Buying an eco-home: Finally something's clicked

Many estate agents are still not up to speed on eco-homes. Donnachadh McCarthy puts two new websites to the test

We've all read enough about eco-homes now to know that they're not just important for the planet, but that they can be nice places to live too. And we know that many, many more are being built in across Britain, and indeed around the world. But finding one to live in can be rather trickier.

What if you're not an eco-pioneer? What if you don't want to sort out the solar panels and insulation yourself? Unfortunately, if you look in the window of the average high-street estate agent, you will not yet see a list of local eco-homes for sale.

Sometimes, even the companies you might think are experts don't turn out to be especially useful. I did find a firm called the Eco Estate Agency, so I called them to see what eco-homes they had on their books. It turned out that the company, based in north London, had no eco-homes on their books at all. I was told that although a lot of people had called them to ask about eco-homes, they had not even thought about having eco-homes on their books. They changed their name to the Eco Estate Agency last year because they had greened up their office, using Good Energy as their electricity supplier and, innovatively, cycling to their appointments with clients.

But while there are no actual eco-estate agents yet, there are two property websites that specialise in listing eco-homes for sale across the UK and abroad. One of them, www.greenmoves.com, was set up three years ago by the green consultant Julian Brooks. The website usually has 50 to 100 individual properties and developments listed around the UK at any given time. It also lists properties abroad, but has only two French properties listed at present. Sellers pay a listing fee, but no commission is charged, and properties are only accepted if they have top ratings according to the Bream eco-homes standard, or are clearly genuine eco-homes.

The second site, www.whatgreenhome.com, was set up last October by the journalist Gordon Miller. It lists eco-developments not only in the UK but around the world. It has a very easy-to-use tick system for grading the eco-credentials of the developments, covering carbon efficiency, materials, water use, etc. It does not charge an upfront fee, but does level a commission on some listings. When asked how a holiday home in Belize can justifiably be called an "eco-home", Miller said: "People are not going to stop buying holiday homes abroad, but at least buying an eco-home is better than doing nothing."

Both websites are very clear that they are property listings sites, not estate agents. The fact that such websites now exist, even if the range of homes is still quite limited, shows that the market is taking its first tentative steps forward from the work of the pioneering eco-home makers into the wider mass market. There is still quite a way to go before full commercialisation, but the demand is certainly there, as the good people at the Eco-Estate Agency found to their surprise when they changed the agency's name.

Donnachadh McCarthy works as an eco-auditor and is the author of 'Saving the Planet Without Costing the Earth', www.3acorns.co.uk

Long Sutton, Nr Spalding, Lincolnshire

Price: £495,000

Agent: www.greenmoves.com

What makes it green?

A five-bedroom, earth-sheltered self-heating home – they say the back-up heating system only needed to be switched on six times last year. It has an attached self-heating office. Hot water is provided by solar panels. Where is the wow factor?

Being one of only a handful of earth-sheltered buildings in the UK is something to boast about, and the purposely designed workspace makes it perfect for the home-working up-market professional.

Stawell, Somerset

Price: £275,000

Agent: www.greenmoves.com

What makes it green?

This three-bedroom house has solar panels, Warmcel insulation and triple-glazed windows made of wood approved by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Where is the wow factor?

It has an FSC wood kitchen and a living-earth roof.

Marisia EcoSpa Resort, Ideciu de Jos, Romania

Price: from £60,000

Agent: www.whatgreenhome.com

What makes it green?

These studio apartments are heated by wood-chip boilers, the wood sourced in a local forest. Power is provided by a water wheel and solar panels.

What is the wow factor?

Beautiful wood construction – the only concrete is in the foundations. Near a train station, too, so you need not fly.

Carbost, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Price: £350,000

Agent: www.greenmoves.com

What makes it green?

A five-bedroom detached house, with a frame made from locally grown timber. It has cellulose insulation, solar hot-water panels and wood-fuelled heating, plus a large south-facing glass façade, which facilitates winter-time passive solar warming.

Where is the wow factor?

The stunning location – the veranda has a path right down to the water's edge.

Greenhouse, Leeds

Price: from £59,000

Agent: www.whatgreenhome.com

What makes it green?

These one-, two- and three-bedroom flats are in an eco-refurbished Art Deco building. It is super-insulated, has solar-powered hot water and an electric-car-sharing plan for residents.

Where is the wow factor?

Starting at £59,000, it makes cutting-edge eco-living affordable, and even has its own large commercial-sized wind-turbine.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power