What’s It Like to Be Your Own Boss as a Green Real Estate Broker?

Do you sell nothing but LEED certified houses?  Do you work flexible hours and have incredible freedom?  Are your clients the greatest group of people you could have hoped for?  What about the kind of support you get from your realty company?  Does the downturn in the broader market hurt the green real estate broker the same as others?

I asked all these questions to Keith Hodge, green real estate broker for Green Key Real Estate, Inc. Keith Hodge lives in the Castro and particularly likes walkable communities.  One of the reasons he was drawn to Green Key was to help change the system that, he says, has been tarnished by ‘growth at any cost’ lobbying.  The National Association of Realtors, the third largest lobbyist organization in the country (in terms of spending since 1989), tends to lobby for policies that can increase sprawl, roads, and segregated communities.  This is under the guise of helping to create vibrant communities for people to live and work, but common sense says their strong emphasis on single family homes (which tend to sell for more than condos, townhomes and other higher-density dwellings and thus provide a richer paycheck to realtors) leads to the kinds of communities where sprawl is the norm and communities become ever more dependent on cars as public transit becomes less feasible.

Hodge, who earned a degree in environmental studies, saw the real estate market as low-hanging fruit for making big changes for sustainability.  Hodge has been taking classes from PG&E to learn how to help homeowners go green, a service he plans to offer to customers as part of their package when buying or selling a house with him.  While Green Key does not just represent green or LEED certified homes,

the company donates 10% of all gross commissions to greening the homes they help sell.  As a former client of Keith’s and Green Key, I can attest to his and the company’s emphasis on walkable communities.  The walkability index, a relatively new phenomenon in real estate assessments, gives a relative scale of how easy it would be to live in a particular house and walk to grocery stores, restaurants, pharmacies, bars, post offices, libraries, and the like.  Keith found me a home with a 97 (out of 100) on the walkability index, and as a result I use my car maybe 2-3 times per month, and am considering divorcing it.  I know how Keith would lobby if he was head of NAR, which is why I chose him to represent me when I was looking to purchase a home in San Francisco.

So what about becoming your own boss as a green real estate agent?  According to Hodge, “It’s all about networking.”  On average, Hodge spends 2-3 hours per day on the phone, and attends networking events as often as possible.  Open Houses tend to be on weekends for the general public, so he spends a lot of weekends meandering neighborhoods in San Francisco with his clients.  Clients often have regular full-time jobs, so much of a real estate agent’s client time is on nights and weekends as well.  While Green Key provides an office and access to research materials, the grand majority of the work is in the hands of the agent himself.  It’s a reality that many don’t understand before entering the field as a broker.  And it’s one of the main reasons that 90% of agents who get their certification don’t renew it at the end of their four year term.

So you have to be into networking and making acquaintances with strangers.  What about those strangers?  The realtor job is part salesman, part psychologist, part clairvoyant, part accountant, part paralegal, part housekeeper, and part bike messenger.  You have to hustle and be optimistic, and you have to know your stuff, but you also have to interpret the diverse needs of clients in a way that you anticipate what will make them happy.  It’s not an easy job.

What about the economic downturn?  Do green homes sell for more than traditional couterparts?  “Absolutely,” says Hodge.  “The data bear it out, though the degree of separation is not crystal clear.”  As a sure sign that energy/water savings and healthy homes are in high demand, “even Republicans are doing it,” according to Hodge.  Stop the presses!

Scott Cooney is a happy San Francisco homeowner who bikes to work and walks to get his groceries at Rainbow Grocery

About the Author

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on
  • Hello There, How can anybody go green,,
    Help me go green .. In northern California
    My name is Richard de Losada and I’ve just been banned from riding my segway to and from town or the beach, where My wife and I enjoyed doing , For the last 2 years, I’ve lived in The Sea Ranch and 2 years ago I was given a citation and I wasn’t even riding My segway that time ,I was bringing it to the board meeting to ask why they put a ban on my Electric personal assistive mobility device.. I been disabled as of 8 month ago and have been using the segway for mobility and physical therapy ,And now I feel like i’m imprisoned in my own house, Not even able to go check my mail. Or enjoy the beach about a mile from my house.. How can anybody recover from injuries, If a private Community wants to ban you from moving around Quietly and very environmentally aware….. Sound like discrimination on the handicapped… I would love this to make the news…Please contact me if you would like more information . Sincerely Richard de Losada
    2003 World champion Skateboarder
    Segway polo player {All before injuries}
    and Father to 5 great active kids.
    And Dad can’t go out to play…
    send me a direct email address and I can send photos or video…

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