'EcoBrokers' emerge for earth-friendly home buyers

What has buying and selling real estate got to do with saving the planet? Until now, maybe not too much.

But with the coming of "EcoBroker" certification, agents can present themselves as "green" — and their listings as earth-friendly properties built or remodeled to save energy, minimize their carbon footprint and enhance sale value.

In less than a year, 10 area brokers have plunked down $395, taken their online courses over a few months, passed their tests and can now be found on www.ecobroker.com — where they list their properties, the green features and their own personal vision for cutting energy use and improving the environment.

"The first thing it did was help me communicate in the builders' language. It was the most significant knowledge I could have gotten for this time," said Don McCoy of Exit Realty Group in Ashland. "People coming into this area (to buy) are knowledgeable about what is a green-built home and typically, when you say 'green' a lot of brokers still think that means something growing in the backyard."

McCoy, the first EcoBroker in Oregon south of Eugene, says that, with his courses and certification, he approaches each property able to identify and focus on what's green about the structure.

They also can determine what can be made green with a reasonable investment, even if it's only fluorescent light bulbs and better insulation.

A lot of builders, he adds, are installing components that qualify for Energy Star of Earth Advantage programs, but they're not even aware of it. He points it out and it gets listed and can be promoted with its green features, which doesn't hurt the price, either.

Jacksonville-area broker Don Tollefson, with Oregon Land, says he got certified because "I'm concerned about the ecology and the general world and wanted to tie it into my job and do something to help."

Not everyone is ready to make green changes to their property, he notes, "but I usually mention what they should do, mainly for energy savings and how it brings back monetary reward, Tollefson adds.

It's still not very often a buyer specifies a desire for a green home, he says, but "the increase in awareness is dramatic, what with every magazine featuring energy savings and global warming."

Just certified this week, Charles "Jake" Jablonsky of Exit Realty in Central Point notes, "I did it because of the economy and the way trends are going, trying to be more energy efficient. The world is changing and the market is showing it. Ninety percent of people are now interested in more energy efficient homes with green features."

Kerry Zook of Patricia Sprague Realty in Ashland just e-mailed friends and clients about her new EcoBroker certification, noting, "I feel passionately about learning more about how I, and you, can start on the road to greener living and protecting our natural resources for ours and future generations."

The green push is not limited to brokers and a few utility or government officials, but is rapidly weaving its own network, to include green lenders, green heating-air conditioning installers, all using the local Green Living Journal to advertise and coordinate their green efforts, says Tollefson.

In addition, the EcoBroker Web site links by zip code to a raft of green "affiliates" — contractors, energy raters, building materials suppliers, green appliance markets and many others in the local green network.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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