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The Socially Conscious Broker (or Agent)

Those that know me, know I care a lot about doing something that matters. Where you are born shouldn’t decide whether you live or die. I live an extremely privileged life, as do you (I wrote that post 6 years ago). So, given I’ve been in the industry since 2005 but never sold an actual home – it probably comes as no surprise that I’ve thought a lot about the possibility of starting a “socially conscious” real estate brokerage (though I chose to start Oh Hey World / Horizon instead – which also has a social mission behind it). Think a TOMS shoes like model — for real estate.

I’ve run the idea of a socially conscious brokerage by a few people I know in the industry over the years, and pretty much everyone has shot it down. The most common feedback I got was that clients just want to buy or sell a home – and will not pay any additional money to support an agent or broker who gives back as part of the transaction.

But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work, or that there isn’t an angle worth exploring further.

In fact, a quick Google search shows that at least one agent – Bonnie Meisels in Montreal – agrees with me. You can see her FB page here. Her bio is as follows:

Life is Incredible…

Be inspired….

We are all connected as Citizens of the Earth

Together we can consciously commit to making the world a better place

Create collaborative communities built on caring sharing and trust

Honor nature and the environment by envisioning a more sustainable future for ourselves and the generations that follow

Contribute by using real estate transactions to invest in our communities

This is the practice of Socially Conscious Real Estate

The practice of working for good 🙂

It’s just good business!

I offer 10% of my commission to the community or nonprofit organization of your choice

My friend Henry Shim donates some proceeds of every transaction he completes to charity.

So, it can – and is – being done by some.

But it should be more widespread. At least in my opinion.

There’s an initiative I recently come across that aims to get more real estate agents supporting their local communities. Schools in need, specifically.

1% for Public Schools, a movement of businesses that give 1% of their annual profit to public schools in need (coverage in the Santa Cruz Sentinel for those who want to learn more).

1 percent for schoolsFrankly, I don’t care whether people publicize their support for charities publicly. In fact, the ones that don’t are the ones that are certainly giving for the right reasons. They aren’t on the “social good” boat just for  publicity. Yet, that doesn’t mean being public about it is bad – as long as you are genuine. Examples of people doing nice things for others can inspire others to do more for others.

I’d love to hear your thoughts — positive or negative — about the concept of a socially conscious real estate brokerage (or agent). Leave em in the comments…

[Update: I’ve traded a few emails with Bonnie, and found she is working on two initiatives. http://www.iiconline.org and http://www.rebsea.org. I’ve asked her to write a guest post here in the coming weeks to share more of her experience with the concept.]

[Update 2: Support GiveBack Homes]

About Drew Meyers

Founder of Geek Estate Blog / Geek Estate Labs. Zillow Alum. Travel addict & co-founder of Horizon. Social entrepreneurship & microfinance advocate. Fan of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kiva.

This entry was posted in Featured, Marketing, Social Good and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Great post Drew. The socially concious model is alive and well here at http://www.dogoodrealestate.com . The problem is that too many people attempt it for the wrong reasons. To prove that this was not a gimmick we spent an astronomical amount of time becoming a Certified B Corporation: using the power of business to affect social change. We have also been selected as a beta-brokerage by BH&G http://nextgenbrokerage.com/2012-companies/ and spoke at Inman Connect in NYC along side some of the companies that we admire.

    I have been in the “biz” for almost 8 years. I started DO GOOD 3 years ago and spent the first 2 years refining the concept as a one man band. I brought on a partner a year ago and we are planning to be at a dozen agents shortly. We are heavily focused on the customer experience and have recently partnered with Dotloop https://www.dotloop.com/news/do-good-real-estate-rocking-peoplework-in-wilmington-nc

    Donating money to get business won’t work. That’s the best way I can put it. The focus has to be on raising the bar, offering the best experience, tell stories and be original.

  • Great post Drew. The socially concious model is alive and well here at http://www.dogoodrealestate.com . The problem is that too many people attempt it for the wrong reasons. To prove that this was not a gimmick we spent an astronomical amount of time becoming a Certified B Corporation: using the power of business to affect social change. We have also been selected as a beta-brokerage by BH&G http://nextgenbrokerage.com/2012-companies/ and spoke at Inman Connect in NYC along side some of the companies that we admire.

    I have been in the “biz” for almost 8 years. I started DO GOOD 3 years ago and spent the first 2 years refining the concept as a one man band. I brought on a partner a year ago and we are planning to be at a dozen agents shortly. We are heavily focused on the customer experience and have recently partnered with Dotloop https://www.dotloop.com/news/do-good-real-estate-rocking-peoplework-in-wilmington-nc

    Donating money to get business won’t work. That’s the best way I can put it. The focus has to be on raising the bar, offering the best experience, tell stories and be original.

  • Greg Martin

    Great post, Drew. I donate 10% of my net proceeds to the charity of my clients’ choice on both buy-side and sell-side transactions as well. A simple gesture and supporting web page has helped me spread the word in my community and generate funds for local groups who need it.

    http://www.thatgreg.com/givingback

    • Very cool. I think this is roughly what my friend Henry does too.

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  • Great Post Drew! This is exciting knowing there is a “name” for it. About 3 weeks ago, I was talking with my mother about how I can incorporate my love for my father into my business. I decided I wanted to focus my attention on military families. He was a Korean War Air Force Vet. He died last year of liver cancer. I miss him everyday and I knew how much the military meant to him. He contributed to the American Legion even on his death bed, he asked my mother to make sure she paid his contributions for him. Its something that meant alot to him.

    Okay so anyways, I was talking with my mother about how I can give back and considered the American Legion. Donating part of my money from auto transport brokerage business to a military cause. I decided that it has to be something that helps our vets wounded in war since that means more to me than anything. Helping families. I still havent settled on a charity yet but its been in talks.

    So after seeing you on the middle finger blog and your recommendations, I think I can definitely go forward with this and actually have a title for it. I was just going to say hey I will donate x% of my service fee to xyz… Now I can legitimately call it a socially conscious auto transport broker. Thanks Drew!

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  • Caroline Pinal

    People want to work with people who “Do Good” It’s a win-win-win!

  • Allison Parks

    Hi! I just found this post… Well, I am the owner of the “do good” real estate brokerage in Denver, giving 10% of commissions to the nonprofit of our clients’ choice. (I also specialize in eco-friendly properties and business practices, including bike tours to view homes for sale.) I am pretty much the only one doing this in Denver… (There is a woman out there who gives 10% to animal-welfare specific charities as well.) I won’t lie, it’s not like I just put the concept out there and had it take off. I still have to work to get business, just like any other realtor. There HAS been an influx of people calling me recently wanting to join the brokerage because of the social enterprise values and THAT thrills me. I was afraid that folks in real estate would not be attracted to such a model, but thankfully, I was wrong. I can truly say that the giving model is enjoyable. I don’t feel pain when I write the checks to the nonprofits, (and let’s be real… It’s 10% of my gross commission, which is really more like 30-40% of my net, after taxes and expenses), I get super happy when I am able to share. On my deathbed, I seriously doubt I will be reminiscing about my material possessions… But I will reminisce about the good I was able to spread.

    If they haven’t already been mentioned in this thread, I know of two other socially-conscious brokerages. Give Realty in Austin, Texas and Do Good Real Estate out of Somewhere, North Carolina.

    • Hey Allison
      Glad you found the article 🙂

      Love your mindset on life.

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