Most of the inquiries that go through our site go to our sellers; however, we also receive direct emails from buyers asking for advice about where to buy or asking us to keep an eye out for specific types of property for them. When we first launched the site, I had an email that read something like this:
"We are looking for a place to build an off-the-grid, sustainable living home. We would like to purchase a few acres of land with riverfront or a stream to create micro hydro power."
Although I knew of a movement towards sustainable living, I was surprised to see an inquiry like this so soon after the site launched; however, the percent of inquiries like this that come through to us have made me wonder if we could set up some kind of a search for these properties (although I imagine this might be quite complicated!).
All of this interest got me wondering what I didn't know that these people knew, so I delved a little deeper into the reasons for their desire to live off the grid.
The reasons all seem to come down to the same thing-attempting to make less of a footprint on the earth while having your own means of creating energy in a possible future of global warming and a certain future of higher energy costs. Here is a citation from a recent email from a buyer from "down-south," who references the film www.whatawaytogomovie.com to qualify his statement:
"I (only) passed through there (Vancouver Island) on the way to Glacier Bay, Alaska in '05 while investigating the effects of climate change, the results of which are one of the reasons I am relocating. The other reason being that the entire informed and concerned population of North America seems to be headed your way for the same reason, so I should be in good company regardless."
After doing a bit of research on global warming, it seems that many areas of B.C., while they will be effected to a degree by global warming, may be a safer bet than areas such as the southern States (particularly parts of California, Florida, Georgia & Alabama) and large cities in Asia and India. I even managed to find this web site www.droughtscore.com, which informs people looking to relocate in the US on where to live to avoid drought (!) and another article about lack of water supply and the problems it is causing in Georgia, Florida & Alabama. The owner of www.droughtscore.com, Bert Sperling even lists the areas most at risk for being affected by global warming in the US on his web site www.bestplaces.net. Click here for article. Click here for US Drought monitor.
Although riverfront land may be at risk of increased flooding from warming, it seems the trade off (energy and water availability) is more than worth the risk of living somewhere with no access to either. The key with this type of property would be to build at a safe distance from the riverbank to protect your buildings and ensure you are also protecting the ecosystem by creating a good environment for salmon spawning.
While there is some concern about large scale micro-hydro initiatives in B.C. (click here for article), it seems most of the buyers who email us are looking to create small versions for themselves of what the energy giants are tapping into with the government's recent focus on "greener" energy initiatives.
It is not just in our area of the real estate industry that people are becoming more aware of eco-friendly ways of living. A recent survey by Royal LePage showed that almost 75% of Canadian homebuyers are looking for a "green-improved" property in their next home and that 63% would pay more for an environmentally friendly home. Certain players in the building industry are already responding with more eco-friendly development practices. Home Depot now produces the "Eco-Options" magazine to highlight its "green" products and the latest edition of "This Old House" to arrive at our door was titled "Save Money, Save Energy, Build Smart: 53 pages of products and projects for a safer, healthier home."
Some real estate brokerages are even going green including one in Vancouver, MacDonald Realty, which has recently launched a program called MacGreen. The program is a carbon-offsetting plan (free to buyers and sellers) whereby the real estate agents can donate carbon credits as part of the real estate transaction. In an industry where driving is a necessary part of the job, this is one way the agents and brokerages can contribute to the health of the environment.
(If you are interested in buying or selling a waterfront/view property in the Lower Mainland and partcipating in this program, please contact our member Realtor and environmental lawyer, Patricia Houlihan at 604-376-7653 or visit her website at www.waterfrontvancouver.ca.)