Tired of lining your agent's pockets? Social impact real estate gives back to community

Socially-minded house hunters in Ontario now have a new option for buying and selling thanks to a London real estate agent willing to funnel a portion of her commission back into the community.

London, Ont. real estate agent donates 20 per cent of commission to support local charities

Rachel and Andy Berdan prepare to sell their London, Ont. house with a social impact real estate enterprise. (Amanda Margison/ CBC News)

The Berdan family has been busy with the usual assortment of tasks that come with putting a house on the market. But de-cluttering and packing boxes aren't the only items on the London, Ont. couple's to-do list. 

They're also deciding where they want to invest a portion of their real estate agent's commission.

"There were a couple of contenders but I'm currently talking to Goodwill. I volunteer there so it makes a lot of sense to give there," Rachel Berdan said sitting at a table surrounded by boxes stuffed with odds-and-ends. 

These socially-minded house hunters may be among the first in Ontario to test what's called social impact real estate. It sees agents giving up a percentage of their commissions so clients can give back to neighbourhood organizations or charities. 

"I don't mind because I think there is real value for my clients," Marla Marnoch explains.

The London, Ont. real estate agent launched Earmark in early March, convinced her clients wanted to see their money go further than the insides of her pockets. 

Real estate agent Marla Marnoch started Earmark in early March after hearing from clients that they wanted to help build strong neighbourhoods. (Amanda Margison/ CBC News)

She and partner agents, three so far, have agreed to give 20 per cent of their fees to what they call "change makers" or local charities. 

"The connection to buying a house is that people can invest in projects in their new neighbourhoods," Marnoch said. 

The investment wouldn't be a drop-in-the-bucket either. A price tabulator on the Earmark website shows that a home selling for $500,000 could result in a $2,500 donation.  

"That amount of money could have real impact," Marnoch said. "There's a food incubator that is doing great work or the back-to-the-river project that does conservation. I wanted to make sure it would be a meaningful donation." 

The prospect of making that kind of a difference while carrying out the biggest transaction of their lives, is the reason the Berdans hired Marnoch. 

They say they are socially-minded when shopping for food or clothing and were thrilled to find a way to be conscientious on a larger scale. 

"I've told a bunch of people that we're doing this and they love the idea," Andy Berdan said. 

"All we have do now is sell this house and find a new one!"