By Jim Morrison, Banker & Tradesman Staff

Craig Foley always loved homes and architecture, so when his family’s needs exceeded what his theater career would provide, he became a Realtor. A second, concurrent career in energy procurement and management ignited a new passion for energy efficient homes and his niche as a real estate agent with expertise in building science was born. These days, in addition to helping homebuyers in the communities surrounding Somerville buy and sell homes, he teaches other agents about how to properly list, market and talk to potential buyers about energy efficient homes and their components.

Q: How did you go from directing theater to becoming a Realtor?

A: I grew up in Westbrook, Maine, just outside Portland. It’s a very small mill town. I played sports and broke my shoulder playing football as a freshman in high school. There was this really cool theater teacher named Bob Fish who directed the plays at Westbrook High School. Bob was and still is a good director. There was a group of us who got really into creating theater and being on stage and it was a really exceptional experience.

I grew up in a family where no one had ever gone to college before. My mom and dad both worked in the correctional system in Maine. I’m an only child as well, and I just have the ability to really get into something and get engrossed in it. That created a really interesting pathway in my life to open me up to new things and send me to college and then to grad school. I met my wife in the theater as well. Then we had two kids and when the second one was born, I was up for a tenure track position at Salem State teaching theater. I had been focused on working as a director, which I really enjoyed. I didn’t get the position at Salem State and at that point there was no way that I could justify trying to make a living as a freelance director and adjunct faculty member. It was way too much work to do that and have a family.

It was a really tough decision to leave the theater, which I had been passionate about for almost all of my life, and figure out what to do next. I loved homes and I love architecture and what I didn’t expect I would love is the transactional process, the sales part of it and protecting your client’s interests, which became a new passion for me. It’s a complex transaction and people need protection. Good Realtors –and there are plenty of them out there – really take that to heart above all else. That made the transition which I anticipated being very difficult, a whole lot easier.


Q: How did you become known as an “energy efficient” Realtor?

A: When the market crashed in 2007-2008, I had the opportunity to develop this energy management firm called InCharge Energy with a friend of mine. That was a really exciting aspect of my life. I made sure that I kept my real estate license too. My partner’s family had some health problems and the firm ended up breaking up, but I left that with this energy procurement experience, along with the real estate experience and that’s what’s lead me to this whole sustainability part.

The work that I’m doing now as a sustainable real estate consultant, my business is focused on high-performance homes. I also do a lot of real estate education. My focus is on green homes and sustainability. I ended up being in a unique place at a unique time at the right kind of market to bring this to light. I love what I’m doing now.

Then I got associated with the Massachusetts Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. That’s where I picked up the building science part of this. I’m going to Orlando [later this month] to speak at the International Builders Symposium, where they have incredible high performance buildings and the pros who know the science inside and out.

I’m also connected with the architects and builders who are leading this field. I’m working on a project with Sage builders right now that we’re putting on the market in May or so. These guys are pushing the envelope. They built four units in Fort Hill with HERS [Home Energy Rating System] ratings of -4 and -17. It’s beyond net-zero. These houses are actually going to be producing more energy than they consume, which is really cool.


Q: Is demand increasing for your energy efficiency expertise?

A: Absolutely. More and more people are getting interested in this stuff. Between 2011 and 2015, Realtors’ use of the words “energy efficiency” in the remarks portion of the MLS went up 350 percent. Sellers who have made their homes more energy efficient will benefit from hiring someone who understands these issues, not only in how we value the home, but how we market it. It really makes a difference. There’s no question about it.

Energy efficiency is really about lowering the cost of operating a home. But buyers are also aware of the health impacts of living in a home more now. Some studies show that indoor air quality is five to 10 times worse than outdoor air quality. Customers with kids with asthma are already very aware of that. We’re all also becoming more aware that we have our own environmental impact and the home and vehicle greatly impact that.

Real estate education is critical right now if we want to help move the market in a way that solves some of the energy and environmental challenges that we face. The more we have Realtors engaged and understanding what a high performance home is, the better. You’re crazy if you have a Realtor team and you don’t have an NAR-designated Green agent on that team. A Realtor’s education is incomplete without it. Make that investment so you have at least one member of the team that gets it.


Foley’s Five Favorite Things About Living In New England:

  1. Three of the four seasons.
  2. The history.
  3. Small cities and towns with character.
  4. Islands: Peaks, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, Hero Island and Block Island.
  5. It’s the best place to be a sports fan.

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