Green Home Finally Changes Hands

Being “net zero energy” didn’t help move the Bainbridge Island abode.

Developer Lisa Martin got a lot of attention after building an über-green house on Bainbridge Island. The house, outfitted with a solar energy system, was one of the first, if not the first, in the state to declare itself "net zero energy," meaning that it was expected to generate at least as much energy as it consumed. It also boasted a solar water-heating system, "non-toxic soy-based insulation," and recycled materials. The Seattle Times, the P-I, and a national magazine called Fine Homebuilding all wrote about it, and hundreds of people toured the house after it was put on the market in the late summer of 2007.What nobody did, however, was buy it. At least not until last month, when the "ecomodern farmhouse," as it was advertised, finally sold. The price: $520,000—or $375,000 less than the original asking price."Probably the biggest problem was the slowdown in the economy," says Brigetta Johnson, the real estate agent who took over selling the property after it had sat on the market for some time. But she acknowledges other problems too. While green ideals encourage people to live small, "young families needed more storage space" than the 1,900-square-foot house offered, she says. The substitution of a car-port for an enclosed garage, done to improve air quality in a place typically filled with fumes, didn't help. Retirees, who might otherwise go for a smallish house, were put off by the stairs, Johnson says. In the end, she says, the house found "the perfect demographic": a couple with no kids.Computer consultant Brad Greene and his partner Ishya Siltikul, the director of a fitness club, moved from a much bigger house on the island because they were searching for someplace sunnier and better designed. The fact that the home was green was "frosting on the cake," Greene says. Still, it was only when the house came down in price that they went to look at it. "It was originally way out of our price range," he says."I was a little bit naive," says Martin, who ran a gift shop in Chicago before deciding to move here and pursue her dream of eco-development, beginning with this house. "We just went whole hog on the green features. There was a price for everything." The solar energy system, for instance, cost $55,000. Failing to make money on the project, she says she's now evaluating how green to go with her next one: "Affordable green is a little bit more my goal."

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