California’s Napa Valley is home to some of the world’s best wines, finest dining and one of this country’s first Sustainable “Green” Real Estate Development Agents: Elizabeth Olcott.
While the generalist agent will always make up the bulk of Realtors®’ ranks, many agents are finding success in narrowing the field of clients they work with. From the international real estate niche to working primarily with luxury homebuyers and sellers, real estate niches are becoming more attractive. Elizabeth found hers in 2007: green homes.
Olcott Real Estate is an agent of the Healthy Buildings Technology Group (HBTG), producers of energy-efficient, highly sustainable homes, offices and classrooms. A bit like prefab buildings, but actually a new form of hybrid construction, HBTG buildings, known as OHOME™s, can be built in half the time of conventional homes, are built using local labor, are eligible for FHA financing, and the homes meet the building codes in all 50 states.
“What I like most about the OHOME™ is the opportunity it presents to homeowners concerned about their carbon footprint. The homes are designed to conserve the earth’s resources, energy and water without compromising on aesthetics. There are seven standard models, or they can be customized to meet any floor plan or any style of architecture. In addition, people who live in OHOME™s can have zero energy bills. My clients love that feature.”
Elizabeth came to the real estate business after investing in real estate for years. She found the transition from investor to real estate agent a logical step. In fact, real estate sort of discovered her. “I remember thinking oh wow, I really love this real estate investing, I wonder if I could make this a career? I bore easily, so because each real estate transaction is different, and I’m dealing with different people all the time, it’s like having a new job every day.”
She began her real estate career at Continental Real Estate Services, a boutique firm in Napa. Out of the gate she consistently performed as one of the company’s ace agents, ranking number six out of 700 Napa Valley Realtors® in 2006. In 2007, upon the death of the company’s broker – Elizabeth’s beloved mentor, Shane DePue – she struck out on her own.
Elizabeth figures that she spends about 60 percent of her workweek on the green homes aspect of her business and the remaining time with her busy brokerage, Olcott Real Estate.
Elizabeth has one assistant and two other agents under her broker’s license. She considers herself a “one-woman show” and doesn’t actively recruit agents. When she does take one on, she looks for “maturity and the agent’s business experience. The people that come to me looking for a broker typically want the same thing I do: autonomy. I’m not a good hand-holder, so they need to be able to hit the ground running and remain self-motivated. I find that a certain level of maturity – not in age, necessarily – is one of the most important qualities an agent can have.”
Elizabeth gives back to the amazingly beautiful Napa Valley through volunteer work with VOICES, an organization devoted to helping kids who are aging out of the foster care system. “VOICES offers a number of programs, from coaching and career development to support in finding housing and by providing information on wellness.”
When not selling green homes, traditional homes and volunteering, Elizabeth says she loves “ping pong!” She gets her clients addicted to the game as well, by holding yummy barbecues in her Napa Valley backyard before kicking their hineys at a grueling ping-pong match.
When asked why she loves her career in real estate, Elizabeth answers the same way many agents do: “Autonomy. I may work a crazy amount of hours every week, but if I decide I want to take off on a Friday at 11 a.m., nobody can tell me not to.”