I could have been looking myself in a mirror when she said, “This brings all of my interests together.”
She being Amanda Lopez, speaking about her baby Style House Realty. (And . . . No, she doesn’t have a mustache, nor does she use her hands quite as much when she speaks.) Launched in September 2009 – Style House is one of Baltimore’s only green-focused real estate brokerages.
Born and bred in Towson, MD (high school in Mexico City), Amanda got the green bug from her mother at an early age. She points to the documentary film Blue Vinyl as something of a defining moment. Of it, she says, “It was one of those experiences that forever changed the way I looked at things.”
“It (the environment) continues to be a topic of interest for me especially when it comes to indoor air quality and knowing what factors I can control inside my home. We can all make choices to that, but we can’t always control exterior factors . . . .”
She admits readily that a green-only brokerage at this time may not be totally (hrmm, hrmm) sustainable. That is — while environmentally conscious, Amanda is also a businesswoman. “As a real estate professional in today’s world, I know home shoppers are still looking for bargains,” she says.
And it was actually quite early in the conversation when I went for the million-dollar question myself. I asked, “Are you finding that homes with more in the way of green improvements are bringing a higher market value?”
“Not necessarily,” she responded, “I think design, function and location are all also important factors. And if a home doesn’t have these things but is “green”, it’s not going to bring a higher price. If a home has all of these factors, then it may be able to command a small premium. . . .”
It is the blending of these two loves, real estate and the environment, that form Amanda’s primary impetus for stepping out on her own. On looking around, she saw a lack of firms catering to the greener homes that were already available for the market.
She continues, “In general, I wanted to offer an alternative for people that share similar goals and values.” But this goes beyond green, she wanted to give people the opportunity to work with a broker that would spotlight their homes with the same amount of care and love that they themselves had put into them.
I think one of the things that drew me quickly to Amanda was her commanding Facebook presence. The Style House fan page just eclipsed 700 fans – due in some part to her ability to effortlessly manage the delicate balance between promoting herself, and her clients, while still keepin’ it real. She is an excellent study in Facebooking for marketing value, and it (Facebook) is certainly a great platform for highlighting both her current properties as well as her style.
With a Marketing and Adverting degree from Towson University (coincidentally my alumna mater) – she is not going at this haphazardly. When asked if she designed a social media plan before launching Style House, she said, “Well, I have always been interested in technology. But when I realized as a user that I was getting most of my news from Facebook and Twitter, I figured many others were probably doing the same.”
She continues, “There aren’t too many sites out there in which you can gather your world news, local news and keep up with friends all in one spot. It seemed logical to me to put our business out there. (Plus) Who better to support you than friends and family?
Bizness and Background
Amanda became an agent in 2005 and quickly joined super broker Coldwell Banker. Shortly after – and while working with broker City Life Realty (a sister company of Baltimore Green Construction) she tested for and certified as Baltimore’s first eco-broker. (This is a more labor intensive certification than the Green Designation offered to agents at many larger brokerages.)
Located in the Baltimore’s Clipper Mill business park, green isn’t just marketing or sales for Amanda and her team. It’s about living the right way; and these practices run deep across business operations. Her office boasts: 100% recycled paper including stock used for flyers, the use of electronic signatures (whenever possible), 100% wind-powered electricity via Clean Currents, as well as other more traditional client perks, such as professional property photos and home staging assistance — through which she often recommends sustainable options.
For me, the most interesting part of Amanda’s story comes while listening to her tell of the six month back and forth she had with herself before finally taking the leap. She says, in an all too calm tone – “Well, of course launching anything new to the area and to something you are passionate about can be scary. There are always unknowns, but ultimately I decided I needed to take a chance and go after my dreams.”
Visiting the million-dollar question from above again briefly, I re-phrase, “Are green homes selling faster; are they paying off – are they fetching a higher price?” Her response – “As I said, it is roughly the same,” she continued, “You’re simply not going to get more money if it is green and . . . ugly.” But she steps back for a second and says, “The interest of green motivated buyers is on the rise and I feel in the next five years, the number of green renovations will rise too in response to these demands.”
Until then, she offers these simple and certainly sustainable tips for those who are planning to sell in the near future:
- Identify your weak spots. “If you are weak in design, hire that out; find someone that you can work with and get it done.”
- Neutral not bright greens (writer’s embellishment) or bold colors. Of this, she says, “Think Pottery Barn. Everyone likes Pottery Barn.”
- Think cost of renovation vs. recoup. She of course was pointing to Remodeling Mag’s Yearly Cost vs. Value report.
- Following on this, she says, “Don’t over-renovate, especially in this market.”
I’ll Exit on This
Doing everything well; personalized and targeting slow growth, her short term goals, say over the next year or so, are – Add more agents, grow the brand as a boutique brokerage, and continue offering excellent cost vs value. She says, “We remain focused on matching people and the lifestyles they seek to the perfect homes.”
And of course, she hopes to hit 1000 fans on Facebook. Join her today.
More Moxie (Related Links):
Style House can be found on the web at:
For more on the Eco-Broker Certification: http://www.ecobroker.com/
How to Buy and Sell a Green House – via @Chesapeake_Home: http://www.chesapeakehome.com/2010/03/31/how-to-buy-or-sell-a-green-home/
A recent post on her fan page — I thought it was interesting because it seems to create a pretty natural point of division with home shoppers: