the property has the potential for reduced running costs and increased comfort.
This combination of agent training and trusted benchmarks and delivers reliable information to the person house hunting. Choice Magazine identified the Liveability mark on a property as trusted information and the question to ask your real estate agent “Are you trained under the Liveability Real Estate Framework?”
How does Liveability work together with sustainable construction, design and assessment industries to help create a sustainable environment in the home?
We consulted with architects, industry peak bodies like Icanz (insulation) and AWA (windows) Clean Energy Council, Master Builders Green Living, HIA and specialist design and construction consultants when we were developing the framework to understand what they were design and building and assessing. We then added our real estate perspective and experience in order to convert this into a features-based framework which aligns with the systems and processes in property marketing. Once we had developed all the elements, including the agent training program, we then reached out to our industry contacts to make sure our benchmarks for each feature was consistent with existing homes. This collaboration has led to mutual respect for each other’s role in correctly positioning Liveability Features in the marketplace and driving a new value proposition in Australian homes.
You won the Banksia award for sustainability in 2014, how has Liveability continued to further the progress for sustainable development in Australia?
It was an exciting moment to win the Banksia Award in the Education category for something created within the property marketing industry not outside of it. The Framework was acquired by CSIRO in late 2016 in order to ensure all agents across Australia had access to this industry leading solution. CSIRO involvement insured it is an independent property listing protocol for Liveability Features at point of sale or rent. We encourage everyone to ask their agent to upskill and become a Liveability Real Estate Specialist so ALL your property features (not just the “bling”) can be showcased when it comes time to sell or rent. This ensures the market is exposed to trusted information and that the hidden value of these Liveability Features is finally to come to light.
You have a very holistic approach to life and embrace a sustainable lifestyle – and we can follow liveability your journey on cecille.com.au. Can you tell us about about your journey?
Even when I was a starving student, creating a comfortable home that everyone wanted to be in was important to me. It was a way to express myself creatively … a sense of place that was close to the natural world and in harmony with its seasons has been key to achieving balance throughout my life, especially later when I became a mum to Ben and Sophie. You can see details of the contemporary treehouse we lived in, including the plans, on my blog page.
To me it just makes sense on every level that our homes need to be more adaptable to the seasonal changes and climate extremes, cheaper to run, more comfortable and that we should live lighter on this planet in doing so. I see this as fundamental and uncontroversial and honestly it represents such an exciting opportunity for innovation.
Of course, this connection is endlessly inspiring as well which is evidenced in my blog which is where my more personal creative work is housed … lino cuts, fabric design, recipes, craft. My mother passed away last year and I inherited her recipe book and have been journeying through the recipes and uncovering all these memories. I’ll often bring in cakes I’ve made on a Sunday that appear in my Instagram feed or blog into work at the Office Space and we’ll gather round the beautifully designed high brass bench and share our weekend stories. I think something home-made with care can create warmth in a traditionally corporate community.
I’m feeling inspired. Can you suggest any steps – big or small – that we could take to incorporate sustainability into their lives?
Well the first step is visit Liveabilty.com.au. We have details of the 17 Liveability Features and why they matter, so it’s important for home owners or investors who are thinking about a renovation that they don’t leave out these features. You get the benefit while you’re in the home and now these Liveability Features will be showcased when you’re ready to sell or rent ..its a win, win and for the environment a win too.
The important thing is to start. It might be as simple and as cost effective as shading on the north and east/west side and bulk insulation in the ceiling. These deliver a quick impact on cost and comfort.
Don’t forget, it’s not just the Liveabilty Features but how you use it that matters if you want to achieve comfort and affordability … you can have double glazed windows but if you leave them open all winter they’re not going to help you.