A Comeback for the Green-Home Market?

It’s no secret that selling green homes has hit the skids thanks to years of a tight credit market and more and more consumers concerned about day-to-day expenses. But with an economy apparently on the mend, some say more homebuyers are at least kicking the tires on green building again.

After four years, Pulte’s Villa Trieste in Summerlin—the only LEED-certified residential community in Las Vegas—is finally wrapping up sales of its 185-home subdivision, with about 20 units left.

Since the LEED for Homes program was launched in 2008, more than 20,000 homes have been certified around the country. Fewer than 200, however, are in Las Vegas. Nationally, 79,000 more LEED-certified units are in the pipeline, the U.S. Green Building Council says. With Nevada—thanks to major resort, office and retail projects—consistently among the nation’s leaders in overall LEED-certified square footage, it stands to reason that we’ll see some of that uptick here in the Valley.

LEED, of course, is not the only indicator of green efforts. Shea Homes, at its Ardiente community in North Las Vegas, began offering its SheaXero homes early last year. Shea has sold 87 units since the community opened in 2010, according to local real estate analytics firm Salestraq. But 43 sales have occurred since Shea launched the green concept. The promise is for a near-zero energy bill, with the help of a roof-mounted solar system. The units are even relatively affordable, starting at about $200,000 for a 1,580-square-foot home. (Villa Trieste’s nearly 1,500-square-foot units start at $250,000.)

Meanwhile, price-conscious buyers are becoming interested in more modest green samplings. Take Pardee Homes’ LivingSmart offerings in Providence and Mountain’s Edge, and in other Valley communities; the company has been tinkering with energy efficiency since the late 1990s, and today proudly offers a very “sealed” home built at least 15 to 20 percent above code, says Joyce Mason, Pardee’s vice president of marketing. The price-conscious and simple-green approach has helped Pardee keep sales consistent through the Great Recession: It sold 264 Valley homes in 2012, an up year, but still sold more than 200 units annually from 2009 through 2011 as well. The homes also include plenty of green touches, such as low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints, Energy Star appliances and radiant barrier roof sheathing. But Pardee hasn’t entirely bought into solar yet.

“In some areas we do have solar options,” Mason says. “But it really still tends to be a little pricey.”