A Greener Vision

Broker-Owner Kimberly Dotseth aims to leave every house she touches greener than when she found it.

March 1, 2009

Kimberly Dotseth walks the walk at her "green" brokerage. She uses recyclable office products, puts closing documents on a CD, and prepares an energy profile for every property she sells.

Kimberly Dotseth
Green Box Homes, San Diego

Years in Business: Became a sales associate in 1993; opened brokerage in 2007
2008 Gross Sales: $12 million on 18 transaction sides
2007 Gross Sales: $10 million on 12 transaction sides
Number of Offices: 1
Number of Sales Associates: 0

Why she opened her business

I had been acting like a broker for years, making decisions about my business even when I was working for other companies. The only difference was that there were a few pieces of paper that I couldn’t sign. My "Eureka!" moment came when I was thinking about the kind of legacy I wanted to leave. Because I don’t have children, I decided that my legacy would be that every house I touched would be physically better off—and greener—than when I found it. That’s the mission of my company.

What makes her green

I create a customized "green manual" for every property I sell and I give that to buyers and sellers after the closing. The manual contains a comprehensive energy and environmental profile for the home. I always include detailed information about the home’s likely energy and water consumption, as well as local recycling requirements. And I happily share my network of more than 100 eco-friendly contractors and vendors. I give clients all their paperwork on a CD—although state law in California requires me to also keep paper records. As a gift, all of my buyers receive a Solatube, a skylight dome that brings natural light into the home. I cover all costs myself including installation. In total, I usually spend $500 to $700 for each one. In my office, I’m a notorious recycler and I try to buy only recycled office products.

How she handles challenges

As a one-person shop, I found it difficult to figure out how to meet California’s requirements for doing business as a real estate brokerage, such as becoming incorporated and obtaining E&O insurance. But I didn’t give up. And while having a niche as an environmentally friendly company is useful in some ways, it doesn’t always provide a competitive edge. Sometimes it can work against me if people think I sell only green homes. If someone isn’t interested in green issues, I don’t focus on it for them, but they still receive a green manual at the end the transaction.

Her ‘something extra’

I offer free staging services to clients. As a longtime art and photo collector, I have an extensive inventory of accessories and furniture tucked away in two storage lockers. I also create a custom Web site for each of my listings. In addition to being green, I’ve developed a niche working with retirees who are downsizing from their longtime homes, which can be very difficult for them. I help them do whatever they need—packing, filling out Social Security paperwork, and even selling their cars.

Her biggest marketing splurge

I bought TV time and Web presence as a sponsor for the local NBC affiliate’s "Countdown to the 2009 Super Bowl." During the month prior to the NFL extravaganza, my company and logo received 15 seconds of airtime up to 10 times a day. It cost more than $10,000.

How her mom factors in

My business has a mom-and-pop feel, but I strive to provide all of the professional polish of the big companies. My goal is to treat all of my clients as if they were my own mother.

Her growth plans

I’ll be hiring a consultant to help me integrate my green interests better with my technology. I need someone to bounce ideas off of. I also hope to hire five sales associates this year. I believe all the people who were going to quit the business have already done it. The people who are left are survivors. That’s who I want working with me.

What's your story?

Do you have a brokerage success story to share? Send an e-mail to wcole@realtors.org; please include "Standouts" in the subject line.

Wendy Cole

Wendy Cole is the former managing editor of REALTOR® Magazine.