This Unusual Investment Property Is Now A Green Home

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2008-09-1120

These property flippers have turned their unusual investment property into a green home that’s now on the market.

Out with the old, in with the new. About a year and a half ago, I wrote about an unusual property for sale, which was this firehouse in the wooded suburbs of the Bay Area that went on the market for $825,000. The firehouse sat on a suburban street but didn’t look to have much room for more than a couple of firetrucks. It was therefore no surprise when the fire department decided to move their firehouse to an adjacent street on a much wider property, with the space to house more trucks.

Well, that property went on sale with the following merits:


Class: Single Family Residential
Type: Detached Single Family
List Price: $825,000
Lot Size: 13,131.00 SF
Age: 50
Bedrooms: 2
Baths: 1 Full, 1 Half, No Tub
Stories: 1

A rare opportunity to buy a firehouse. Fantastic location on large lot in desirable XYZ County. Remodel, rebuild or build new. So many possibilities. Add a second story and take advantage of the views.

And just to remind you, here’s what it looked like some time ago, sporting the following features:

unusual property investment, old firehouse front

unusual property investment, old firehouse side

Well, I’d like to give an update on this old firehouse. Eventually, this property sold for $800 G’s, and in its place something else arose. Fast forward to a year and a half later and it has become obvious that the property is being flipped, but not after a lot of work was done to it. The new owners wasted no time on giving the place a major facelift for the purposes of reselling it right away (yeah, even while this real estate market languishes). The firehouse got stripped to its foundation, and underwent a major renovation, and now here is what the old firehouse looks like today!

unusual property investment, eco-friendly house front

unusual property investment, eco-friendly house side

The brand new property is being marketed as a “green home” with the following description and characteristics:

Brand New Custom Contemporary Home For Sale! (Green)

Class: Single Family Residential
Type: Detached Single Family
List Price: $2,495,000
Lot Size: 13,131.00 SF
Year Built: 2008
Bedrooms: 4
Baths: 3

This eco-friendly home minimizes the use of resources and reduces the harmful effects on the environment, all while providing savings on utility bills. Included are a lofty 12-foot ceiling, chef’s kitchen with walk-in pantry, master suite with filtered bay views, rear patio with a built-in barbecue station and fire pit and large level lawn. This home contains sustainable, energy-efficient resources.

Solar water heater, double pane windows, fire sprinkler system, low-flow shower heads, low-flow toilets, weather-stripped doors

It’s cool that the firehouse has turned into a “green” (eco-friendly) house, what with the solar water heater, double pane windows, fire sprinkler system and low-flow plumbing built in. 😉 But I’m amazed by how much this new house is selling for — it can be all yours for close to $2.5 million. I think it’s overvalued, even with the “green” designation; the difference between the new and old price of this property is $1,675,000.

I doubt that a green home would cost anywhere close to that to build. How much does building an eco-friendly house cost? Given these figures, if this home sells, how much do you think the real estate investors who bought this house (the house flippers) will be taking home as profit?

Going Green and Home Valuation

I could be wrong, but if you happen to be a real estate agent or property expert who is knowledgeable about valuing new property, especially in the Bay Area, I’d love to hear what you think of this particular valuation. I’m curious about what it takes to turn your home into a “green” house: are there additional benefits of such an investment, beyond the savings you expect to get and the good you’ll do for the environment? Here’s where I’m going with this: if I slap a solar roof on my house and replace my home’s pipes with low-flow, how much would I be able to add to my home’s value? Also, I’m sure that marketing a house this way will have different results based on your regional market.

Interestingly, despite the steep price tag, this home is still seen as better value than some residences you’ll find in the Bay Area. The price per square foot formula applied to this home results in only $694 per square foot, relatively “cheaper” than the $1,000 per square foot you’ll get by buying a 250 square foot condo unit in a brand new development in the heart of San Francisco, or a parking spot in the middle of New York. The difference, of course , is that this more spacious home is in the country, while the tiny, more expensive spaces (per square foot measures) are in the dense, urban jungle. So what do you think: how much are you willing to pay for prime real estate?

Sometimes, I forget that we’re in the middle of a rough real estate market; I just don’t see how the price for this erstwhile firehouse turned green house can be justified but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how this sale turns out.

Copyright © 2008 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

The Digerati Spouse September 11, 2008 at 11:45 am

It’s curious that they didn’t totally destroy the old firehouse – you can still see its framework and basic shape. Why do they do that? Is there some tax or permit advantage to keep a few pieces of wood from the old structure around?

Silicon Valley Blogger September 11, 2008 at 12:06 pm

It’s cool to get your comment! Yes, I find it interesting they didn’t just change the entire foundation or structure of the home entirely. My suspicion is that there must be some permit issues with changing the architecture.

I had this co-worker from San Francisco who told me that the city was very strict about zoning so he had to conform to many regulations in order to remodel his home.

I’ll bet something similar was going on here. After all, this house was built so quickly and the project term appeared to be just a year long. We’ve had much smaller home projects that took almost as long as this major renovation, so I’m guessing that the flippers wanted to flip as quickly as they could — they must’ve decided to do it the easy way and retain the structure. By doing so, they skipped on the pain and hassle of dealing with applying for and acquiring permits.

Just my .02.

Betty September 11, 2008 at 6:09 pm

Weird…But I think the buyer can modify the old firehouse to be a firehouse museum. In my country, there is an old station which is now used as train museum. Many tourist visit this place.

Ira Hubbard September 11, 2008 at 8:29 pm

Wow that is an incredible transformation. I don’t know about the Bay area but I think that “green” homes are selling for more than “standard” homes in Portland, OR. I really like it and hope to hear more about this.

Miss Thrifty September 12, 2008 at 2:08 am

I love the way that the sales brochure for this $2.5 million home touts the “savings on utility bills”!

michele September 12, 2008 at 6:16 am

“Green” is the new “Lite”

jim of Blueprint for Financial Prosperity September 12, 2008 at 7:00 am

Damn thats a nice looking house and it’s cool that it’s green but…. 1.6m bump? Maybe in a sizzling hot housing market but nowadays…

what do I know about RE though! 🙂

CMOE September 12, 2008 at 11:11 am

Going Green is catching on more and more everyday. I think it is smart to invest now in building a green home because I guess then in 30 years or so if a house isn’t designed to be green then its value will be cut in half. Smart move on the builders part.

Aaron September 17, 2008 at 10:45 pm

Aside from the Solar water heater, most of the other “green” improvements are pretty standard. Low-flow shower heads and toilets? A run to Home Depot and a few hundred dollars and you’re good to go.

The problem is that there are no (well-known) standards for what green actually means. Leed certification looks promising.

That said, it looks like they did a good job on the remodel.

St George September 18, 2008 at 9:33 am

Wow that is a major face-lift. It does not even look like it use to be a firehouse. Going green seems like it is hitting the real estate industry like it is the auto industry.

Denis September 21, 2008 at 3:41 pm

Yes, You are writing about truth. Many people were thinking about that and its very good to find here a good answer.

Nomad September 24, 2008 at 8:32 am

I like how there are all these ‘green home’ monikers being thrown around these days. That’s kind of a relative term. That’s a lot of open space to heat in winter.

Ventura August 26, 2009 at 8:51 pm

The new house looks great! It’s amazing the possibilities there are when it comes to re-designing properties and buildings. A little creativity and planning goes a very long way.

Austin September 19, 2009 at 1:37 am

Really interesting. There is lots of space to heat the water

Property Tax Info July 29, 2010 at 5:40 am

Wow! I was imagining the firehouse would turn out to be a modern house and look at that! Not the same as I have in my mind, (white walls and glasses) but it still turned out to be an awesome makeover. Good job!

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