Green brokers add a new dimension to the search for and sale of homes and property. With extensive training and specialized knowledge, they can educate clients in various facets of sustainable building practices and guide them in their choices.
Two thirds of consumers surveyed in McGraw-Hill’s SmartMarket Report 2007, Green Homeowner Issue say they are paying attention to green homes and buildings; they recognize the link between green properties, cost savings, and healthy living.
While some clients like the idea of going green, they don’t quite know what that means or how to do it, relates Troy Hodas, a green broker who is also an energy auditor and general contractor in Goshen. Green brokers aim to be “the source of the source,” Hodas says. While he has experience building Energy Star homes and facilitating eco-friendly construction, a qualified green broker does not have to wear all those hats.
They do, however, have to know the ins and outs of sustainable design, indoor air quality, energy efficiency, demand reduction, renewable energy, and other pertinent issues. They’re also familiar with local suppliers and can make recommendations.
“Real estate professionals who can facilitate knowledge and information in regards to green real estate, green building, green renovations issues, can point people in the right direction,” explains New York House’s own green advocate, Paul McGinniss. McGinniss says that in real estate transactions there is usually at least one broker involved. Traditionally, a broker’s responsibility is to negotiate with the buyers and sellers, arrange all the correct inspections, facilitate the flow of information, and, as McGinniss emphasizes, assist in retrofitting a property. “In MTV terms, it’s like green ‘Pimp my Ride,’” he explains.
The emerging green broker field has certain designations that are fairly new but highly reputable. While credible brokers must be licensed by the state they practice in, many qualified green brokers may have also completed one or more of the top continuing-education courses offered in the U.S.
EcoBroker is a nationwide, third-party designation originated in 2002 in Evergreen, CO by Dr. John Beldock, an educator and energy and environmental consultant who also serves as executive director of the Association of Energy and Environmental Real Estate Professionals (AEEREP). According to ecobroker.com, the training to become an EcoBroker Certified Professional includes three six-hour online courses and the completion of assignments and exams. Course material can include energy-efficient windows, space heating and cooling, appliances, technology, and green building.
“[It] is a well rounded education,” says Scott Wohl, director of public affairs for the Orange County Association of Realtors (OCAR) where EcoBroker courses are offered. Wohl, who is also responsible for the OCAR Green Task Force, says that EcoBrokers aim to be a “conduit of information.”
According to the EcoBroker website, the broker requirements also include a $395 membership fee and a $129 annual fee that supports this green real estate training and communications program. McGinniss was the first Hudson Valley broker to complete the course, he says; he is now, however, in the company of Hodas, Wohl, and more than 100 other EcoBrokers in New York State.
Another certification for real estate professionals is the National Association of Realtors Green Designation, created in 2008 in response to huge interest in environmental practices. The Green Designation is for residential, commercial, and property management professionals who seek a broad knowledge about how to live and work in an environmentally friendly way and want to keep up-to-date on changes in green real estate issues and trends.
To earn NAR’s Green Designation, brokers take an intense, two-day core course, plus continuing professional education courses. They must also pass exams and retain professional membership in NAR. There is an annual fee of $99 to maintain the Green Designation after all coursework has been completed.
The Ulster County Board of Realtors had 60 of its member agents complete NAR’s two-day course and 90 members take the green residential elective in October, according to staffer Allison Organtini.
“They’re craving more education. There’s a tremendous interest in green. This class sold out in the first week and had a wait list a mile long,” she says. Two years ago, the board offered EcoBroker courses, but changed to NAR’s Green Designation this year and offered them free as part of the annual $425 membership dues. Agents would otherwise pay $345 for the two-day, and $200 for the single-day course, Organtini says.
Still, with all the interest, there are not enough brokers who have these types of qualifications right now, says Denise Katzman, one of McGinniss’ clients. Katzman is a business manager for a media company, as well as an environmental supporter for 25 years. She is working with McGinniss to purchase, or possibly build, an environmentally-friendly home in the Hudson Valley. She explains that a green broker is able to “forge through what is available in price and location,” in order to find what she is looking for. This is especially beneficial since she calls the current market for green homes “rather bereft.”
Katzman does warn that while looking for a green broker, consumers should be wary of “greenwashing” or professionals who use “green” as a marketing spin, without the quality product or service to offer their clients.
“[Green brokers] would be able to better educate the buyer as to what the benefits are of the home,” says Hodas, “and be able to differentiate…proper ventilation, air sealing, air quality, proper insulation, durability, and construction techniques.”
Green brokers are just another part of the green home equation that can bring the home buying/building experience to the next environmentally-friendly level. As McGinniss says, green brokers are another link on the chain along with green architects and designers. “For the entire equation to work,” he says, “all the various parties have to be on the same page.”
Give your real estate business an eco-boost.
“Consumers are definitely looking to go green,” says EcoBroker Scott Wohl. If you think it’s time to take your career in a greener direction, start by checking out the designations that can add a special value to your clients’ experience.
ecobroker.com EcoBroker Certified Professional
greenresourcecouncil.org National Association of Realtors’ Green Designation
usgbc.org LEED Green Associate
nahb.org National Association of Home Builders’ Certified Green Professional
greenrealestateeducation.com Green Certified Real Estate Professional