Ashlon Realty went green the day it opened in the South Bay in 2007.
At least its for-sale signposts did.
"We're the only one doing that in county, as far as I know. So as you pull up to a house with a green post, you usually know it's ours," said president and broker Joe Gummerson.
At the end of last year, Gummerson went green as well, reducing the carbon footprint of his previous offices to just one -- inside his east Chula Vista home.
"I have just one agent now and I love not having to manage anybody," he said. "Trying to keep my agents motivated was a lot more work than selling real estate."
After 25 years in the business, Gummerson now prefers being able to start work early, take his kids (Ashley and Alonzo, for whom the business was named) to school, come back home and work, then pick them up in the afternoon and work some more.
Setting his own pace is what it's all about for him, and it seems to suit his personal and business styles. In 2013, he completed 14 REO foreclosures and 17 traditional/short sales, totaling just over $10 million in sales.
Gummerson went into the business straight after leaving Hoover High School in San Diego.
He had a decade of short-sale experience working for a large national brokerage in Mission Valley in the '90s, and put it to use when short sales and foreclosures reemerged about 2005.
He eventually had five offices and 130 agents, but started to shed both as the market returned to more traditional sales the past few years.
"Agents tend to be attracted by the inventory," he said. "At the height of the market, I had 185 listings. And eventually, as the REO market declined, we didn't have the resources that some of the big corporate real estate firms had. As soon as the inventory started to go away, so did the agents.
And then we were stuck with a little more square footage than we needed, so we started to close some offices. That gave the impression that things were bad, so more people left. And eventually I came to the realization that I like working with families as opposed to managing salespeople."
Downsizing has been good for Gummerson, who has lived in the South Bay for 15 years. Even though he looks at 2014 as a recovery year, he predicts a 30 to 40 percent higher sales volume over 2013.
"The condo and first-time home buyer markets are strong in South Bay, although some of the first-time buyers are struggling to get into the lower-priced homes," he said. "It's hard to find a four-bedroom house for less than $400,000 anymore. Generally, anything under $500,000 and is decent goes pretty quick."
The market and the economy will determine whether the trend continues. Whatever the outcome, Gummerson will be on top of it -- from the comfort of his own home.