Mike Coe explains what he's learned while trying to sell his energy-efficient home and how it has made him re-evaluate for his second self build project.
Interview with Mike Coe
Back in 2011 Mike and his partner Lizzie moved into “The Autonomous House” – a self build project described as one of the UK's most sustainable homes, which we featured in Episode 54. At the time they built it they were expecting to be living there for the forseeable future, but have recently made the decision to relocate to Scotland. Now that they're looking to sell their house they're discovering that finding a buyer for such a unique property is not without its challenges.
Visit Cropthorne Autonomous House as part of the Passivhaus Open Days.
The lure of one more project is compelling!
Mike has devoted a lot of time researching climate change, and his own feeling is that in the next few years the temperatures in the south of England will get far hotter. Approaching his 60th birthday he is also starting to get a sense of excitement at the prospect of taking on one more big project, so although it is with a great sense of reluctance to be leaving The Autonomous House, a move to the Isle of Skye and a new self build project is on the cards.
Using a conventional estate agent has not found a purchaser for this unconventional house
Despite having a couple of interested parties, using a traditional estate agent has not secured a buyer for The Autonomous House. Mike believes that it won't be for another 15-20 years that people will really understand the value of a house like it, with many people being put off by a lack of understanding about some of the features, eg composting toilet, rainwater harvesting system etc.
“So I think the attitude is changing but I think it’s going to be some time before we have the level of awareness that perhaps they do in Germany where there are a lot more low energy houses, a lot more Passivhauses, people understand them, they’re not afraid of them. ”
With the conventional estate agent route not yielding any results, Mike and Lizzie paid to advertise on the Green Moves website, which by its nature attracts people who are genuinely motivated to buy a sustainable home. Through this they are optimistic that they have found a potential purchaser and are now in a chain waiting for them to sell their property.
Despite the systems Mike has built into the house, he explains that it's actually a very simple house to live in. It might be different to living in a conventional house, but is no more difficult. It doesn't for example have central heating systems and boilers to worry about maintaining, or complicated electrical systems to understand. He thinks that anyone with a basic degree of DIY knowledge and experience would be able to maintain it without difficulty.
Selling the house will come at a financial loss
When Mike and Lizzie built The Autonomous House, their plan was for it to be their home for the forseeable future. They didn't build it thinking about potential resale value. Perhaps if they had, Mike says they might have been able to fit a bigger house on the site or done other things a little differently, to create a larger resale value.
Housing prices in Worcestershire have remained fairly stagnant since 2007/2008 so they have also been hit by property not being a reliable investment over that time. Mike explains that the only way to not lose money on the property now would be to remain there for several more years and wait for property prices to catch up. Being reluctant to do that, they have decided to accept that they will lose money on the house. He is conscious that, while they intend their new project in Scotland to be their home for the forseeable future with low energy and off-grid features, he will be bearing in mind potential resale values and maybe being a little more conventional, just in case!
“So in some senses it’s going to be a little more conventional and I’m not going to do things like have a whole house basement in order to store rainwater, because it’s a very expensive thing to build. So I’m keeping a little bit more of an eye on those kind of costs and I’m compromising a little I suppose but not very much. I’m compromising a little with an eye on possible future sale.”
The new challenge!
While Mike and Lizzie were looking for potential houses to buy for when they first make the move to Scotland, they were introduced to a plot which they quickly realised was going to be better than anything else they were going to find. With a great deal of financial manoeuvring they were able to buy it and are now looking forward to the new challenge that awaits!
The plot is on the edge of Portree, a principle town on the Isle of Skye, which although not large, does have a good number of facilities for its size. The land is a sloping site which will give them views across Portree Bay, will be close to south facing giving them the option of another solar heated design, and has very little likelihood of further development happening nearby. There is also a stream running down the site which may give Mike the opportunity to run a micro-hydro system which, while probably not justifiable in economic terms, is something he says he has always wanted to do.
Find out more
Read the blog about creating The Autonomous House
Follow Mike Coe on Twitter
Passivhaus Goes Personal
This is a video we have produced for the Passivhaus Trust which was recently launched at the Passivhaus Conference as part of a campaign aimed at self builders. If you're a self builder and haven't made up your mind yet whether Passivhaus is for you, this will provide you with all the clear information to help you with your decision.
The Hub update
Our second video from Buckinghamshire Passivhaus is now available for Hub members. This one is all about how it's going to be built, with details of the PH15 system along with some of the designs, plus how it's being positioned on the site.
We also have our second progress call where Hub members can get together to discuss challenges or other aspects of their projects. The recording of the call is available for members to catch up with at any time.
Our latest module in The Hub is all about reclaiming VAT to make sure you don't miss out on that 20% benefit.
In 4 weeks we will be increasing the price of Hub membership, but if you join now you will pay at a lock-in price for as long as you continue to renew. Check out www.houseplanninghelp.com/join to find out more!