With its recent certification for Passivhaus performance and a LEED for Homes Platinum certification that it landed earlier in the year, the Prescott Passive House in Kansas City, Kansas, has wrapped itself in some hefty green-credential vestments. The problem is, these articles of high greenness still aren’t enough to offset whatever reservations prospective buyers might have about the neighborhood or the house, whose original, $180,000 asking price has been dropped 11.6%, to $159,000.
GBA cited the marketing woes of the three-bedroom, 1,700-sq.-ft. Prescott Passive House back in July, noting that the $180,000 price of the house – the sixth residential project of the University of Kansas School of Architecture and Urban Planning’s design-build program, Studio 804 – wasn’t high enough reflect the true cost of labor and materials, but was calculated to merely keep school program solvent while targeting prospective buyers earning 80% or less of the area median income.
Studio 804 noted that it collaborated with Community Housing of Wyandotte County and the Prescott Neighborhood Group to produce a home that would serve as “as a catalyst to both educate the homeowner and the community.”
The best house on the block
That mission may still be intact, but some of the lessons being learned are not necessarily the intended ones. The house has met its performance and sustainability goals, and became the first residence in the state designed to meet the Passivhaus standard. From a technical perspective, it was a worthy teaching tool for students participating in Studio 804, which is led by Dan Rockhill, a professor at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning. It seems that roughly half the commenters on the various websites that have posted items about the house (including GBA) like the way it looks; the rest don’t, or point out that the building seems out of character for the neighborhood.
The neighborhood may in fact be an excellent place to nurture construction of high-performance homes, but it also presents sales challenge. “It’s going to take a certain kind of person who’s going to want to live there,” Rockhill told the Lawrence Journal World & News this week, noting that Prescott Passive House was intentionally placed in an area that’s struggling economically in an effort to revitalize the neighborhood.
And that appears to be the rub.
The average residential listing price in Kansas City is $125,789, and the median sales price in the area is $65,000, according to real estate search service Trulia. The average listing price for homes in the neighborhood that includes Prescott Passive House, according to Trulia data for September through November, is about $59,830, although the average sales price is somewhat higher, at about $61,200 – still a major price disparity between Prescott Passive House and the local average. So, it seems, the tension between the ambitions to revitalize the neighborhood with a high-performance home and the realities of the current real estate market will be difficult to overcome.