By Josh McCann
By her own admission, Leigh Brown is no tree hugger. Even so, the 33-year-old Realtor recently became Cabarrus County’s first EcoBroker.
The designation, which she earned about a week and a half ago, certifies her to provide education on energy and environmental issues and strategies for capitalizing on the growing green market.
Brown said she wanted to become an expert in the subject even though she doesn’t believe in global warming and thinks Al Gore is “full of junk.”
“We’re getting more and more questions every day from home buyers and home sellers,” Brown said. “I had to get over my personal prejudices.”
Colorado-based EcoBroker International has offered the designation since 2002. Real estate professionals earn it by taking three six-hour online classes with a four-hour annual update and paying a $129 membership fee per year.
About 4,200 people have done so worldwide, and Brown is one of a handful in the Charlotte region.
The classes started small, but interest has grown rapidly in the past four years, said John Beldock, EcoBroker’s CEO and founder.
Buyers and sellers are drawn to EcoBrokers by both environmental consciousness and the economic benefits of reduced energy bills and tax incentives, Beldock said.
Improved technologies and increased competition have also helped fuel the emerging niche market, he said.
“There’s no question that our growth is in the right direction,” Beldock said. “That bodes well for society.”
EcoBrokers understand the costs and benefits of energy efficient appliances and windows, for example, and can help consumers systematically assess homes to find which upgrades will prove cost effective.
Such advice can help consumers avoid falling prey to false claims, which Beldock calls “greenwashing.”
In some cases, however, not employing new technologies can be “tantamount to leaving money on the table,” Beldock said.
Brown has swapped appliances and upgraded insulation in her own home, changes that she said have led to a 40 percent reduction in energy bills and should pay for themselves within 20 months.
She hopes her new knowledge will help to differentiate her from competitors, and she said others in her office are considering following her into the program.
“I think we’re going to see an incremental shift,” Brown said. “As a movement, we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg.”
• Contact reporter Josh McCann: 704-789-9152.