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Green House Effect

Real estate agents specializing in energy-efficient homes give buyers more options.

By Kristine Hansen

On Jenny Persha's dream-house wish list are an organic garden and a geothermal heating system, which uses the Earth's hot water and steam to warm the inside of the house. "Actually, my dream home would be off the grid entirely, but that's a little hard to do in the city," she says with a laugh. Three years ago, Persha and business partner Brent Sainsbury formed Enlightening Real Estate, a Keller Williams Realty group in Madison, Wisconsin, that specializes in connecting buyers with their own eco-friendly dream homes.

Persha, a Kundalini practitioner and a volunteer for local conservation-minded causes, feels that specializing in sustainably designed homes and promoting energy conservation is a way of fulfilling what she sees as a moral obligation. "I needed to find a way to educate the general public," she says. "If people know that there is something they can do, they will do it."

Persha and Sainsbury lobbied to have designations like "Energy Star Certified" added to a home's listing on Wisconsin's Multiple Listing Service, allowing buyers to identify energy-efficient homes at a glance. Among the services they offer their clients are a free energy audit, help finding a broker who can write an efficiency mortgage, and resources for green remodeling.

According to a recent study by the U.S. Green Building Council, homeowners and homebuyers are more inclined than ever to make green choices when they renovate or buy a home. "Green homes are the bright spot in an otherwise gloomy housing market," says Michelle Moore, a senior vice president of the council. Chris Bartle, the CEO of Green Key Real Estate in San Francisco, says that in his area, the demand for homes with green features far exceeds the supply. "We get calls all the time from people who are interested in green homes. We tell them we can show them the few that are on the market, but we can also help them find a home they love and then help them make it green."

At Enlightening Real Estate, Persha strives to meet her clients' needs, whether they want to reduce their energy bills, or just do what they think is right. "It's all connected," Persha says of her home Kundalini practice and her efforts on behalf of the environment. "Yoga is a chance for me to feel at peace. It puts everything in perspective and reminds me why I'm working on the issues I'm working on."

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