Northside home buyers seek energy-efficient homes. But how does that impact home prices?

Posted at 5:00 AM, Nov 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-27 19:13:35-05

While many of us are planning what to bake or bring for Thanksgiving this week, Angela Meyer has a few other items on her plate besides turkey and gravy. She's getting married this week. She's also moving into a new home with her soon-to-be husband.

The home is a like-new rehabbed home in Northside. And, while many homes currently on the market in Northside are listed for around $200,000 or more, Meyer's home cost twice that amount. That's partly because, when completed, it should qualify as a platinum LEED home.

LEED stands for "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design." It's a certification standard established by the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council that measures the "greenness" of a home. This designation can raise the value of a home because of the money a homeowner is likely to save over time from energy savings.

"I just think it's so important anywhere we can make a difference, even if it's super small, that we do that," Meyer said.

Of the 150 homes most recently listed in Northside, Meyer's new home is the most expensive. But home prices in Northside have been rising for years, according to Sarah Thomas, executive director of Northsiders Engaged in Sustainable Transformation, also known as NEST. She said that in 2018, the Multiple Listings Service of Greater Cincinnati indicated the median home price in Northside was $198,000.

Kitchen inside Northside LEED Platinum home

Some see the price increases as signaling a shift in the neighborhood toward higher-priced homes and away from more affordable homes.

But Matthew Strausbaugh -- who owns Strausbaugh Construction Services and did the work on Meyer's home -- said he believes there is room for a range of incomes in Northside.

"Northside's always been like a melting pot for all types of people," Strausbaugh said. "And, that's one of the reasons I've always loved Northside. I believe that there's enough housing stock in the neighborhood to where lower-income people can still be part of the neighborhood. And, also, we can do houses like this, to where some people that are maybe middle class can live next door."

Meanwhile, LEED-certified homes can push the economic levels higher.

"There's a great demand for LEED properties today in our market," said Julia Wesselkamper, a realtor with Coldwell Banker-West Shell who sold the home to Meyer. LEED homes can be certified gold, silver or platinum, which is the highest certification level. The certification, based on a 100-point rating system, means the homes are more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. They may cost more to build or rehab, but the payoff can be city of Cincinnati tax abatements.

"Almost every home being built in Cincinnati right now is using LEED standards," said Chuck Lohre, owner of Lohre & Associates, which focuses on promoting green initiatives in Cincinnati. He said the cost of LEED fees and inspections can be around $6,000, but the city's 15-year tax abatement for LEED-certified homes is an attractive incentive to builders and homebuyers. Another incentive is lower utility bills.

"To imagine not having to really pay that much for energy, long term, is kind of like icing on the cake, for the house," Meyer said.

According the website, Northside is the 10th best neighborhood in which to buy a house in Cincinnati. It also lists the area as having an "urban suburban" feel and a large number of young professionals.

"We're not trying to run people out of the neighborhood," Strausbaugh said. "We're trying to bring fresh, new people into the neighborhood to live with the people that are here."

Meyer said she and her fiance were drawn to Northside for its vibrancy and blend of residents.

"I feel like in Northside, you get to be who you are, that everyone is welcome," Meyer said. "It's a place that is figuring itself out in the most positive way. I feel like Northside is actually one of those communities that is the most diverse in terms of where you can come in at different economic levels."

Strausbaugh said he owned the previous home that stood on the lot and tore down all but one wall. He said the previous home was about 700 square feet, and needed a lot of work. Since he always wanted to build a LEED house, he said, this one seemed like a good opportunity. The home includes things like thicker walls for thicker insulation, energy-efficient windows and heating system, and wood that doesn't impact the rain forest. The home also had to meet clean-air requirements.

"We're going to be installing solar panels on the roof to lower the energy usage," he added.

Meanwhile, Meyer is looking forward to the holidays with her new husband in their new home.

"My vision is to have a lot of parties on the deck, and just meet all the neighbors," she said.