Green Industry Articles

6 Ways to Build Your Business Niche With Green Builders

If you've not connected with local builders doing green development, you may be missing out on a promising niche.

As green housing continues going mainstream and more green homes come on line, you, armed with your NAR Green Designation, are in the best position to market such properties and become allies with green builders.

Several NAR Green Designees have already done the footwork to tap this niche. Here are some of their suggestions.

1. No-sell sell: Rather than hustling or hard selling builders for new business, look to them as knowledge sources and allies. Stephanie Ebbesen, GREEN, a broker with Green Home Residential, Dallas, got a list of local green builders from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and started calling them for sit-downs.

She talked to them about what they were building, the science behind green building, and their perspective on the market. "I don't ever ask builders to use my services," she comments. Instead, business relationships evolve naturally. The approach has served her well, and she's marketing White Rock Crossing, an energy efficient co-housing community in Dallas.

2. Be a student of your niche: Ebbesen participates in various green activities in her community and calls herself a student of her niche. She finds others interested in green through Meetup.com, the Sierra Club, and by volunteering at the North Texas Green Council, which is the local USGBC chapter. "That way, you're meeting people who are already considering this lifestyle," she says. And then no hard sell or green 101 education is needed. Moreover, when someone is ready to shop for a green property, they naturally gravitate to the real estate person they know best. You.

3. Start online dialogues: Hailey Knecht, GREEN, a practitioner with Intracoastal Realty, Oak Island, N.C., suggests starting threads about green buildings and technologies on LinkedIn groups to branch out and explain what you know to others. It's a way to make connections with prospective clients, pass on knowledge, and get insight
from other green professionals, she says.

Knecht, who markets new houses built by Hall and Wright Builders, an energy efficient homebuilder in Southport, N.C., is also a fan of online conversations through the GRC community. There, she's gained new insight on simple, inexpensive greening techniques to share with clients.

4. Read your clients: Veronica Imery, GREEN, a practitioner with Chastain, Jenkins & Leathers, Athens, Ga., did a focus group among local hybrid car owners to find out what people cared about in a green house. She's marketing green properties for Imery Homes, Athens, Ga.

Common community space and walkability rose to the top of the wish-list for the focus group. She also discovered that prospects were willing to give up a big yard for community parks and gardens, for instance. Such information can help you help your builder to incorporate what's important to the green buyer.

And Ebbesen feels out clients to see what drives them, rather than launching into a green spiel. That means not making a pitch for saving the whales if their main concern is indoor air quality. "I can't sell them something until I understand their motivation. I don't do heavy solicitation and I don't jam information down their throats," she
comments.

Imery, too, aims to make it simple for the layperson to understand, both in words and pictures, what exactly an eco-home delivers. She focuses on the homes' health and comfort, rather than using industry jargon to explain the minutiae of building technology.

She's is marketing two award-winning Platinum Level EarthCraft houses built by the Imery Group. The Imery Group won a National Association of Homebuilders' 2011 Project of the Year, Small-Volume Single-Family Builder award and it was a 2010 EarthCraft House "Platinum" Project of the Year Winner.

5. Market the right stuff: Imery notes that some of the most important aspects of the EarthCraft projects are behind the drywall. Thus, she held open houses prior to the drywall installation to educate the public about the benefits of the house and to show just what was in the guts of the property. She also documented the pre-drywall stage with videos and extensive photography.

6. Show up: Knecht stresses the importance of showing up in the right places to get your name out in the industry and among consumers and stay on top of new developments.

That means participating in green groups, such as local USGBC and NAHB chapters (for more about the benefits of USGBC chapters, see "USGBC Chapters Offer New Green Gateway" in the March 2011 issue of the GRC newsletter), and attending local and national building shows, such as GreenBuild and National Association of Homebuilders.

She uses trade shows as an opportunity to vet vendors, ask questions, look at and touch products, and assess how the products are working in the field. "You've got to be at the tradeshows and where the builders are," Knecht comments.

Source: Green REsource Council Newsletter, May 2011