There was a time when I thought that success was measured by making a lot of money, so I became a spec builder. I partnered up with a former boss who had made a lot of money in that business before, and we went to town. One lesson I learned from that time was how to build houses that would sell for as much money per square foot as possible while costing as little to build per square foot as possible. The market is capped at a certain price, and every dollar we spent that didn’t raise the value of the home by its cost plus our gross profit literally came out of our own pockets.
The other lesson I learned from that time is that money is only one way to measure the value of work. Spec building was a soul-sucking experience for me, but the lessons abide.
Three quarters of American homes are built on spec . And every spec builder faces the same reality that I did—if you add a that feature doesn’t pay, you just bought that feature for the future homeowner. That’s an expensive hobby.
It comes down to what buyers want and appraisers value. I wanted to build more energy efficient houses, but when it came to green building, it seems buyers and appraisers have only a vague idea of the worth. In the hierarchy of desirable features that raise the selling price of a home, energy upgrades are right up there with such mundanities as the absence of asbestos or a new roof. Sources say that even recognized programs such as Energy Star only boost the value of a home by 1% to 3%. New paint is probably at least as important to most buyers as something as arcane as air-sealing.