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Feel-Good Real Estate

Some industry pros are just as interested in good karma as they are in fat commissions.

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With median home prices hovering around $400,000—an 11 percent jump over the past year—Denver’s real estate market undoubtedly has some agents toasting each other with Courvoisier-filled snifters. But many others have found a different way to celebrate: doing good. From donating portions of their commissions to creating programs for the homeless, some Denver real estate professionals are proving that the biggest rewards in this sellers’ market aren’t necessarily ones that come with dollar signs.

Rebecca Strobel is one of them. The Lakewood REMAX Professionals agent donates 40 percent of her commissions to animal-rescue causes such as the Rescued Pets Movement and Noah’s Ark Pet Center. Last year she gifted $25,000. Allison Parks, owner of Denver’s Conscious Real Estate, donates 10 percent of each commission—totaling nearly $12,000 in 2015—to a nonprofit of the client’s choice. Together, she and her clients have contributed to dozens of organizations, including conservation outfits, nonprofits that support veterans, and groups that provide care for abused and neglected kids.

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Boulder-based 8z Real Estate takes a slightly different approach. In 2012, 8z began sponsoring two high-achieving, low-income college students with annual scholarships of up to $10,000. After the housing boom erupted three years ago, 8z added another scholar. “When everybody’s doing well, when the market’s a little more forgiving, it’s easier to be generous,” says Lane Hornung, founder of 8z, which also matches its agents’ charitable donations up to $250.

Still others are inventing entirely new ways to help. Longtime Littleton REMAX agent Lisa Chirico formed Housing 180 with her client Catherine Clements about a year ago. The nonprofit piggybacks off Clements’ other endeavor, Cafe 180, a pay-what-you-can lunch spot in Englewood. If “what you can” is nothing, the cafe encourages patrons to volunteer in the kitchen in exchange for a meal. Housing 180 works much the same way. Cafe volunteers earn vouchers for hotel rooms at, for example, the Motel 6 chain or Lucky U on South Broadway. Still in its infancy, Housing 180 is also drawing up a program that would reward volunteers with reduced rents. Certainly, Housing 180 won’t single-handedly solve the city’s housing crisis. But this organization and other real estate do-gooders are proving more than just the “location, location, location” adage: When it comes to charity, the home is a pretty good place to start.

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