Catching on to a burgeoning green trend, some real estate agents are traveling to for-sale homes on two wheels, and bringing their green-minded clients with them.
Scores of real estate professionals are now adopting this environmentally friendly approach to house tours. While it can take longer to get to properties, bike-based tours can give clients a better feel for a neighborhood area and the community at large.
Pedal to Properties, a Boulder, Colo.-based real estate company, offers a licensing designation to agents who seek to adopt bike tours as a part of their business plan.
"Our goal is to drive less and ride more," said Matt Kolb, a Realtor who started Pedal to Properties. "As our buyers are focusing more and more on their health and the environment, so are we. Each time our clients finish a tour by bike they have one constant response: ‘I would not have seen that neighborhood the same way from the backseat of your car.’ "
The company, which licensed its first full office in Boulder, Colo., 2 1/2 years ago, introduced the licensee model for designation mid-May 2009. The company charges its clients a license fee of $495 per year and a renewal of $195. Realtors who sign up for their service are also bound to have additional costs like the initial investment in cruiser bikes, bike signs, a car rack and hitch.
Once a Realtor signs up for this license, he or she gets instructions on video; a how-to guide that covers the purchase of cruiser bikes; safety guidelines; and instructions on building local partnerships and obtaining insurance. Subscribers also join the company’s referral network and can attend an annual conference.
Pedal to Properties owns a fleet of 60 cruiser bikes and is now in process of setting up 10 branch offices around the country by the end of 2009 to boost its own brokerage business.
As part of its brokerage expansion plans, Tim Major, an attorney from Australia who moved to the U.S., has invested in the company, becoming a 50 percent partner in the firm. Majors, who formerly was Kolb’s client, has a retail business background that will help the company expand, said Kolb.
The awareness of the green trend is not restricted to real estate professionals — there is high demand among consumers, according to John Stovall, vice president for business development at EcoBroker. The company offers a real estate designation through an education program focused on business practices that can minimize energy use and environmental impacts.
Stovall said 80 percent of consumers would like to have green options available while touring houses. …CONTINUED
"People are always looking for ways to be more toward the green options," said Stovall. "There is a solid group of people, especially the younger consumers entering the home-buying arena, that is very much on board with this trend."
Ellie Botshon, a Coldwell Banker Realtor in Cambridge, Mass., said she often meets clients who want to experience the bike tours. However, she said opinions differ among clients — some want to try it out while some don’t have any interest.
Nicole Freedman, who joined Botshon for an open-house tour on a bike, said she ended up seeing a house in a new light. Director of bicycle programs for the city of Boston, Freedman said biking gives a complete picture of the house and neighborhood, while driving around in car one is like taking a shot in the dark.
Freedman said she believes the two-wheel house-touring trend is here to stay, as people in Boston are very enthusiastic about biking and there is a demand for what Botshon does.
Botshon has conducted bike tours to properties since 2004, and she said she believes there is an extreme potential for it to be a good business strategy.
"I have been doing it to give the clients a sense of the community," said Botshon.
While the real estate industry has slowed down in recent years, Stovall said that the EcoBroker designation education program has experienced an increase in the number of enrolled agents. EcoBroker has trained about 5,000 professionals since its inception in 2002.
Kolb said that Pedal to Properties works on a variety of levels: "We hit on so many aspects with our model: the environment, our clients’ health, improving the buying experience."
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