Woah… it turns out that it takes a lot more money than we thought it would to build a smaller, energy efficient home without all the bells and whistles.
We knew that some of our choices would cost money and had figured on some trade offs – things like keeping the concrete floor to help offset the cost of wooden windows and building a small house so that we would have financial room to do things better. We also opted to work with an architect because of our desires to maximize the views and natural light in this place we’re getting ready to build. What we didn’t count on was how much money it costs to go with metal roofing, 8″ walls, wooden windows, or an air-to-water heat pump. Or to design for the option of main floor living so we can live here for as long as possible. We’ve just had a reality check!
First things were looking pricey so we had to start chopping, and then we talked to the bank. It turns out there isn’t much data out there to show green homes reselling for more money than conventional homes and the appraisers like to look at cost per square foot, a measure which is not at all supportive of small houses. Our options boiled down to a) investing our own resources to cover the extra expenses, b) cutting some of the fancy things out or c) starting over. Somehow this wasn’t something that we, the builder or the mortgage specialist had anticipated. To say it’s been a stressful part on this roller coast ride is an understatement! It’s been a week of chop, chop, chopity, chop.
So far we’ve been able to keep the roof and wall thickness but we’ll most definitely be doing more of the labour and likely a lot more of the project management. And that heat pump? It’s long gone. We hope to still manage pre-plumbing for solar hot water and hydronic heating on the main floor so that those upgrades can happen at a later date.
I’m not complaining about us finding our way to a smaller mortgage but it’s disappointing to learn that there is so little incentive for folks to build smaller or better homes. The only things I can find so far are the rebates the mortgage insurance companies offer. Even if we did need mortgage insurance the piddly rebate is hardly enough to offset a single upgrade. The other energy rebates pretty much just work to cover some of the costs of evaluating our building envelope. As of yet, I haven’t found anything to support building smaller other than that the total costs are lower.