by Taylor Stark
January 09, 2018
Kristi Neidhart is a Marlyand native and lifelong nature lover who loves to go boating. She always wanted to work in wilderness therapy, can’t get enough of the Chesapeake Bay and hikes mountains in her spare time. Yet Neidhart doesn’t work for an environmental organization, a government agency or live in the woods Walden Pond-style. Kristi Neidhart is a formidable businesswoman, owner of the successful Annapolis-based firm Kristi Neidhart (KN) Realty and the first realty company to be a member of Businesses for the Bay.
Businesses for the Bay is a program run by the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay to encourage businesses within the Chesapeake region to take actions to support protection and restoration of the Bay. This membership association is designed by businesses for businesses, creating a network of environmentally-minded organizations.
Neidhart saw a presentation on the program and becoming a member seemed like a perfect fit. “I’m really looking forward to the community of other businesses that are like-minded,” says Neidhart. Her face lights up as she talks about the opportunity to network with businesses across the Chesapeake region and in multiple sectors. Just as Neidhart makes the unlikely pairing between the environment and real estate, there are other new connections out there to discover. Neidhart smiles, “I’m excited to share and learn more about environmentally friendly businesses.”
After years in the nonprofit world, Neidhart was working the front desk at a realty firm when she became hooked after helping someone view a house. Her hands fly as she describes the moment she realized this passion. “Being a realtor is law; it’s marketing; it’s being a detective; it’s half psychology and working with people.”
Neidhart incorporates her passion for the environment into her workplace. She created an initiative to decrease plastic in her office by using only reusable dishware and recycling. For every home sold, 100 trees are planted in the KN Realty name through Trees for the Future. And she’s also part of a “green team” of realtors who tracked energy efficiency data before it was mandated for real estate. Most importantly, she works to have clients see the connection between “eco-friendly” and “real estate.”
When a KN Realty client purchases an older home, an energy audit – conducted through a partnership with Baltimore Gas and Electric and energy specialists like Edge Energy – is included as a parting gift. “Most people are surprised to find that they have the equivalent of an open window of energy loss through border cracks, older lights and unsealed frames,” says Neidhart.
For her own home, doing an energy audit saved her $35 to $40 a month on her bill. Most clients find the same benefit to their bank accounts, as well as cutting their carbon footprint by a third for most homes. “Environmental improvement translates to economic value: money saved,” Neidhart explains. “Feeling good is secondary, but that feeling good reinforces a sense of pride.”
When speaking with a client about landscaping, Neidhart talks through what will look good on their property in terms of both ease and aesthetics for the clients’ benefit, but knows that she will also benefit the local ecosystem by recommending native plants. Natives can be much easier for a homeowner to maintain because they are well suited to the local environment, but will also decrease flooding and stormwater woes with their deep roots aiding infiltration.
Being environmentally conscious, having a beautiful home and helping bottom line are often seen as mutually exclusive, yet Neidhart’s way of life shows that they can be comfortable partners. “Behavior change is similar to money and compounding interest,” explains Neidhart. “It may be difficult to start, but is easy if it is a part of your day.”
As time goes on, she continues to help her clients find beautiful homes and to feel like part of a close-knit community in Annapolis, Maryland as she brings her philosophy of life and environment to her thriving business. “The environment is universal,” says Neidhart when asked about the positive aspects of having an eco-friendly real estate agency. “There are different ways to learn about it, and everyone receives immense benefits.”