Getting a straw bale home appraised is one of the harder aspects of construction. Why? Because there are not very many, if any, comparable sales of straw bale homes out there. So how do you jump this hurdle? There are a couple ways to do it.
The first and most promising way is to make sure the appraiser knows why there are no comparable sales near you. The reason is that people who buy straw bale homes don’t often sell them. This is not because they are hard to sell but rather because they are such amazing homes that people don’t want to leave. Most of the homes I have built over the years are end user homes. This means that the people plan to live in their straw bale home until they die. At that time, the will likely hand the house down in their will to their children. I’m serious, bale home owners love their bale homes! The problem for you and me is that because they don’t put their homes for sale on the after market (meaning a sale that does not include the original construction of the home) we struggle to find comparable sales. I have found, however, that when my appraiser knew that the reason for this lack of homes was that they are super desirable, not that they were unmarketable, my appraised value went UP.
Another approach with finding a comparable sale is to recognize that many, if not all, of the bale homes will not be listed in the MLS (multiple Listing Service) as straw bale homes. Think about it, how many times have you looked to buy a home off the MLS as a fiberglass insulation house? Probably never. Bale homes are homes first and bales second. Finding a listing that specifies straw bale may not be possible. One avenue that might be productive is looking at “alternative homes.” Sometimes homes may be listed as such. This may include SIPs homes, rammed earth, log homes, and others, but they can often be used as comparable sales because they are “different” just like straw bale homes. Use whatever you can find to get the values the appraiser needs. The fact is, a bale home will ultimately have a better value than a conventional home in the long run. They are more efficient, sound proof and fire proof. All of these details will become more and more desirable as time passes.
Finally, you can look at other straw bale homes built in your area and ask those owners how they got financing. There is a good list, albeit incomplete as not everyone wants to list their home on a public record, at www.GreenBuilder.com. You can look for mortgage companies, home owners, and insurance companies on this site.
As a closing piece, keep in mind that banks don’t finance “fiberglass insulated homes,” so why should they finance a “straw bale home?” Unless you plan to build a load bearing structure, you don’t have to tell anyone in the banking system that you are building with bales. You are building a post and beam home with cellulose insulation. I prefer to tell people that I am building with bales and push the envelope a little in hopes of helping the next person; however, if I am up against a wall and have only 2 or 3 potential banks left on my call list, I will revert to the post and beam style description to ensure I get an approval.