Are Green Homes the new “Trophy” Homes?

That’s the question posed by the New York Times a little while ago.

There may be some truth to that presumption (and is that necessarily a “bad thing”?) Peer pressure works. There is truth to the trend and perception that more homebuyers are asking questions about the green bona fides of homes in today’s market. Taking the politics of the debate out of the equation, let’s focus on the diffusion of this new-fangled “green” technology -

- Will Ferrell was driving a concept BMW last year; Honda is nearing the release of a production hydrogen car. Take a look at the search volume for the Prius.

- Three years ago, I would have been hard-pressed to find a LEED or Earthcraft home in the MLS; now there are at least fifty.

- Consumer Reports now has a Green Home Improvement Guide.

I’d argue that when looking at the five classes of technology adopters – Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority and Laggards, we’re probably in or on the cusp of the Early Majority phase. Is it because celebrities have “trophy homes”? Doubtful. There is a significant benefit to “going green” that goes beyond political capital or chest-thumping.

It’s the market, stupid. Innovation is spurred by necessity.

Water is increasing by about 5%, the cost of electricity in the Charlottesville area is going to increase by at least 18%, fuel prices are at record levels (duh), and those buying houses today tend to be planning to stay for at least five to seven years (ancedotally). More buyers are asking to go green.

The Blue Ridge Eco Shop didn’t exist a couple of years ago, neither did Cville Enviro or the Better World Betty site. These places came to existence because the market demanded their services.

The market is moving beyond individual green products and into the realm of green developments – because the market is demanding LEED-certified Neighborhood Developments (although I’d argue that LEED-ND has not yet reached mainstream vernacular)

Courtesy of the National Association of Realtors’ On Common Ground magazine* -

Experts interviewed for this article were unanimous on one point: collecting green-certified houses into a conventional subdivision on a former farm fi eld at the edge of the metro area would not a green neighborhood make. Beyond that, there was little unanimity.

Some argue that the criteria for a green neighborhood are fairly well satisfi ed by building according to the principles of smart growth. That means conserving land, focusing development first in areas that are already developed, providing transportation options other than cars, and creating mixed-use development that makes neighborhoods compact and walkable. Others say that smart growth, as it is typically discussed, does not quite touch all the bases of sustainability.

Others suggest that building green neighborhoods means following the old environmental mantra: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Reduce the land consumed, the miles traveled by car and the consumption of energy. Reuse the buildings and infrastructure of existing neighborhoods, use waste as a source of energy, and reuse “gray” water to maintain landscaping. Recycle building materials, and even the land itself—the post-industrial brownfi elds and fallow parking-lot “grayfi elds” around defunct shopping centers.

For proof that “Smart” Growth is mainstream, check out this partnership that defies presumptions about Realtors always wanting to build, build, build at all costs -

Those are some of the results of the 2007 Growth and Transportation survey sponsored by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and Smart Growth America.

My prediction – in five years (or sooner) Earthcraft will be the de facto standard for building quality. That, and the Charlottesville/Central Virginia region needs to work on building transit infrastructure now.

Interesting related article – The Green Housing Boom, courtesy of Fast Company

* I requested a few extra copies of this publication because I thought it was such a great issue. If you’re in Charlottesville and would like a copy, please let me know. Otherwise you can download the entire issue here.

Search for homes in Belvedere.

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About Jim Duncan

A Charlottesville Realtor who tries to stay on the bleeding/cutting/functional edge of technology and real estate trends. I have been selling real estate for the past 10 years, lived in C'Ville for twenty+ and am married to one of few Charlottesville natives left.
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  • Andy K

    Interesting post. I love to see that there is a shift from McMansion to “green” houses. Now people just have to realize that an air filtration system and a rain barrel don’t make their house green.

    I am a little confused about the conflicting nature of your post, though.

    You had a quote:

    Experts interviewed for this article were unanimous on one point: collecting green-certified houses into a conventional subdivision on a former farm fi eld at the edge of the metro area would not a green neighborhood make. Beyond that, there was little unanimity.”

    You also mention the misconception about realtors just wanting to build, build, build.

    Then at the end of your post you write:
    “Search for homes in Belvedere.”

    Where you trying to contradict yourself to make a point or did I miss something? It seemed like a statement at odds with the message of your post.

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