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What You Should Look For When Buying a Resilient House

I just got back from a very successful business trip to Austin, Texas — home to both positive people and amazing food.

While there, I had a chance to hold a Resilient Community meet-up at Lamberts (where we enjoyed some of the best barbecue I’ve ever eaten).  As you would expect, it was a great group and we had a lively discussion.  At the lunch, Jon Lebkowsky (the former “Internet guy” for Whole Foods) asked a great question.  He was in the process of buying a new home and wondered if I had any insight on how to buy a Resilient House.

Wow.  That’s a big question.  It’s definitely a question that is worth a full, well researched, report.   Particularly since the resilience of a home is going to become a major driver of home valuations going forward.

Unfortunately, that report isn’t going to be written overnight.   So, here are some thoughts on how to buy a resilient house in the meantime.

An Introduction to Buying a Resilient Home

A resilient house isn’t an empty box you can sleep in and stash your things.

Instead, a resilient house is a dynamic asset.  It produces food, energy, water, and much more.  It makes it easier for you to succeed in the world.

First, the location and the community it is part of is extremely important.  A community that supports efforts to become resilient is a thousand times better than a community that fights every improvement.

NOTE:  Our world is becoming very competitive and turbulent.  Due to this unmitigated long tail risk, communities that aren’t resilient may end up looking like Braddock:

Condemned houses in Braddock, Pennsylvania

How can you tell if a community is resilient?  Here are some questions to get you thinking:  Does the zoning allow you to grow food in your yard?  Are community garden plots available?  Does it have a farmer’s market and is a CSA available?  Is rainwater harvesting encouraged?  Does your town have a micro-grid or a power company?  Does it have a maker or coworker space you can join?  Is it  connected to high speed Internet?

Second, is the house itself.  Traditional valuations are all about square footage and amenities (number of bathrooms, kitchen features, etc.).   Resilient valuations are largely based on the ability to produce food, energy, water, and other things in the future.

So, here’s some things to get you thinking on what to look for when evaluating a house that is going to increase in value in the future.  Look for a:

  • Roof that faces the sun’s path, in order to maximize the home’s ability to generate solar power.
  • Yard, regardless of the size, that has good soil (optimally, soil with a high organic material percentage).  Get it tested.
  • Gutter system on the roof that will enable rainwater harvesting in the future (as well as the right materials).

That’s just the start.  There’s LOTS more.  I’ll put them all into a the report on this and structure it as a checklist and add some diagrams to make it easier to evaluate.

Well, that’s it for today.  See you again on Saturday.

Resiliently Yours,

JOHN ROBB

PS:  If you are interested in setting up a rainwater harvesting system and need some help, please consider consulting Devin, a contributing expert at Resilient Communities.  His hands on experience and insight can save you lots of hassles and $$ on your future system.

PPS:  If your house is your retirement program (few people make money on stocks/bonds anymore), then this report on “how to buy a resilient home” is going to be something you can’t afford to miss.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • To put it simply, you’re not going to find many resilient houses. You’ll have to make one yourself, for now.

    So next post is, how do you select a house to make resilient? I’ve looked at buying a house for a short term, to make it resilient then sell as such, but it takes a fair amount of capital to start that process.

  • different clue

    Here is a website about someone who bought a house which wasn’t resilient when he bought it. But it was resilientizable. And he has been resilientizing it.
    http://members.efn.org/~spencerj/New%20Website/Suburban%20Pages/Suburban%20Renewal.htm

    After one did all this to a house, one could then install some kind of scientific waterfree compostoilet system to turn all one’s “terminally used food” into garden-soil plantfood for another solar-driven nutrient cycle through plantbodies into the homeowner’s own body.

  • Paul Rector

    John, I may need to replace a hot water heater soon (I just learned about the magnesium sacrificial rod, something that would have been useful to know about in years past), and I wonder if you or the other folks on this site have any advice on making a resilient choice. We have a well and natural gas, and no power backup as of yet. My first thought is to ask whether conventional hot water is an expectation we should have after the SHTF. If so, how do you do it well in an energy omnivore way? At the hardware store the limited choices look like gas or electric, and tank or on demand. I would like to add a wood burning sidekick to my gas furnace and have seen a hot water attachment on one model. Are there any other ideas out there? Thanks!

    • John Robb

      Paul,

      Great question. First off, I’ve been to lots of places where the SHTF (and some where it never stops) and you can still have hot water if you are resilient. It’s a major quality of life issue.

      The big question is which system to use?

      There are lots of choices. Gas, electric, solar, wood, CHP, and more.

      Solar hot water + a gas backup might be the solution you are looking for. They pay off pretty quickly and you can DiY a good bit of the install costs if you are handy with plumbing.

      Here’s an example of a system:

      http://www.swgas.com/resmkt/appliances/Solargaswaterheating.pdf

      JR

      • Paul Rector

        Wonderful, thanks for the advice!

  • Martin

    Well, as someone who’s not likely to afford a house in the foreseeable future* I’m asking myself now – what can one do to achieve some resilience?
    Some thoughts:
    Join/start gardening group
    Join/start makerspace

    The wider question is wether we want to look at resillience as something the middle class folks buy to buffer themselves against the coming catastrophy, or something for everyone?

    *I live in germany, building traditions are different here and houses more expensive – but even leaving that aside, there’s lots of people anywhere who can’t afford housing.

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