December 26, 2005
It’s easy enough to talk the talk when it comes to being green, but a little tougher to walk the walk. So when Ken and Mary Deshaies of Dillon-based Snow Home Properties decided they wanted to include a strong environmental component as part of their local real estate business, they took a look around and decided to go all out by attending a three-day training session that would set them up (along with Sherri Leigh, one of the associates in their office) as the only certified eco-brokers in Summit County.With this year’s energy price crunch still squeezing wallets, it’s become clear that energy efficient housing isn’t just a concern for the tree-hugger crowd anymore. Increasingly, even mainstream homebuyers are interested in making sure their real estate investment isn’t going to go up the chimney in the form of sky-high utility bills.With this interest comes a real opportunity to put an environmental twist on the real estate business from the ground up and from the demand side of the equation, where it promises to have the most impact. “It’s a consciousness thing. For me, it was an enlightening mindset. It makes you want to learn more,” Ken said, describing the eco-broker training he attended with his wife in Denver last year after hearing about it at the Colorado Association of Realtors state conference.The Deshaies interest in green real estate may mirror some national trends in the industry. Last month, for example, the influential national Real Estate Roundtable sent a letter to President George Bush, asking him to call on federal agencies and private sector businesses to give priority to certified “green buildings,” and to make it easier for real estate firms to integrate co-generation and other on-site energy generation technologies into their buildings.
Currently, local power utilities impose “burdensome inter-connection conditions that could be streamlined with guidance from the federal government” and facilitate the use of solar PV systems and fuel cells, the letter explains.Deshaies said the first day of the intensive class focused on environmental health aspects of real estate brokering, including indoor air quality, for example. “They taught us how to find experts who can help identify and mitigate those kinds of problems,” Deshaies said. The second day of the class concentrated on energy efficiency, including information on solar orientation and alternative energy technologies that can help make it less costly to keep High Country homes heated during the long winters.Deshaies said that, incentives in the recent federal energy bill should help spur even more interest in this area.”If you can identify, say, $75,000 worth of work to make your home more energy efficient there are low-interest loans available that can even be packaged with a purchase loan. Mortgage companies know that if you can cut your energy bills, it’s going to be easier for you to pay your mortgage,” Deshaies said.
The final day of the eco-broker class focused on how to use all this information for the benefit of the business.”It’s about getting people to understand that it’s a good thing, the right thing to do,” Deshaies said. “First of all, when we talk about a listing, we tell people they have several (green) features they can highlight. We’re the only ones certified to do that,” he said. The concept of ecologically sound building and development could and should also be applied to affordable housing, Deshaies said, explaining that it just takes the right developer and architect. “Most developers look at the up-front cost and say it’s not worth it, but you could do it. It’s financially feasible,” Deshaies said, adding that he is currently looking for some land to try and spur such a green affordable housing project locally.Deshaies said local governments could help create momentum in this direction by at least offering some incentives for green-leaning builders. Eagle County, for example, is adopting a green building code that can reduce permit and planning fees for developers who meet a certain point total.
“I don’t want to see towns go overboard on regulations, but I would like to see more in the way of incentives,” Deshaies said.Deshaies said he has three listings currently that he believes would qualify for the green listing under the eco-broker program, but before he advertises them as such, he needs to make sure they comply with the extensive 11-page “Built Green” checklist.Developing a green real estate consciousness won’t happen overnight in Summit County, he says. It’s an educational process that will take some time.”All of us are growing. We live with what we know today and we have to try and remain open to new new things,” he concludes.