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How much do sustainable homes cost?

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As a homebuyer, you probably have a list of essential aspects you require to consider a house as your possible home. For some homebuyers, finding a property with enough square footage is necessary. For others, proximity to amenities or good schools is a dealbreaker. But for 86% of millennial homebuyers, buying sustainable homes is just as important as a big kitchen or updated master bathroom.

If you are searching for one of these homes, it’s a good idea to be acquainted with what makes a home sustainable. You should also consider how much they cost, and where you should look to find them.

What makes a home sustainable?

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First, let’s talk about what we mean when we talk about sustainable homes. A sustainable home can be either purpose-built or an existing home that has been retrofitted. These homes consume very little energy to operate and use very little water. Energy-efficient homes may or may not be constructed using eco-friendly materials. Some homes might exist within a broader sustainable development or be a stand-alone project.

An excellent way to determine if a home is sustainable or not is by examining its Energuide rating. The Energuide rating service was developed by Natural Resources Canada to give Canadians a universal way to determine the energy efficiency of their houses. The Energuide system measures a home’s efficiency on a scale of 0 to 100. A home with a zero rating has major efficiency problems, including significant air leakage issues, no insulation, and very high energy consumption. 

A home with an Energuide rating of 100 is exceptionally airtight, has excellent insulation, and generates its own energy – usually from solar panels. This guide from BC Hydro is a perfect starting point for interpreting an Energuide label.

Type of houseEnerguide rating
Older house, not upgraded0 to 50
Upgraded older house51 to 65
Energy-efficient upgraded older house or typical new home66 to 74
Energy-efficient new house75 to 79
Highly energy-efficient new house80 to 90
House that uses little to no energy91 to 100

Homes are assessed for Energuide ratings by Certified Energy Evaluators and based on a rating system that is the same from Nova Scotia to British Columbia. If you’re looking for an older sustainable home, it should have an Energuide rating of at least 66 or higher. Newer eco-friendly homes should have an Energuide rating of at least 75.

Where do you look for sustainable homes for sale?

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Sustainable homes are available in the Canadian real estate marketplace, but they aren’t plentiful. If buying a sustainable home with many green features is crucial to you, here’s where to look, and how much you’ll expect to pay.

Look for existing housing

If you’re looking for energy-efficient homes for sale in Canada, you have a few options. First, you can let your real estate agent know that a high Energuide rating is important to you, so they can filter out any potential homes that aren’t eco-friendly. Second, you can use websites like EcoProperty.ca to watch for listings of green homes in your area.

Sustainability is a selling point like any other unique feature in a home like a finished basement or an income suite. Still, you won’t pay a considerable premium to purchase an eco-friendly home. According to GreenBuildingCanada.ca, sustainable homes sell between 0.5% to 2% more than an average home. That means if you are looking to purchase a home in the Toronto area for the average selling price in that city of $1,000,000, you can expect to pay an extra $20,000 for green home features.

Find sustainable home developments and builders

Sustainable homes are, unfortunately, still relatively rare in Canada. It may be more sensible in some cities to seek out a development centred around sustainable principles or build a sustainable home yourself.

Fortunately, there are many eco-friendly home builders available to help make your dreams come true and claim to be able to do so without any premium. For example, this builder in Winnipeg, Manitoba, says that you can purchase their eco-friendly homes for the same cost as the average prefabricated home. Other sources indicate you’ll pay about 5% more for a sustainable home after rebates and incentives. If you’re interested in building, here’s a list of home builders across Canada with experience building net-zero homes.

Suppose you’d prefer a new home that is extremely energy efficient, to the point of not consuming any outside energy at all. In that case, you may need to look specifically at sustainable home developments, either existing homes or condo buildings built with sustainability in mind. If you’re looking for sustainability in a new construction condo building, keep an eye out for LEED certification. This certification is an eco-friendly certification program for larger buildings administered by the Canada Green Building Council.

Sustainable homes won’t be rare forever

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While it’s true that eco-friendly homes – either brand new or existing – aren’t easy to come by now, that won’t be the case forever. Efficiency requirements for homes have changed significantly. They will continue to reach net-zero requirements for all new homes built by 2030. That means all new homes built in 2030 must produce as much energy as they consume.

Until then, the sustainable homes that exist aren’t exceptionally more expensive than traditional homes. They’ll usually pay the value forward in the form of lower energy requirements, exceptional comfort, overall longevity and a higher value.

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Jordann Brown

Jordann Brown is a marketing and communications professional living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. As the owner of an 83-year-old cottage, and with a passion for renewable energy, Jordann spends much of her time working on home renovations. Founder of the popular personal finance blog, My Alternate Life, Jordann has been featured in many notable publications including The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, CTV News and CBC.