It almost sounds like the big bad wolf story, but there really are homes built from straw. Literally. Today I want to mention a few things about this type of construction, share some photos of a local straw-bale house, and then talk briefly about how I approached appraising this one.
What’s a straw-bale house? It’s a type of construction that uses stacked bales of straw for the exterior walls. I know, it sounds really cheap, but check out the pictures. The exterior usually has stucco or plaster, so unless you knew where to look, you probably wouldn’t even know about the bales. Read more here.
Thank you Realtor Steve Evans for permission to share these photos.
Truth window: This is a truth window on the inside of the house. It’s basically a way for the builder to prove the house was indeed made from bales of straw. Of course the walls are also two feet thick, which is also a clue.
Energy efficiency: These types of homes are incredibly energy-efficient, so beyond their aesthetic we have to consider the savings in energy here too. By the way, I’m not aware of any other straw-bale homes in Sacramento County, so speak up if you know of something.
I loved seeing this house in person. I hope you enjoyed the photos.
How the “hay” do we value something like this? (sorry)
Here’s some things I kept in mind during my appraisal. By the way, my appraisal was done for the owner prior to the property listing on the market.
1) Three model match straw-bale comps: In an ideal world we’d have other straw-bale homes for comparison. That might be more realistic in outlying rural areas where this type of construction is a little more common, but not so much for the ‘burbs. In short, I studied some other sales in outlying areas, but they really weren’t similar enough to justify using them as comps.
2) Too unique or not: One of the things I like to keep in mind is whether there is a market or not for a unique home. In this case the house had vibe and there was a good chance the market was going to respond positively to the Southwestern feel. In my mind this property really just felt more like a custom home rather than something a particular owner built that nobody else would want. By the way, here’s a local house called “The Shipwreck House.” Is there a huge market for something like this?
3) Location, location, location: I gave strong weight to the actual location of the house in the 95841 zip code. I asked myself what would be a reasonable price for a custom and unique home of this size for the location (it was on 0.55 acres too, which helped).
4) Other unique homes: I didn’t have other straw-bale comps in the local market, but I did consider other interesting properties. In fact, some Realtor friends on Facebook definitely came through in pointing me toward adobe homes and ICF block homes. One of the strongest comps in my mind was this house below that was located three miles away in a different zip code.
5) Price position in the market: When something is unique I consider all neighborhood sales, anything that is remotely comparable, and definitely where the top and bottom of the price market is. Then I ask a big question. Where does the subject property fit in the context of the price market?
I hope that was helpful or interesting.
Questions: What do you think of this house? Any other tips? Any stories about when you valued (or listed) a unique home?