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,, 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,, 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',

Long Sutton, Nr Spalding, Lincolnshire

Price: £495,000


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


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


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


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


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
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Robbie Savage will not face a driving ban
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in ‘I Am Michael’
filmJustin Kelly's latest film tells the story of a man who 'healed' his homosexuality and turned to God
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower