Bike realtor cycles for sustainability

Harry Greenberg pedals in the face of realtor stereotypes by refusing to step foot in a car

WHITTIER — Looking at him, it’s hard to tell Harry Greenberg is a Realtor.

His wild gray hair is most often covered with a helmet, he prefers cycling pants to the suit variety and his mustache is as big as his affection for bicycling — huge.    

“This is a way to combine real estate with something that I already have a big passion for,” said Greenberg, a Whittier resident who calls himself the Bike Realtor and runs a website advertising his services in Minneapolis. “And biking is just a really big part of my life.”

Greenberg, 54, is an investment property owner with a history in social work. He’s also a committed year-round cyclist eager to create a greener, more sustainable world. His real estate venture caters to like-minded people — those in search of a home from which they can bike or walk to work, the grocery store, parks and other amenities.

Cycling to showings also gives clients an opportunity to see, hear and even smell a neighborhood better than they could in a car, he said.

His work area is primarily in Southwest, but he’s biked clients around other parts of Minneapolis. He doesn’t mind if clients want to drive to a showing, but he’ll never get behind the wheel.

“I’m not going to drive a car, period,” Greenberg said. “I’m not going to use a car in any part of the transaction.”

He’s been true to his word since starting the realty gig earlier this year. He’s a one-man show working in a dismal housing market, but he’s managed to secure a few clients.

Kendall Anderson, 38, bought a house last June in Northeast through Greenberg. She said she had been looking for a while before some friends told her about his business. She knew Greenberg, but not as a Realtor.

“I knew that he had done well buying duplexes. I knew he was knowledgeable,” Anderson said. “But what really sealed the deal was the fact that he was a Bike Realtor.”

Anderson was renting in Richfield at the time and looking for a house closer to her job as an English-language teacher at Lincoln Adult Education Center Downtown. With Greenberg, Anderson said she looked at more than just houses — proximity to bike routes was also a factor.

The house she found was two-and-a-half miles from work. She closed on the home in Minnetonka and remembers the sweltering heat that day. She asked Greenberg if he wanted a ride in her car. He didn’t even think about it.

“He’s just really hardcore about his commitment to not use a car,” Anderson said. “And that’s impressive to me. I did drive to the closing, and I felt guilty.”

Largely because of Greenberg, Anderson is now trying to transition to year-round biking. She recently bought a facemask to get her through the winter.

“He really pushed me to expand my idea of biking and how biking can be a central part of my own personal transportation,” she said. “I thought I should bike more. I never biked in temperatures under 30, but I do now. I attribute that to watching Harry.”

Not all of Greenberg’s clients are die-hard cyclists.

Michael Garr, 43, lives in Whittier with his wife and two young boys. When the family started to look for a larger home, they didn’t want to go far.

“We love our neighborhood, and we don’t want to change neighborhoods,” Garr said. “We like to be able to walk to Downtown, and we’re a walking family. We have that kind of lifestyle where we can walk to restaurants and walk to the parks.”

Garr, an artist, started looking at homes with Greenberg because of the Bike Realtor’s knowledge of the area and his ecological mindset.  

“It fits with the way we think about the world,” Garr said. “More of what the world needs is less people driving around.”

Other Realtors have given cycling a whirl this year as the popularity of going green has increased, but finding one that will only do showings by bike is rare, said Kevin Knudsen, president of the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors.  

“I think it’s a very interesting concept, and there are some people who would probably enjoy working that way, but in Minnesota with our winters and a lot of the weather conditions, it can be a challenge,” Knudsen said. “However, we have some phenomenal bike trails.”  

Aside from selling houses, Greenberg teaches classes in bicycle commuting. He said he bikes about 5,000 miles a year and has a car for emergencies only.

The Bike Realtor is not banking on making millions, or even a living, from his business. He’s just happy if he can get more people pedaling.

“I’m not in it for the money,” Greenberg said. “It’s just something that makes sense.”

Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or [email protected].