Recently we offered two suggestions for changes in the usual business model which might help some of them survive the current tough market.

The first, which we discussed at length earlier, is to change the focus of farming to put the energy-challenged ' long distance commuters and those that employ them and persons who own mega-houses - at the heart of market efforts. The second change we suggested is to "go Green."

There are dozens of ways of plugging in to what is now the hottest trend going, the movement toward energy efficient and sustainable living. But here are a few that could very profitable to real estate agents.



Look into Green Certification

This is a growing field and, at present, is unregulated but there are a few companies out there offering education in environmentally sustainable housing.

The most well known and respected of these programs is offered by the U.S. Green Building Council and successful completion of the course results in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) designation.

LEED may be overkill for a real estate agent ' it is largely tailored to builders, engineers, and architects. However, the Council markets study materials on its website (www.usgbc.org) that can educate anyone who is interested in the topic.

Two other certifications are available. The ecoBroker designation is available from the Association of Energy and Environmental Real Estate Professionals. This certification is aimed primarily at real estate agents but a quick look at its website (www.ecoBroker.com,) wasn't particularly helpful in determining whether there is education and testing leading to the certification or merely registration and perhaps a membership fee.

The Green Certified Real Estate Education Company provides continuing education credits to appraisers, home inspectors, mortgage professionals, and Realtors' and is approved in 12 states with several more in process. Completion of the course which has components on green building concepts, sustainable materials and design, the role of real estate in the environment, and energy ratings, and green mortgages, allows agents to claim they are a Green Certified Real Estate Professional (www.GreenRealEstateEducation.com.)

If certification seems too costly or time consuming, there are many excellent books, websites, and newsletters available so that you can educate yourself on such things as non-volatile paints, carpeting, and furniture coverings, recycled or recyclable building materials and green retrofitting.

Align Yourself with Green Builders

More and more home builders are going green ' largely in response to consumer demand. However, many tend to stick with "their" real estate agents ' the listing agents that they have worked with for years and who probably have not caught up with the new advances in environmentally sensitive materials and construction.

Convince one or two builders that you understand the benefits of their homes and can sell the concepts to buyers and you may get a listing. Give them some new suggestions about energy-saving features and you may become "their agent."

Build a Reputation as THE Green Agent

When you feel you have gained enough green knowledge, market your green expertise as aggressively as you always have marketed your skills as a real estate agent.

Offer to speak to civic groups on living green and particularly sustainable materials such as glass tile, bamboo floors, or fiber-optic lighting. Put together a collection of materials to pass around to your audience; many people have no clue that these materials are not only environmentally responsible but many of them are very beautiful and/or practical.

Write an op-ed column for the local paper on a home-related environmental topic. Perhaps you can parley a one time piece into a regular spot on the real estate pages. If that doesn't work, buy a display ad and feature your expertise there.

The bottom line, of course, is getting to the sale and there are many ways to exploit your new-found greenness to get listings and to make sales. In such a tough market for selling houses, your value added services will make a real impression on both buyers and sellers. We will make some suggestions about your new business model, especially to obtain listings, in a subsequent article.