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What is a green real estate agent?

written by: Steve Graham•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 3/1/2010

Green real estate agents can help home buyers find energy-efficient, eco-friendly homes, make the process paperless, and help buyers find green financing options.

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    What is a green real estate agent?

    Your home is among the largest purchases you’ll ever make, so some environmental factors should be considered in buying a new home.

    A green real estate agent can make the complex home-buying process less resource-intensive while helping buyers find an energy efficient home or a home that can easily be made significantly more efficient.

    My wife and I worked with one of the leading green real estate agents in Fort Collins, Colorado, to buy our first home last year. She clearly considered the environment in all her decisions and business practices.

    She drove a hybrid Toyota Prius or rode her bike to all our appointments, and would make an effort to group our home viewings so we could walk or carpool to a cluster of neighborhood sites.

    A green real estate agent will also try to go paperless through the entire process. Secure virtual signatures are now possible, reducing the need for reams of paper, which also must be transported all over town. In our case, the noble intentions fell apart a little for the final closing because the selling agent was more traditional, and she wanted ink on paper.

    The long-term benefit, however, of a green real estate agent is in the search for the perfect home with a low environmental impact. Depending on your needs, a green real estate agent will narrow your search to relatively small homes that naturally have a smaller environmental footprint.

    A green real estate agent should also be looking for a home with a south-facing roof (at least in the northern hemisphere) for easy installation of effective solar panels. The green real estate agent will also know that plenty of big windows on the south-facing wall allow for valuable passive solar heating.

    Green real estate agents should also keep track of local laws and the practical potential of installing a geothermal heat system. These are pipes under your house or yard that warm your home in the winter using the natural heat of the earth just a few feet below the surface. The process is typically reversed in the summer, drawing heat from your house into the pipes. "How Geothermal Energy is used?" has more information on geothermal heating.

    Other considerations for a thorough green real estate agent include checking windows and appliances for energy efficiency, determining insulation ratings for the home, studying the usage of Earth-friendly materials and looking for opportunities for easy energy-efficient improvements. For example, a house with ugly shag carpets may detract a traditional real estate agent, but a green real estate agent knows it could mean a cheaper purchase in exchange for flooring that is ripe for replacement with radiant heat under an eco-friendly material, such as bamboo or cork.

    Their job doesn’t end with the house, though. The yard is also an important consideration for a green real estate agent. The agent should be looking for protective shade trees near the home and opportunities for water-friendly landscaping. A green real estate agent should also help check local covenants and HOA rules to see if they ban the replacement of water-intensive lawns.

    Of course, you can look into all these issues yourself, but you have enough to worry about in your house search, and it’s hard to remember everything. It’s nice to know there is an environmental advocate on your side.

    So what should you look for in a green real estate agent?

    • Look for the Ecobroker certification, the leading designation for green real estate agents. You can also work backward from the Ecobroker website, which has a directory of certified green real estate agents.

    • Ask about other training and education in green building and conservation practices.

    • Ask about green financing options. A good green real estate agent should know about such financing opportunities.

    • As with any real estate agent, ask for references and contact them. Be sure to ask about the agent’s green practices.

    • Have a preliminary face-to-face meeting with the green real estate agent. It’s important you get along well. You could be spending a lot of time together before and after you find your new home.

    For more information on green real estate agents, visit

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    Interested in finding green mortgages to go along with that great new environmentally friendly home? Then check out this article on Green Mortgage Lenders and Energy Efficient Mortgages.