Giving green tools to residential brokers

Monday, March 30, 2009 at 1:00am

In 2002, EcoBroker International Inc. became the first U.S. company to offer real estate agents a designation recognizing their “green credentials.”

Since its founding, the Denver-area-based company has grown to about 5,000 members worldwide and has earned various accolades, including a 2006 Education Program of the Year award from the Real Estate Educators Association and recognition in Realtor magazine for leading the national drive to beef up agents’ green credentials. In early March, the National Association of Home Builders announced that EcoBroker International is a finalist for the 2009 NAHB National Green Building Awards.

“EcoBroker is the dominant player in leading the way for professional real estate sales associates to boost their knowledge of the ‘green property movement,’” said Michael J. Russer, CEO of California-based Russer Communications and a recognized author and speaker in the real estate industry.

But though EcoBroker International has become the real estate industry standard for certifying green real estate agents, most Tennessee real estate brokers have been slow to embrace the standard.

The number of state-based real estate agents certified by EcoBroker International lags behind similar totals in peer states nationally, according to company figures. For example, Virginia has more than double Tennessee’s number of certified EcoBrokers — 53 versus 24 — even though its population is only a quarter larger.

South Carolina, with 4.5 million residents versus Tennessee’s 6.2 million, is home to 27 EcoBrokers. And North Carolina has about 1.5 times as many people as Tennessee but 3.9 times as many EcoBrokers.

“With its neighbors to the East…Tennessee has some work to do, said John Stovall, EcoBroker International’s vice president for business development.

However, Stovall adds EcoBroker has seen a very positive trend in the state: The 24 active agents are double the number of a year ago and another 30 are in training.

“We see Tennessee as clearly moving in the right direction toward promoting a greener real estate market, economy and environment,” he said.

Ryan King, a certified EcoBroker who works with Chattanooga’s Real Estate Partners, said Tennessee’s 24 figure, which represents two years of effort, is “weak.”

“Tennessee tends to be a little behind other progressive states in coming around to changes like this,” King said. “We will get there, but it’s just going to take some time.”

Tennessee is gaining momentum due to more realtors embracing green living and construction, according to Mark Deutschmann, founder of Village Real Estate Services and a certified EcoBroker. With three EcoBrokers, Village leads the state’s realty companies and provides incentives for its agents and brokers to work toward certification.

“It’s increasingly important to have an understanding of the sustainability movement as it relates to real estate,” Deutschmann said.

Part of that understanding involves socio-economics. The more rural and less affluent Southeastern states fair poorly in terms of EcoBroker presence. For example, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi combined have just 20 EcoBrokers.

Of Tennessee’s four major cities, Knoxville leads with six certified EcoBrokers. Nashville is home to five, with Chattanooga (two) and Memphis (one) trailing. Of note, there are no EcoBrokers in Clarksville, the state’s fifth-largest city. Of the state’s three grand divisions, East Tennessee lists 11 EcoBrokers, with Middle Tennessee having eight and West Tennessee having five.

Looking ahead, the National Association of Realtors recently began offering agents a “green designation.”

“Tennessee real estate professionals and their clients are beginning to see the value in green and sustainable homes,” said Tom Hall, a certified EcoBroker at Broker South, which focuses on Nashville, Brentwood and Franklin.

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