What the Heck Is An Ecobroker® and Why Should I Care?

Trish Holder Interviews Eco-broker Sarah Olson from LEAP Realty

Part 1

House showing
Real estate agents. The very word conjures up images of cheesy looking business cards with fake smiles and a lot of air brushing. But a new type of broker has emerged that has me intrigued—the Ecobroker®. Are they the same overdressed, overeager, over-perfumed lot we’ve all caught putting their lipstick on in showcase home powder rooms? Let’s hope not.

 

I don’t think Sarah Olson, co-owner of Leap Realty in Winston-Salem, NC is (or ever was) that type of agent. She’s smart, down-to-earth, and knows more than a thing or two about how a house actually works and there’s a good reason for that. She became an Ecobroker after a mold situation in her home caused one of her daughters to have serious respiratory issues. This situation led to a full-blown mold remediation and a self-imposed crash course on indoor air quality. That’s when Sarah decided she wanted to “bridge the gap” between what she had learned and what her clients did not yet know.

In this, the first part of a 2-part interview, I asked Sarah some questions about what it means to be a certified Ecobroker.

Trish: Sarah, what exactly is an Ecobroker?

Sarah: EcoBroker® Certified professionals help clients market properties with green features, save money, and live comfortably through energy efficiency and environmentally-sensitive choices. EcoBroker® is the first and largest green real estate training and communications program in the world. It offers education and tools to real estate professionals that in turn help consumers take advantage of energy efficiency and environmentally sensitive design.

Trish: How do you become an EcoBroker?

Sarah: You must pass a three part educational session to become certified. Although there are ‘live’ classes, many real estate professionals take the course online. There are a series of educational explorations on the web, researching sites such as the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] and many others. Then, with the knowledge gained, we are required to complete an exam and series of written essays, which are reviewed and critiqued by an EcoBroker instructor. For me and the other agents at LEAP Realty, the course took about 6 weeks to complete.

Trish: Are there competing green certification programs for real estate brokers?

Sarah: In late 2009, NAR [National Association of Realtors] released their own green designation for realtors, called GREEN. The NAR designation offers instruction to realtors on how to — in my opinion — greenwash your business. I am pretty strict on education, and flew to Orlando to be in the first GREEN class. Having experienced both, I believe that EcoBroker is still the best education program for real estate professionals. GREEN offers great tools for marketing and their educational curriculum is expanding, but the program still markets to the typical realtor.

Trish: How does the EcoBroker program enhance your ability as a realtor?

Sarah: Brokers learn how to recognize features in homes that are ‘green’ and energy efficient. This knowledge helps both sellers in a marketing aspect and buyers in comparing one property to the next. It also helps us make valid suggestions to sellers for improvements to the homes they are selling.

Trish: What attributes are you usually marketing when it comes to these homes that you list and how do share this information with potential buyers?

Sarah: We go through a ‘green’ property checklist, which covers everything from Low-E windows and geothermal systems to ceiling fans and distances to parks. We make this checklist available to all potential buyers and their agents.

We also place removable wall graphics throughout the houses we list that explain the benefits of things like programmable thermostats, windows, appliances, etc. We also tag the items with additional informational resources that can be scanned with a smart phone and viewed later.

Trish: Are the homes you list always “green”?

Sarah: Most of the homes we sell are existing homes that are not certified green or Energy Star. Our value-added benefit comes from marketing the features already present in the property, making suggested improvements to the sellers that would attract the ‘eco-conscious’ consumer, and differentiating our properties from the competition. However, now that our brand has become more familiar, we are listing more existing homes in which sellers have made energy efficient and sustainable upgrades.

8 Responses »

  1. Glad to see the real estate industry coming up with green training as I think we’ve all got to play a role in helping homeowners learn how to think green, live green and buy green at home and elsewhere. I’ll be keeping my eyes & ears open for more info. Thanks

  2. Trish

    I’m sure you have heard of location, loaction, location. While I’m sure there are people in the real estate who take this seriously, most will just figure out a way to make money off of gullible people who need to believe they are being helped by their professional broker ( key word being broker). The EcoBroker will form an allience with an eco contractor. At that point you have BS, BS, BS.
    Can you believe I’m A skeptic. Where is this class referred to in your article. I looked on the EPA site no EcoBroker just 3 phone numbers. I’m not a real estate broker, I’m an alternaive energy person, comming from a backgropund of 40 years in the electrical construction industry. I do site surveys to deturmine what can be done to save energy, to rid a residence or a commerical property of energy parasites. I would love to find the place where I can become a (certified) EcoBroker.

  3. Trish

    I’m sure you have heard of location, loaction, location. While I’m sure there are people in the real estate who take this seriously, most will just figure out a way to make money off of gullible people who need to believe they are being helped by their professional broker ( key word being broker). The EcoBroker will form an allience with an eco contractor. At that point i believe there is BS, BS, BS.
    Can you believe I’m A skeptic. Where is this class referred to in your article. I looked on the EPA site no EcoBroker just 3 phone numbers. I’m not a real estate broker, I’m an alternaive energy person, comming from a backgropund of 40 years in the electrical construction industry. I do site surveys to deturmine what can be done to save energy, to rid a residence or a commerical property developer or owner of energy parasites. I would love to find the place where I can become a (certified) EcoBroker.

    • Hi Michael,

      I’m not sure I follow everything you say here…. but a good place to start with your interest in becoming an Ecobroker is to go to their website.

    • Michael,
      You ask great questions. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am one of Greenspiration’s sponsors. I wanted to share some resources with you that I have found helpful in learning more about EcoBrokers and the National Association of Realtors’ Green efforts.

      The EcoBroker website is http://www.ecobroker.com/. I know a number of people who are certified EcoBrokers and I feel that their insights would be similar to Sarah’s in this article.

      NAR does offer a green designation and a number of resources on their Green website http://www.greenresourcecouncil.org/. In addition to helping realtors understand and market green, NAR also offers resources to consumers and to green your local MLS. http://www.greenresourcecouncil.org/greening_the_mls.cfm. Recognizing green design and features via the MLS is one way to start to help consumers understand green and its potential value better.

      I would be happy to open further discussion as needed. Have a great day.
      Marla

  4. Trish,

    I was very pleased to see this article regarding EcoBroker. I have obtained that designation and found it to be very beneficial in evaulating homes for clients. My husband, Jay is an energy analysis (Home Energy Solutions of the Triad) and does weatherization on homes to make them more efficient. I have learned so much through the courses provided by EcoBroker as well as working alongside my husband. In our area (North Carolina), we are slowly catching on to the benefits of energy efficiency and really how easy it is to be more energy conscious.

  5. I was glad to see you featuring an Eco-broker! As a Realtor, I deal daily with the assumptions of others regarding Agents. I earned my Green designation from the NAR and am considering pursuing an ECO-Broker cert as well but cannot afford to at this time. Since I have not taken the course, I could not compare the two designations but would like to say that I take offense to the implication that the Green ReSource council advocates ‘greenwashing’ your business. There are extensive sections about how NOT to mislead clients. They also provide great webinars for members, fantastic links to information, educational and marketing materials, newsletters. They are very present in social networking circles which I appreciate as that is where I discovered Trish! I also appreciate the focus on cost-benefit information regarding green upgrades for existing and new construction. In order for us to sustain sustainability in the larger market, the numbers have to make sense. I enjoy researching features that offer a two-year pay back period for example.

    I have a lot of respect for the green network that includes Green and Eco-brokers alike, I think agents that pursue these designation have a variety of reasons for doing so and like all demographics, there will be those that abuse it in some way. I applaud Sarah for her efforts in helping clients with efficiency and it sounds like she is doing great work. Winston- Salem is a gorgeous corner of the world to be sure, with many forward thinking citizens. I look forward to hearing more from Sarah, does she have a blog? I feel like we all have much to learn from one another. Eco-broker and Green are just brand name courses for the same movement, I would not discourage any agent from exploring both. More is always better when it comes to information and continuing education. Lets not forget that our mutual goal is to advocate sustainability.

  6. I’m in Southern CA and I started looking for Realtors to network with and found that most knew nothing or very little about becoming an EcoBroker. My company goes in and does the work to convert existing homes into green/energy efficient homes. I am so excited to share this information and work with Realtors/Brokers who really care about making a change and educating new buyers.

Leave a Response