Eco brokers help homebuyers find green homes

Green Door Living, a Denver area real estate company, is doing brisk business by offering home sellers and buyers the help of eco brokers, agents knowledgeable about green amenities and materials such as low-flow toilets and bamboo floors.

"We’re full service. We just have that little bit of an edge," said eco broker Terri James.

Green Door, named for the office’s original 1905 green front door that’s been recycled into a conference table top, opened last fall and has gone on to sell a few dozen homes with green features, according to its three eco brokers.

"I’ll sell you any type of real estate you want, but just remember when you’re working with me I’ll educate you, too. That’s what we do," James said.

Green Door deals in a wide variety of homes, and its eco brokers identify energy-saving features and opportunities and then work to match those features to clients’ different interest levels and motivations for living in a home with green amenities.

"We get all sorts of people who come through the door, from people who couldn’t care less about the environment and are just sick of paying high gas prices … (to) people who … want to give back to the environment and save some money," said Brad Sandler, the metro area’s first certified eco broker and one of Green Door’s owners.

Green Door’s eco brokers have completed a three-day training course on energy efficiency and environmentally friendly homes through EcoBroker International, which bills itself as the nation’s first provider of green designation training for brokers.

EcoBroker has certified more than 3,000 brokers in North America, according to the company. In Colorado there are 281 certified eco brokers and 316 students currently in the program, according to a company spokeswoman.

The eco brokers’ education is ongoing, with a four-hour course required annually to keep them up to speed with innovations in green real estate.

"The technology is ever changing," said Christian Thompson, a Green Door owner and broker. The courses also keep eco brokers informed about rebate programs that offer homeowner incentives to switch to more efficient appliances, such as low-flow toilets.

Sandler said he sells homes with green features such as solar panels, double-pane windows and front-loading washing machines by telling prospective buyers how much they’ll save in utility bills.

James recently sold a two-bedroom home in central Denver that had been retrofitted with green features such as a tankless water heater.

"[The buyers] couldn’t care less about a beautiful couch and a paint job. They wanted to save money and be [environmentally conscious]," James said.

If two similar homes are for sale at the same price, but one has green features, James said buyers will go green every time.

Green Door’s office is also intended to be a teaching tool. Sandler envisions it as a museum that can showcase attractive environmentally friendly features such as cork flooring. The deck is made out of recycled milk cartons and wheat straw, while the curtains were constructed from recycled polyester. He’s still waiting for the solar-powered fountain to arrive.

The brokers point out that not every homeowner has to commit to going entirely green.

"There’s a lot of little things that you can do that aren’t going to break the bank," Sandler said.

Among the easiest and least expensive are xeriscaping a yard with rocks and native plants to save water, purchasing a programmable thermostat and adding insulation to a home to reduce energy consumption.

The recent record number of foreclosures and countless media reports of a weak housing market aren’t worrying Green Door’s eco brokers, who say they are continuing to sell homes despite the downturn.

While they’re happy green living has gone mainstream, they’re concerned about companies "greenwashing," or misleading consumers with unsubstantiated claims of environmentally friendly business practices.

"Our new challenge with all this green being the new buzz word is to overcome all those other real estate companies, agents, products and everything else that is just riding on the name and not really being true to being green," Sandler said.

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