Going Green With Your Real Estate Office

Intero Broker/Owner Janet Rosenberg talks about being a Certified EcoBroker®Janet RosenbergJANET ROSENBERG
Certified EcoBroker®
Broker/Owner, Intero Santa Cruz & Capitola
Intero Mexico Real Estate Specialist

Janet Rosenberg is one of Intero’s first broker/owners to become a Certified EcoBroker®. She owns and manages two offices in Santa Cruz and Capitola, California. After first hearing about EcoBroker® from Gino last year, she took some of his suggestions and ran with them, developing a networking group of her own in Santa Cruz County called the Green Performance Network (GPN) that brings together green businesses in the area.

We asked Janet about her success with the GPN, which has brought her office (and herself) quite a lot of attention in recent months.

Tell us how you got involved with the program?

The whole thing started when Gino formed an alliance with EcoBroker® International and then introduced it at a management meeting. (Any Intero agent who goes through the program gets a discount.)

Initially, two of us went through the course. Today, I have 5 agents who are certified EcoBrokers®. About a year ago, we also formed the “Green Performance Network,” a group of green vendors and businesses working in our region. Our office put together a directory for those businesses and we began holding networking events every six weeks. Our first one a year ago had about 24 attendees. Our August GPN event saw more than 80. The word is really spreading. We’ve even got a website now (www.greenperformancenetwork.com), thanks to Oriana, my assistant, who literally makes all of this possible.

She believes in the network and puts many, many hours into it. She just received her real estate license and finished Provizio, so I know her next designation will be Certified EcoBroker®.

Who attends?

Other green vendors and community members who want to network with green businesses—people who have solar companies, painters who use environmentally friendly paints (products like “no-VOC paints”), clothing stores that sell cotton and hemp clothing, window installers, cleaning companies that use organic compounds in housecleaning, green-friendly builders, architects, landscapers . . . we see all types of businesses.

The whole purpose of us setting up the GPN was to create a network for my two offices that could, in turn, bring us referrals. Honestly, I’ve had to invest a lot of time, money and energy into building it into what it is today, and I couldn’t have done it without the help of my EcoBrokers®. Now, we’re hoping to really begin reaping the rewards. We’ve seen a few referrals come in, but know we can do better. My next move is to quickly implement some strategies to turn the GPN into more business for our agents and the offices.

How about what it’s brought you in terms of free promotion? Have you thought about the equivalent you’d have to spend in advertising dollars to match the coverage and publicity you’ve gotten because of the GPN?

You know, I haven’t really, but that’s a great point. We have received a lot of attention for the Santa Cruz office because we embraced the EcoBroker® program and started the GPN.

We’ve been featured on the front cover of Good Times and in other local press. I was asked to speak at the Green Building Expo in Colorado last December, and I’m so honored to be invited by the National Association of REALTORS™ to present at the REALTORS™ Conference and Expo this November in Las Vegas about green real estate practices! The Santa Cruz office has won several local awards and was recently presented with the Green Business Certification by  the City of Santa Cruz. I’ve even been interviewed twice now for pieces in REALTOR™. Quite frankly, it’s been surprising how much exposure my offices have received from this.

You said that you were thinking about ways to turn the GPN into real business. Give us some examples.

We’re going to start directly promoting our agents who are EcoBrokers® at the GPN meetings. We’ve focused so much on building this network in the past that I probably haven’t always done the best job of emphasizing why it’s important to work with my agents who are certified.  As I’ve said, we have gotten a few referrals in the past, but for the money, time and energy, we definitely can do more.

We had a GPN event last night where we featured guest speaker Mike Sack, the owner/founder of our local Biodiesel station. He was so well received, and I could tell that the group enjoyed hearing him. At the end of the evening one of the business owners stood up and said to the group, “you know a lot of these networks try to get going and fizzle out but you’ve managed to keep this one growing and we want you to know how much we appreciate that.” Now you can’t pay for that kind of attention, even though it doesn’t directly mean dollars to the office. I live by The Secret, so if my intention stays positive, it will all happen for the greatest good.

What about leveraging it for a campaign?

Good point. Maybe it could work as an awareness campaign. We’ve struggled with people’s perception here of us being the brokerage from over the hill. Santa Cruz is a tight-knit, fiercely local community, and we’re competing with two very entrenched brokerages that have had a monopoly on the market for decades. When locals hear that we’re Intero, they think we’re from the “other side of the hill,” even though our agents have all live here. I have been in Santa Cruz for 30!

With the presence we’re starting to build with GPN, we could use it as the messaging in our advertising and PR. You know, something like “We’ve been a part of this community as long as anyone, and we care about what happens here. That’s why we started the Green Performance Network.” Messaging like that could help us to break out of this box we’ve been put in as the outsider. At our last office meeting, it was suggested that I put a banner or sign on the front of the office stating “Home of the Green Performance Network.” Have to run that one by Vanessa I guess!

For other brokers or agents who are interested, what’s involved in becoming certified?

The course is a self paced, online class.  You receive several books that cover very thoroughly how to become a green agent or business owner. You take a test after each chapter and email in lots of written essays. If you do it with the intention of really learning the material, it’s pretty time consuming but definitely worth it. It took me about a month to go through the program with all of my other responsibilities.

How has this helped you as a broker/owner?

My job is to give my agents any tools I can to help them stand out in this extremely difficult field. It’s not easy being a broker/owner, and it’s even more difficult as a woman. The EcoBroker® program was something that I could take ownership of and make my own. I believed in it, and so I ran with it. Now, it’s creating a buzz around me and my office—throughout the entire industry—that is helping me to build my office name.  

It shows that even though I may not be the most experienced in the business, I am creative and think outside the box and my offices are doing what’s necessary to give the agents an edge.

It’s long-term branding for me, and for Intero. Sometimes the long-term is easy to forget when you really need the immediate referrals. It’s so difficult to get publicity, or change people’s established perceptions, and so, if I can do things that make us stand above the crowd and allow us to deliver our message, I’ve got to look at it as a success.

For more information on how you can becom a Certified EcoBroker®, check out Intero’s Green page.

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