Using an Eco-friendly Realtor


By Amy Le

Article highlights:

  • How to find a green-certified Realtor
  • Why using a green certified realtor can improve your eco-home search
  • Identifying a trustworthy green designation

Over the last five years or so, there’s been an emerging niche of Realtors called eco-brokers. This breed of broker and agent specializes in finding green properties for environmentally conscious home buyers and helps current homeowners connect with other energy-minded contractors and builders for remodeling projects. According to a McGraw-Hill “Green Residential Smart Market” national report, environmentally sustainable construction will be worth $12 billion to $20 billion in 2008, or 6 percent to 10 percent of the market. Researchers expect those numbers to double within the next five years.

Getting certified

Kirk Fox, who became one of the first certified eco-brokers in Chicago in 2004 and is currently a Realtor with Helios Realty and Development, is among a growing class of real estate agents with the official designation. Fox obtained his certification through EcoBroker International, one of the first companies to offer this type of niche-market designation. According to the company’s Web site, EcoBroker International has certified more than 2,600 agents across the country. The company, based in Evergreen, CO, offers online courses that teach agents how to make improvements in indoor air quality, what types of eco-friendly retrofits will be the most cost-effective, and how to piece together the state and local tax credits or grants for green projects. Agents then earn an EcoBroker Certification, along with helpful marketing materials to promote their business. Home buyers and sellers can also search the EcoBroker Web site for a certified broker or agent in their area.

In response to the growing consumer demand for green homes and building practices, this year the National Association of Realtors introduced a new green designation for real estate practitioners. The designation will help home buyers and sellers who care about energy efficiency and environmentally sound building practices identify Realtors who can help them meet their green home goals.

“As energy costs rise along with concern for the environment, homeowners are looking for innovative ways to save money and live responsibly,” says NAR President Richard Gaylord. “Realtors who earn the green designation will add value to the real estate transaction with their knowledge of resource-efficient building materials and processes, as well as their understanding of simple actions that can reduce energy and water waste.”

NAR is engaged in various green building issues through initiatives like the Smart Growth Action Grants Program, which helps Realtor associations create livable communities. In addition, many state and local Realtor associations are developing programs to teach members about energy-efficient and environmentally conscious home features.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) also offers a green designation to real-estate industry professionals: the Certified Green Professional designation, which was first offered in February of this year. Training courses range from green building methods to ways of incorporating green-building principles into homes without driving up the cost of construction.

The designation, which nearly 900 professionals have earned thus far, is driven by consumer interest in green-home technologies, according to officials with the Green Building Program at the NAHB.

Trust an expert

Fox says the biggest advantage of using a certified eco-broker is that he or she will guide clients through what can be an overly confusing process, with layers of standards from different green organizations. (By the way, don’t get fooled by someone pretending to be an eco-broker; always ask for their certification).

The building community is currently in the process of defining what green is. In December, the U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit organization that rates commercial buildings on things such as energy use and indoor-air quality, introduced similar rating system for residential homes. And the NAHB, meanwhile, is working with the International Code Council to develop a green building standard. Currently the federal government’s Energy Star program has been the main standard when rating energy-efficient appliances. Fox tells me, while there’s still a limited number of homes on the market that are 100 percent green certified, his certification background has come in handy when he walks his clients through existing older homes and helps them find possible ways to retrofit the property to lower their energy bill or improve indoor air quality.

Fox says: “Unfortunately, there are builders out there that claim to be green and try to slap on hefty price tags for appliances or amenities in a home that really aren’t going to cut down the energy bill. It’s only fair that people looking for these specialized homes get what they pay for.”

Working with someone who understands the green-building certification and eco-friendly materials can help you find the home that matches your lifestyle, and maybe even prevent you from spending more money than you should.

Next article: The Myths Behind a Green Home >>

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