Blog

Home Contact John About Biography Dreamcatcher Blog

MLS# 86068
MLS# 89484
MLS# 89687
MLS# 90341
MLS# 90533
MLS# 91860
MLS# 91911
MLS# 92881
MLS# 93229
MLS# 93428
MLS# 93467
Others
Not Earthships

MLS# 83786
MLS# 86338
MLS# 87603
MLS# 89241
MLS# 89804

Taos Earthships

by John Kejr

John Kejr, the only real estate broker specializing in the sale of earthship homesWelcome to my blog.  Here regularly I write on earthships or any other topic that I think might be of interest to people visiting this website.  Please check back often as I add new material.  If you can think of anything that you would like to see covered, please tell me by using the comment form below.

Shortcut to nightly rental information.

February 11, 2010 Why so quiet here?

This blog has faded as I have put my posting energies into my Facebook Fan Page.  The format for posting and keep in with fans is just better there and I can interact with my viewers.  Even if you are not a part of Facebook, you can check out my page at any time without joining to see my notes and postings, and those of others who post there. 

Meanwhile, I will keep this page up as an archive.  But just don't expect too much new here.

September 11, 2009 - Automatic email notifications of earthships now limited to Colorado and New Mexico

Beginning September 7, 2009 the Taos MLS changed its listing rules to only allow listings within the states of New Mexico and Colorado.  Therefore, notifications will only be from listings within these states. 

My Facebook Fan page will include updates from all areas.  I encourage you to visit it and become a fan if you wish to have notifications sent to your Facebook page.

August 28, 2009 - Visit my Facebook Fan Page.

Visit my Facebook Fan Page.

Please check out my Facebook fan page.  If you are already using Facebook, sign up as a fan to get regular updates and be able to participate in the interactive.  If you are not a Facebook user, you can still visit the page, but you will be unable to interact with it until you became a member. 

Unlike my personal page, the fan page is designed for business.  Anyone can view content, and signing up to receive regular feeds on your Facebook page and other participation does not require me to accept you as a friend or you to provide me personal information.

The Facebook page give me much more flexibility  than I am able to get through the Automatic Email notifications.  Upcoming changes to our Multiple Listing Service will soon only automatically email listings of properties in New Mexico and Colorado.  Many people prefer not to get the emails are willing to get on Facebook.

My strategy for using Facebook evolves daily so expect changes and interesting content.  I hope that you will check it out.

 

 

Please check out my Facebook fan page.  If you are already using Facebook, sign up as a fan to get regular updates and be able to participate in the interactive.  If you are not a Facebook user, you can still visit the page, but you will be unable to interact with it until you became a members

Unlike my personal page, the fan page is designed for business.  Anyone can view content, and signing up to receive regular feeds on your facebook page and other participation does not require me to accept you as a friend or you to provide me personal information.

The Facebook page give me much more flexiblilty than I am able to get through the Automatic Email notifications.  Upcoming changes to our Multiple Listing Service will soon only automatically email listings of properties in New Mexico and Colorado.  Many people prefer not to get the emails are willing to get on Facebook.

My strategy for using Facebook evolves daily so expect changes and interesting content.  I hope that you will check it out.

August 24, 2009 - Article on Enchanted Homes Magazine - Excellent Earthship Adventure

Enchanted Homes, Northern New Mexico's Real Estate & Living Magazine, sent a reporter along with me, Michael Reynolds of Earthship Biotecture, and Pavel Lukes (Dreamcatcher Real Estate's qualifying broker) when we took a private plane to Phoenix, AZ to look at an unfinished earthship and consult with the new owners as to what would be needed to complete and sell it.  It was one of those wonderful opportunities to both have an adventure and get some good press.  The magazine wrote a two page article telling of this fun daytrip and featured it in the August/September 2009 edition.  Click here to read of our excellent earthship adventure.

The owners of this earthship are presently pursing their options and do not have it on the market, though they still wish to sell.  Let me know if you have interest in it.

August 11, 2009 - Follow me on Twitter

For those of you who Twitter, I invite you to follow me at http://twitter.com/johnkejr.  My tweets will be generally earthship-related but I make no guarantees.  I won't be one of those who posts a gazillion times a day saying "I'm hungry" and stupid stuff like that. 

I have just started experimenting with Twitter and am interested to see what value it has.  Time waster or valuable business tool?  Time will tell.

June 17, 2009 - Wall Street Journal article

A while back, I was contacted by the Wall Street Journal wanting to feature an earthship in their "house of the day" entry in the online version.  They chose the Corner Cottage Click here to view the article.  Following is my press release that I distributed to the local media:

Taos, NM, June 18, 2009. For their “house of the day feature”, The Wall Street Journal Online Edition choose the Corner Cottage Earthship in Greater World Community just outside of Taos, for today’s entry.  This earthship, listed with Dreamcatcher Real Estate for $440,000, joins recent entries such as a $9.95 million Palm Beach, Florida mansion, a $14.9 million Montana Ranch, a home in Kentucky that was part of the Extreme Makeover television show, castles in Connecticut and the Berkshires and other spectacular properties.  The earthship article may be seen online at http://blogs.wsj.com/developments/2009/06/18/you-can-live-here-just-dont-call-it-a-house/.

Every day the Wall Street Journal online features a different property that they believe will be of interest to their readers.  The article discusses green homes of the future, the earthship concept, and information and photographs of the home.

John Kejr of Dreamcatcher Real Estate, the listing broker for this property, and Michael Reynolds of Earthship Biotecture were instrumental in providing the Wall Street Journal information and photographs needed to complete this feature. 

June 17, 2009 - Financing and Appraisals.

After a couple of rough months in the real estate market, things are starting to churn it bit.  One question I get is, "Are banks lending on earthships?" To which I respond, "Are banks lending on ANYTHING?"  My last several earthship sales have been cash or seller financed, so it is very difficult for me to answer whether earthships are presenting any obstacles to financing beyond the difficulties that just about any borrower is facing these days. 

One change is the appraisal process.  It used to be that I would refer buyers to lenders who I knew would locate appraisers who were familiar with earthships and off-grid homes and get the deal done.  Now, the latest federal law says that the lenders cannot choose the appraisers.  Instead they order the appraiser through an "appraisal processing company" that chooses the appraiser and orders the appraisal.  These companies are out of the area and will most likely choose the cheapest appraiser that they can find - which usually won't be the best and may be completely unfamiliar with our market.  I have heard horror stories about these appraisers with other properties not coming up with realistic values.  Like I said above,  I have not had any recent experience with these appraisals for earthships.  But it will be interesting to see what happens.

October 9, 2008 - Quoted in MarketingSherpa blog

A group called MarketingSherpa recently interviewed me and wrote about how I market earthships.  Click here to read their article.  Of all off of the specialty real estate agents in the country, it is amazing that they even found me, not to mention chose to feature me in the article.  It kind of blows my mind.  Thank you all for your support that enables me to do this.

The article mentions that I have "an enviable SERP".  What's a SERP?  Good question - I had to look it up myself.  SERP is short for Search Engine Results Page.  Basically this means that when you search "earthships" on any of the major search engines, my site appears near the top.

According to their website, MarketingSherpa researches what works in marketing via exclusive Case Studies, surveys, results data analysis and lab tests. They then publish what they learn so their community of marketers and weekly readers can improve their results and train their teams. The Economist, Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge Site, and Entrepreneur.com have all praised MarketingSherpa. MarketingSherpa is headquartered in Warren RI, USA.

Notification Subscribers and Counting

To those of you who visit this website I thank you.  It is you who have allowed me to become the leading real estate broker selling earthships and similar homes.  It is such an encouragement to received the regular flow of inquiries on a daily basis.  It is even more encouraging when it gives me the opportunity to sell one.

One testimony of the loyalty that this site has is that since setting up the automatic notification service just over a month ago, 63 of you have signed up for it.   This blows my mind.  I thought that I may have a handful - perhaps a couple dozen, but I had no idea that this would be so popular.  Thank you again.  As you can imagine, when I mention this to earthship sellers looking to list, it really puts me in a strong position as nowhere else can sellers be assured of reaching such a targeted market.   This in turn allows me to provide a better site to you with more listings.

If you are considering signing up for the notification service, I would encourage you to do so.  I get a number of requests for me to call or personally email people whenever there is a new listing that might be of interest to them.  Keeping up with all of these requests becomes impossible.  I just can't do it.  That is where the technology helps me by having the computer send notifications - even on days when I am out of the office and not able to respond.

On the subject of notification, I can customize them for you - not just for earthships, but for any type of property for sale in Northern New Mexico.  Just let me know what you are after, and I can create a custom search and notification for you.  The other day, I had someone wanting to be notified when of land listings that front the Costilla River - a great fly fishing stream.  I set this up.  Contact me and let me know what types of listings you would like to see and I will do the same for you.

August 28, 2008 - Listings across the Mississippi

My latest listing in Pulaski, TN is the farthest from the Taos area that I have listed.  Colorado, Tennessee, and New Mexico are now featured here on this website (Arizona may be coming). 

The long distant listing process presents some unique challenges.  Fortunately, my nephew Andrew Tse lives about an hour a way, and he graciously went down and took the pictures and gave me enough information that I could compose a good description without actually having visited.  Showings are coordinated with a local broker so I don't have to travel across the country whenever someone wants to take a look.  Of course if someone wants to sell an earthship in Hawaii, I may just have to go down and show it occasionally.

August 15, 2008 - Automatic Email Notification of New Listings Available.

I am pleased to announce a new service to visitors of this website.  Would you like to receive email alerts whenever there is a new earthship, off-grid home, or related property listed in the Taos County Association of Realtor's Multiple Listing Service?  If so, please sign up for my automated alert service.  By doing so, you will be among the first to know an any new listings - both those of mine and any of other brokers.

I have more information on the sign up page.  This is also the same page that you can use to tell me to stop sending the emails should you choose to unsubscribe.  The service is free so please give it a try.

August 7, 2008 - As Now Seen on Google Earth

" Hey, I saw one of your videos on Google Earth, and I have some questions about a certain property", the caller said.

After answering his questions, it was my turn.  "You said that you saw the videos on Google Earth;  how exactly did you do that?"

He explained that if you have your settings right, Google Earth will show the locations where YouTube videos were shot.  I tweaked the settings on Google Earth, and was able to do so.  The picture to the left shows a Google Earth screenshot of the Greater World Community with YouTube logos.  Within Google Earth, you can click on these and see the videos (mine and any others loaded by other YouTube users tagged to a particular spot).

To configure Google Earth, download and open the program.  In your Layers section on the left, open Primary Database, then Gallery.  Check the box that says "YouTube".  You are then good to go.  Beware, this is a very addictive and habit forming activity that will severely damage your productivity.

When I upload my videos to YouTube, I enter in the GPS coordinates, which Google Earth then uses to place the icons.  Because of this, you can be confident that the locations of my videos are accurately represented.

Another item of good news regarding Google Earth, they recently improved their resolution of images over this area of New Mexico.  This makes it possible to see detail that was up until recently unavailable.

July 25, 2008 - Pikes Peak or Bust

Today marks a milestone on this website in that we now have two states represented.  MLS# 85533 is my first listing in the state of Colorado.  Lately I have have had sellers from outside of the Taos area looking to list their earthships with me.  I have several signed listing agreements in Colorado and Tennessee and am negotiating them in other states as well. 

Representing properties outside of our immediate areas is always a challenge for people practicing real estate.  How do we represent a property that is hours away?  How do we keep arrange showings when we are not there?  How do the the local and state laws allow us to do this?  The solution is that we team up with local agents.  I market the property to earthship buyers and they market in their local area. They handle all of the local inquiries and schedule showings. 

I find it exciting and interesting to have this opportunity.  I other earthship sellers to contact me about selling their earthships regards of where they are located.

November 14, 2007-Earthship DVD

In addition to the resources that you may purchase from the Amazon.com links on my About Earthships page, I occasionally find information on other resources that you may be interested in.  John Neumann has produced a DVD called Ultimate Solar Homes which can be ordered from his website.  The site features a number of earthship pictures that I have not seen elsewhere. You may wish to check it out if you wish to expand your earthship library (note, I have not seen the DVD). 

October 1, 2007 - Jamaica earthship internship

Anyone wishing to combine a trip to Jamaica with learning about building earthships may wish to contact Earthship Biotecture regarding the following upcomming project.  You may visit their website at http://Earthship.org.

Earthship Biotecture will be starting a project in Negril, Jamaica in February of 2008. The Earthship Commando team from our headquarters in Taos, New Mexico led by Earthship inventor Michael Reynolds will spend 3 weeks building an Earthship structure. There will be positions available for eight trainees for each of the three weeks. Fees for the training will be $350 per week (not including room and board).

Session 1: February 25th-29th
Session 2: March 3rd-7th
Session 3: March 10th-14th

June 14, 2007 - Earthship Inventory

While talk may of a slow real estate market, the earthship market is strong.  Two of my 2 bedroom earthship listings closed last week.  Recently I also put another earthship (one listed with another agent not listed on this site) under contract.  If I had more two bedroom listings in the less-than-$300,000 range, I could sell them tomorrow.

For those of you looking for a small earthship as a getaway, may I recommend my newest listing.  While only about 750 square feet, it has its own bedroom, bathroom, and greatroom.  At $129,000 its price makes it attainable for those looking for a second home or a small primary residence.

Since my video tours of earthships have been quite well received, I filmed this home and placed it on this homes page.  Please check it out and let me know if you have any interest in the little gem of an earthship.

May 30, 2007 - Are Earthships underpowered?

I received the following message posted from a visitor to this webpage:

I have lived now 10 years with solar power, hauled my water, and grown food in my greenhouse.

This past weekend I toured Earthships in Taos. The ideas are great, but what I see, is the turnover.  This is because not enough solar power, wind power is supplied on most homes. 2 people that want to live somewhat normal lives, cannot do it with the amount of solar I saw on the homes their. A 2 person home should have 3000 watts of power min. with batteries to support 2 days no sun. I have 2000 watts , run washer ,dryer, dishwasher, water pump, disposal ,computers, TVs, satellite, wireless internet and a 21 cubic ft refrigerator my biggest power draw.

I have learned to conserve on no sun days and use power on sunny days to best advantages. Winter time I used a blower to move heat from my wood burner through the house. House is 1500 sq ft. Manufactured home. all wood heated in Show Low, AZ. My HOUSE IS NOT A EARTH SHIP, BUT BUILDING A PASSIVE SOLAR GREENHOUSE ACROSS THE SOUTH SIDE MAY BE IN THE FUTURE.

The way I see it, with about $6,000 dollars more worth of solar panels, the people in earth ship could live somewhat more normal to what they are use to.

Thanks Ray

The following is my response to Ray:

Hi Ray,

Thank you for visiting my website and for your comments. I appreciate your thoughts about the amount of power recommended for comfortable living.

All of the power systems that I have seen in earthships are upgradeable.  I see no need for anyone to suffer in the dark in an underpowered house when adding additional panels and battery capacity would solve the additional power needs.  On the other hand, there is no need for homeowners to pay to add electric capacity if they are living comfortably with the power that they already have.

The turnover in earthships is probably less than that of most houses.  Some is due to people moving to other earthships.  Most is due to issues other than the home itself (needing to be closer to family, job changes, divorce, etc...).  Most sellers leave with regret that they can't take their homes with them.  I have never had anyone say that they wanted to leave an earthship just because the systems were inadequate for their needs. 

I am glad that you have found your optimal setup.  I wish you well.

Regards,

John

I personally would like to see some more turnover in larger earthships.  I have willing buyers, but not enough homes to shown them.

I welcome other comments regarding the adequacy of earthship systems.

May 29, 2007

The Beauty of Earthship Bottle Art

Bottle art creates a distinctive impression on most visitors to earthships as the an art form that is unique to them.  Most of the bottles and cans in earthships hide behind the walls and serve only as filler and a framework for concrete.  But some bottles bottles are built into the walls to bring light through them. 

 

Bottle bricks - the building blocks for bottle art - require two ingredients - bottles and duct tape.  To create your own bricks, you take two bottles of the same diameter and cut the necks off of them.  You then take the two bases of the bottles and duct tape them together.  The two bottles need not be the same color of class, just the same diameter.  When making multiple bottle bricks for the same wall, the bottlebricks should be about the same height from top to bottom.
A variety of bricks of different shapes, diameters, colors of glass provides you a tiles for your mosaic
As you construct your walls, you place the blocks in them with the ends facing both surfaces as you see here to allow light to pass through them.

The bottle bricks form the framework for the concrete and hold it place.  The bottles do not provide structural strength to the wall, they only work as a from for the concrete.

Here you see a sloped wall. The builder will continue to add bricks as you see here and trawl in concrete until the wall is complete.

Placing the bottle bricks in decorative patterns varying the diameters, colors and shapes of bottles allow you to create a brilliant gleaming mosaic.

Almost all earthships features some bottle art.  It ranges from just a handful of bricks in a bathroom or closet to entire shimmering walls such as the one seen here under construction in the Phoenix Earthship. 

While most builders use glass bottles, occasionally plastic ones are used for a different effect.

The only other rule in earthship bottle art is to be creative.  Not every element in an earthship is designed for technical efficiency.  This distinctively earthship art form provides each earthship builder to create an enduring object of beauty and unique style that will last unchanged for as many years, decades, or centuries as the house stands.

May 21, 2007

I asked the writer of the email featured in my April 24, 2007 blog if she wished for me to site her as the source of the information.  She replied as follows with some other good information.

Hi John,

No need to cite me. I hope this helps make the sometimes difficult
transition from mainstream lifestyle to conscious lifestyle. I have
always thought the real goods big catalog they put out every few
years (solar living source book I believe it is called) is a great
source of information. it is divided into categories like "water"
"appliances" etc and before each section is a brief but informative
few pages of information that is invaluable to newbies. This was my
first source. maybe you could photo copy each of these intro's and
have it available for new buyers to borrow.

I appreciate your willingness to educate your buyers.

While I can't provide photocopies of pages to the book, I certainly am glad to refer readers of the site to it.  For quite a while I have had an Amazon.com link for the Solar Living Source Book on my About Earthships page.  I have copied the link here too the left for your reference.

The Solar Living by Real Goods Catalog is also a good source for solar living items that you may need.  You may browse the catalog online or request to have a dead tree copy mailed to you.

If you know of other sources of information that you think will be beneficial to readers of this site, please let me know.  I am glad to share information that is helpful.

 

May 4, 2007

I need earthship listings!  As you can see from my home page, half of my listings on this site are under contract.  By the second week of June, if they all close, this site will have quite have lost quite a few of its listings.  Therefore, if you know anyone looking to sell an earthship, please have them contact me.  Now is a great time to sell.

April 30, 2007

The Earthship Armada is Sailing.  Today I put the dome earthship under contract.  This will be the fourth earthship that I have put under contract in the first four months of the year in addition to one earthship lot.  Based upon my experience, I would say that this is a very healthy market for these homes.  In spite of what we hear about the dreadful housing market nationwide, this certainly is not true with earthships.

What is most interesting is that most of the sales this year have been the inventory that I have the longest.  If I were to average the time on market for the last three listings place under contract, it would probably come to about two years.  Normally I expect the heaviest activity on my new listings.  None of these sales came about due to price changes by the sellers.  The market has caught up to these properties.

I guess the moral of the story is that just because something has been on the market a very long time, there is no guarantee that it will stay on the market.  New buyers may come in at any time, and seller's may decide to withdraw their properties.  I know that other potential buyers had been very interested in these listings that are no longer available.

The other moral of the story for me is to get more listings of larger earthships.  The removal of the Two Hawks Earthship and the Dome Earthship means that there are no two or more bedroom true earthships on the market right now for for less than $420,000.  If you know of anyone looking to sell one of these homes, please have them contact me.

April 24, 2007

Earthship wisdom.  My favorite things to share on this site are not things that I come up with myself, but valuable information that is provided to me by others.  Please read this content from an email that I received today.  I have made some small edits to make it appropriate for this blog.

Hi John

I was looking at the pictures on your site of one of the homes and noticed the new stove. Is there an electronic display on the stove that plugs in? if so, is it drawing 24/7 a phantom load from the batteries? These apparently innocuous loads can mean death to batteries. In the same category are cubes that plug in for cell phones etc, dust busters, all AC halogen lights, printers, washing machines, etc.

I remember reading a story in a Real Goods book about a couple who had a solar system designed for them based on a worksheet showing all their energy needs. With charged batteries and system in place, they ran out of power by 11 pm.  It turns out they had a small handful of phantom loads. It's just not common knowledge in our culture to know what is drawing power all the time when plugged in.

Having rented out an earthship (not one that you have listed) for 3 years, I can tell you the damage phantom loads can create. Renters who thought they were up on solar etc, conservative in energy use etc. generally were NOT. Maybe you are already noticing this, but I can imagine the high turnover of earthships (and other off grid, green structures) may be due to the lack of knowledge by the zealous buyers.

Power usage is number one area for education. Second is what not to pour down the drain for a grey water system. That's what causes problems with that system. The system only works when you have microbes etc living in the planter. Pour down Drano®, bleach, most cleansers, hair coloring, paint thinner etc and you kill the part of the system that helps filter and clean the water.

Then there is the 10" of rain to live off of. Definitely a new way of thinking for most. Those three areas, plus forgetting to close skylights were the biggest issues I found with people new to off grid living/earthships. Maybe you can change all that. good luck

I guess the only thing above I might disagree on is the statement that earthships have a high level of turnover.  I have not really found this to be the case.  New residents, however, do quickly find out that failure to manage any of the systems does have its consequences.

Thank you for sharing.  It is the sharing of information like this that helps everyone and brings the change that we all desire.

April 20, 2007

Not Just Taos anymore.  Today I added my newest listing to the website - some beautiful land just to the southeast of Albuquerque that would be a wonderful place to build an earthship.  For those of you familiar with New Mexico, you will know that this is no where near Taos.  If I was to show this property, it would take me about 3 hours to get there and the same amount of time to get back. 

Meanwhile, I have been in regular contact with people in other states such as Tennessee and Colorado, discussing possibly listing their earthships.  Representing these properties presents not only logistical challenges but legal ones as well since I am only licensed in the state of New Mexico.  I have been working to come up with a way to expand my business beyond the local market, yet I am faced with many challenges in doing so.

My new listing today is my solution.  I found a local agent who partners with me for this listing.  We both market the property, but the local agent arranges showings and will ultimately will handle the sales transaction.  I also depend upon the local agent for pricing and market information, photographs, including it in their local Multiple Listing Service, and anything else where a local presence is needed. We do this at no additional charge to the seller (there is no charge to the buyer).

I look at this as the first step in the beginning of a global network of agents who assist buyers and sellers of earthships, similar homes, and land good for building these homes upon.  I welcome inquires from potential buyers, sellers, and other real estate brokers and agents interested in working together for the common goal of selling these properties.  Please contact me on any related matter.

April 4, 2007

In this blog before, I have mentioned how valuable it is to stay in an earthship when you are considering buying or building one.  Please see what another potential earthship buyer recently wrote to me.

Hi John - I spoke to you Friday afternoon inquiring about nightly earthship rentals and you directed me to the links in your blog. I just wanted to thank you for your help - despite such short notice I was lucky enough to reserve the Helio House in GWC owned by Jill Lickley this past Sunday. It was a life changing experience! As potential earth ship buyers, my husband and I had some concerns and questions, all of which were put to rest after our night at Helio House. I would highly recommend that any of your clients considering earthship or off the grid living take the time to experience one firsthand. We were sold after this visit!

We will be (back in) May when ... at which time we will arrange another visit to Taos to continue our search. Hopefully there will be some new listings by then. Thanks again for your help John and for the great website - your blog is very informative!!!

Please follow this link for the nightly earthship rentals that I am aware of.  If you know of more, please let me know.

April 2, 2007

New toll-free phone number.  You can now call me toll-free from anywhere in North America at 1(888)TA0S-HOUSE. If you prefer regular numbers, you can call me at 1(888)826-7468.  If you have not already figured it out, the two extra letters (SE) really don't matter, so you can just call me at 1(888)TAOS-HOU.  If you do call them, the call will still work.

I have great plans for this phone number.  Can you think of an easier phone number to remember for Taos real estate?  I can't.  Call this number for any of your Northern New Mexico Real Estate needs.  I have also reserved the domain name 1888TaosHouse.com for future use which will be a new website address focusing on general Taos area real estate and used for my email.  Once you learn my phone number you already know my internet address, and once you know my web address, you already know my phone number.

What does this mean for the TaosEarthships.com?  This website will remain and continue to expand. I have worked to hard to establish myself as the real estate broker who sells earthships to leave this niche.  I am also having too much fun.  It does mean that I am now easier to reach with a very easy number to remember and a toll free call.  This will help me better service both buyers and sellers of earthships.  This is a good thing, and I am very excited about it.

March 28, 2007

New videos:  Honza Vorel of our office recently went out and filmed one of my earthship listings to show to some of his clients.  He has graciously allowed me to place it on my website.  Please see MLS#81654 to view this film.  Unfortunately a sound malfunction prevents you from hearing what is being said, but it should still give you a pretty good feel for the layout of the house.

I would be most curious to know if you find this clip beneficial.  I have generally avoided creating the panoramic virtual tours because they tend to take forever to load, and in my opinion, pictures need to be combined with text showing what you are looking at.  I always figured that putting good text with the pictures was worth more than trying to go too high tech - especially if many people are still using dialup.

But, I am willing to change.  If you find things like this beneficial in previous potential properties that you might buy, than I can be convinced.  Please send me your comments telling me if you find this valuable buy using the comment form at the bottom of this page.

 

February 27, 2007

New Package EarthshipNew Listing Alert!  One of the fun things about selling a lot of earthships is that I get to see many of them and compare how they address many of the systems and design needs that they address.  This is especially true when I see brand new construction such as my newest listings at #15 South Lemuria in the Greater World.

This home features a double greenhouse design and a special dual skylight system.  Both of these innovations provide superior climate control by providing another layer of separation between the outside air and the living space.  I will discuss these concepts in greater detail in a future post to this blog.

Sometimes when looking at earthships, the words "sustainable" and "affordable" don't seem to go together.  This home presents brand new construction and is priced at only $219,900.  For more detail, please see the listing.

February 26, 2007

Dome Earthship Mystery Video.  I received an email from the seller of one of my earthships saying:

Hi John,

A friend of mine has brought it to my attention that there is a video of my house on You Tube. It was taken by a woman, and there is also a young man present. It looks like it was taken within the last two months.

I am wondering if they were there with you?

Well, stranger things have happened, but I have no idea who filmed thisLink to east side video earthship, who the person is inside, and who placed it on the web other than someone by the name of Shannon.  In any event, I will place the links here for you to to see - compliments of Shannon (whoever she is).

Video One:  The bathroom and west bedroom

Video Two:  The remainder of the house including the kitchen, master bedroom, and the dome.

Link to my webpage featuring this property

February 20, 2007

New Listing Alert!  Today I added my newest earthship listing to this website.  This Greater World Community home features a split-level design.  Click here for listing details.

Thoughts on the Split-level design

The typical earthship design is geared more towards energy efficiency rather than separation of living spaces.  If an earthship is chopped up into many small rooms, the energy efficiency suffers.  Some rooms - especially those with many south facing windows - will be hot.  While those in the back will lack both heat and light.  So, most earthships have few interior walls with the rooms lined up linearly.  To get from one end of the house to the other, you have often have to walk through any rooms between the room where you are and the one where you are going.  This often leads to a lack of privacy and noise from one room being heard throughout the house.

The split level design provides a separation of living spaces.  A stairway leads between the upper and lower levels providing distance between these living areas.  Quite often you will find the bedrooms on one level and the noisier kitchen/dining/living areas on the other.  The bathroom may be on either level or perhaps both.

You may ask, "Why then don't we see many more split-level earthships due to the superior separation of spaces?"

The answer is that not very many building sites are conducive to the split-level design.  Both levels should have the thermal mass design where the back walls are either bermed or partially built into the ground.  The only place where this is practical is on a steep hillside facing in the direction of the predominant sun position (south in the northern hemisphere).  This home site sits on such a slope.  It's two nearest neighbors also take advantage of this slope and are also split-level earthships.

To see what this home looks like in the inside, please visit the listing's page.  Please let me know your thoughts on the split level by using the comment form below.

February 16, 2007

New Nightly Rental Option.  Kelly and Mario Estrada purchased the earthship that I previously had listed on this site as the "Sunshine Adobe Earthship".  They now call it "The Sol Ship".  This is one of the most beautiful earthships that I have ever seen.  They have now operate it as a nightly rental.  Should you wish to check rates and availability, you may check their website at http://vrbo.com/116340.

Click here to see my complete list of nightly rental options.

February 6, 2007

One of the questions that I am often asked is how do you finance earthships and can they be financed like other more conventional homes.  Most of the earthships that I have sold have been financed so you can buy an earthship if you are not sitting on a pile of cash.  Here are some options:

Traditional mortgage through a bank or mortgage company:  Most traditional homes are financed through mortgages obtained through banks or mortgage companies.  Many of the earthships that I have sold have been financed this way.    Here are some things to remember:

1)  Of the ten's-of-thousands of lenders who will finance homes, only a handful of them will underwrite off grid housing.  A good mortgage company will be able to research this and find them.  I have found two mortgage companies in Taos, and one in Colorado who have been very helpful in finding these underwriters.  I will share them with you upon request.

2)  Good credit matters.  There are lenders who specialize in alternative housing, and lenders who specialize in working with buyers with poor credit but very few lenders (if any) who specialize in working with buyers with poor credit and alternative housing. 

3)  A healthy down payment (20 percent down or more) will get you better rates, eliminates the need for private mortgage insurance, and will qualify you for more loans.

4)  Lenders will not be interested in financing homes that have title issues.  I have sold homes in unapproved subdivisions, and even one where the home was not on the land that it sat on (in both cases, I insisted that my clients get legal advise before consummating the sale).  These situations occur much more often than you might think.    While some buyers may be willing to take the risks involved, few lenders will.

5)  Expect rates to be higher with unconventional homes.  Lenders consider these home to be a higher risk and price their interest rates accordingly.

6)  Expect to pay fees such as appraisals and origination fees.  Ask you advisor what types of costs you will incur in your purchase.

Second Mortgages on another home:  One of my first earthship sales was to a buyer who purchased the home as a second  home.  She used the equity in her primary home to finance her earthship.  This may result in better rates than a mortgage on the off-grid home.  Run the numbers with your financial expert and see what makes the most sense.

Seller Financing:  Many earthships are owned free and clear by the owners and seller financing is often an option.  In this case, the seller acts like the bank and you make payments to the seller over the time period of the loan.  Here are some thoughts:

1)  Sellers face a number of costs involved in the sale of their property.  Because of this, most will want to have a down payment large enough to cover all of the costs so that they will at least get some money rather than having to pay at closing.  Don't expect sellers to be enthusiastic about down payments of less than ten percent.

2)  Most of these transactions that I have participated in use Real Estate Contracts in New Mexico (they may go by different names elsewhere).  Here the seller retains title to the property until the loan is paid off according to the terms agreed upon.  If the buyer defaults, the seller gets the property back and can keep the down payment and any subsequent payments received.  Therefore, buyers must make certain that they do not default.  A seller can also provide a traditional mortgage.

3)  The buyer usually makes payments to a third party escrow company who than forwards the payments to the seller.  This documents when payments are received and provides book keeping ideas.

4)  Most sellers do not know this, but if they want their money sooner, than can actually sell it to another investor. 

Financing non-traditional homes provides challenges, but many of them can be overcome.  I particularly enjoy making the difficult sales happen by overcoming obstacles.  When the buyer wants to buy, and the seller wants to sell a deal can quite often happen.  Feel free to contact me to discuss your situation.

January 15, 2007

At the seller's request, the Gratitude House is no longer listed and I have removed it from the website.  I expect two have two new earthship listings within the next month so please keep checking back often.

December 21, 2006

Thank you all for your support and for reading this blog this year.

Yes, I'm guilty.  I was posting daily and then I started slipping, and next thing I know, I have not updated this page for about two months.  If you have been checking back frequently, then I apologize for the lack of new content.

2006 was a good year for the sale of earthships.  I personally was involved in the sale of five of the eight that were sold as listed as earthships in the Taos County Multiple Listing Service.  I have met a lot of terrific buyers, sellers and support personnel.  Thanks for making this such a great year.  I have some terrific listings that make be believe that 2007 will be excellent as well.

For 2007, I would value your input as to what you would like to see in this blog.  Please contact me with any ideas that you might have.

 

October 17, 2006

Green Guide ad

Last night Sustain Taos released the 2007 edition of the Taos Green Guide at a party celebrating its release.  This annual publication features about 100 pages of articles on sustainable living and related issues.  While I could not stay for the event, I showed up long enough to get some copies fresh off the press.

Since I believed that this type of publication had readership demographics similar to Taos Earthship buyers,  I figured that this would be a very good place to advertise my earthship real estate services and this website.  As I am working very diligently to represent myself as "the earthship agent", I wanted to set myself apart from the other real estate agents who also advertise in the publication.  I attempted to do this by purchasing the inside back cover - the best spot available at the time - and hiring an graphic artist to make something that looked quite nice.  Since I had not budgeted for this expense, I shared part of the ad with Delta Mortgage to lower my costs.  Click on the image to see my full size ad.

Since this ad will run for a whole year and the ad deadline was in July with publication in October, I realized that any listings featured would soon be out of date if they were not already so.  For this reason, I really wanted to use the ad to promote the TaosEarthships.com website where viewers can see the most current listings.

Marketing decisions always provide a dilemma.  I have no shortage of places where I can spend my money - web advertising, newspapers, real estate magazines, referral networks, etc...  Some are very valuable and can provide significant business, others are a complete waste of money.  I set the following goals in my advertising:

  • Promote my seller's listings.
  • Give potential seller's a good reason to list with me and to contact me.
  • Attract potential buyers and encourage them to contact me.
  • Establish my name as a brand

In my opinion, this ad, while it cost a lot of money, was worthwhile because it accomplished these goals.  I welcome your comments and suggestions regarding this advertisement and how best to reach potential earthship buyers and sellers.  If you came to this site because of the Green Guide ad, please let me know.  That way I can know that my advertising money is working.

October 15, 2006

The Name Game: TaosEarthships.com and TaosEarthship.com

Good news, you can now access this site by typing either TaosEarthships.com or TaosEarthship.com.  While I have had the domain name TaosEarthships.com for a while, I have only had the site up for a couple of months.  Quite often when I would tell people to check out the site, I would get the following response:

"I went to your website, and all I saw was one earthship for sale and it was not one of your listings."  Other times I would get told, "I saw your site, and I am interested in the Earthship in Arroyo Hondo"

Each time I knew what was happening, people were visiting TaosEarthship.com rather than TaosEarthships.com.  TaosEarthship.com was created by either the owners or their real estate agent to promote their earthship home that was for sale.  The problem was that the home that it featured had sold about a year ago and no one had bothered to remove the site or update the site to say that it was sold.  I guess people get excited about building the site to promote their properties, but are lack the same enthusiasm when it comes to removing the site or at least changing it to let site visitors know that it was sold.

Through my website host, I noticed that the name was due to expire in August, so I backordered it.  I figured that if web surfers looking for my website were accidentally coming to this site, I should at least get the name so that they could find me.  I also wanted to prevent a competing agent to use it for their marketing purposes.

Back ordered domain names do not become available the moment that they expire.  The existing registrant is giving a grace period and redemption time to reinstate the name.  I waited for this to expire.

Several weeks ago, I received an email stating that the name was pending deletion and that my hosting provider would try to grab the name for me.  A few days later I got a message stating that they had tried, and failed, to get the name.  Someone else had beat them to it.  I was most disappointed.

I went to TaosEarthship.com and saw that it was registered to another hosting provider.  I didn't know if this was someone wanting to sell the name (perhaps to me), a competitor, or just someone wanting the name.  The one thing I was not going to do was to pay someone for the name just because they had a faster registrar than I did.  "Oh well", I thought, "I'll just try again next year."

Yesterday morning, much to my surprise, came an email from my web host saying, "Congratulations, we got the you name that you backordered."  How this happened, I don't know.  Did they not pay?  In any event, I am so glad that I now have this name and hope that it will make it even easier for people to find this site.

October 14, 2006

New Listing!

Just as I said that I needed new listings, I got one.  With over 9 acres, a terrific organic garden and lots of New Mexico touches you will definitely want to consider this earthship for your next home.

October 10, 2006

Real Estate Slowdown and Earthships

You certainly have heard much about the alleged real estate slowdown.  In some parts of the country it has been called a bubble and media reports abound with claims of a crashing market.  While Taos certainly has more properties on the market than it did a year ago, and prices no longer seem to be soaring, few would say that we are in a collapse.  We certainly are fairing much better than previously overheated markets such as Phoenix and South Florida.  All real estate is local and it is very hard to generalize.

Have earthship sales slowed down?  I don't believe so.  I personally am seeing a strong demand for these homes.  You may notice from the home page of this website that MLS 81011 (The Sunshine Adobe Earthship) went under contract today and now has a sale pending.  It's time on the market lasted just a little over one month.  MLS 76827, (Lower Two Hawks Trail Treasure) should close next week.

This first half of the year, I experienced a very fast pace averaging one earthship sale a month.  Then things slowed.  No new contracts in July and August.  September I had one go under contract and this month I have had one go under contract (another is in negotiations that look like they are going nowhere so I won't count it).  So according to the sales-per-month things the fast paced trend continues.

While I don't keep a statistical track of showings, I continue to receive many requests - both from potential buyers and other agents asking me to accompany them on showings of my earthship listings.  I would say that we have a healthy earthship market right now in Northern New Mexico.  Part of this may be due to this website which was only launched a couple of months ago and has experienced a steadily growing readership trend.

I need new listings!  While I am just thrilled to see two very fine listings go under contract, I have a bit of sadness.  These two very nice complete homes are no longer available.  I also have appointments coming up of people coming to Taos to look at earthships and need inventory to show them.   I have leads on new listings and hopefully you will see them here soon.  I may have to get desperate and start banging on doors in search of sellers. If you have an earthship to sell, now would be a very good time to contact me.

October 6, 2006

How I started selling earthships (part 3 of 3)

The call from Michael Reynolds meant that I had the opportunity to make earthships a significant part of my business.  Many agents had been trying to get him to list in the past without much success. 

When we met, Michael Reynolds explained to me the frustration that he faced with other agents who had listed his properties in the past.  His complaint was that he usually had to do the showing and selling of the properties because the other agents either did not know how to sell earthships.  Since I had already shown the ability to sell several of them without his help he wanted to give me a try and listed the earthship that he called "The Hybrid" or "The Happy Castle".  With this prize listing, the business relationship between us started and remains through this day.

About that time, I received an email from Tracy Santomarco, a producer from The Travel Channel.  The email was probably sent to thousands of real estate agents and was of the type that usually I just quickly delete as spam.  But this time, it caught my eye.  It read.

-----Original Message-----
From: Tracy Santomarco
Sent:
Tuesday, October 11, 2005 6:22 PM
To: John Kejr

It's Back!  The second season of "Vacation Home Search" for the Travel Channel.
  We're looking for a buyer to appear on our show.  The realtor will get on-air credit as well!

The 14-episode host-driven series is all about the quest for the perfect retreat
. In each half-hour episode, we will feature our host and a different buyer scouring the neighborhood in a different part of the country.

The buyers, must be at ease in front of the camera and be motivated to share their
home-buying experience with the TV audience.  Since we will only have a few days to shoot at each destination, the ideal situation for us would be to find real estate agents with clients
who have just bought a new vacation home (currently in escrow or just closed.  It is best if they are not FULLY moved in before the shoot because we need to see 'before' and 'after' in the chosen house. If they are moved in, we might need to move some furniture.).

As far as the homes go - they should look like true vacation homes: log cabins
, fortresses, beach houses, even tree houses. Town-homes or condos are okay if they are really unique, but the network much prefers single family homes. But the catch is that they must be within 30% of the median in your market. We want the homes we feature to appeal to the average viewer, and although the gorgeous oceanfront estates might look great on TV, they are not realistic enough for most Americans. As far as the buyers go, they can be families, couples, singles, or groups pooling resources and buying a home together. They must be purchasing it for use as a vacation home, and not just as an investment. We want to know that they are going to really enjoy it!

The purpose of this program is to showcase the area, the wonderful vacation homes
, but it’s also to provide home-buying tips, to learn how prices vary from location to location, and to see the drama that unfolds when a whole lot of money is going toward something that most people consider a luxury. The shoot schedule is between now and April 2006, so if you don't have something that would fit our show right now, you should just keep us in mind for the future. The most important thing to remember is that we can't tag along during the actual house-hunting process - we will come along once the house has already been selected and then we will re-create the search.

It would be great publicity for both the realtors who will receive a credit and
signage shots, as well as for the communities that we feature. We are getting things underway as fast as we can, so if you're interested, please be in touch! Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Sincerely,
 
 
Tracy Santomarco - Segment Producer
Authentic Entertainment
 

I read through the email a couple of times, and just before I hit delete, I thought of Mary and Gene who had Margaret's earthship in the Greater World Community under contract.  They seamed like a photogenic couple, they had purchased their earthship as a second home, the price was within the shows parameters, and what could possibly be a more unique than an earthship?  Besides maybe I could get on TV, or at least get some publicity out of it as well.  Perhaps we could even use it to promote my new listing from Michael Reynolds.

I replied:

-----Original Message-----
On 10/12/05 11:10 AM, "John Kejr" wrote:
Hi Tracy,
 
I just have a vacation home that is under contact (scheduled to close next week) that you might wish to feature and wanted to provide you the information on it.  This property is truly unique in that it is a earthship home in Taos, New Mexico.  Earthships are homes that are built into the ground, and are off-the-grid relying on Solar Energy for the electricity, and rain water cached in cisterns for water.  They also recycle water from the kitchen, laundry, and bathtub to water lush indoor planters which then purify the water that is then used to flush the toilet.
 
My buyers are a photogenic couple who teach at Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado – about an hour-and-a-half away.  They enjoy the culture and activities of Taos and liked the idea of a sustainable home.
 
This home meets your qualifications of being a truly unique single family home.  It is within the 30% median of our market.
 
If this is something that you would consider, would you please let me know?  I have included pictures and text of an email that I sent to previous prospective buyers below.
 
Regards,


John Kejr, Agent
Dreamcatcher Real Estate Co
 

Within half an hour of sending the email, Tracy called me.  Yes, they were definitely interested in featuring this property.  She explained that the show would feature the buyers going through three homes and revealing their choice at the end of the program.  I told her that I would be able to get two other earthships for the show.  The only thing that we needed to do is to get the buyers to cooperate.

I immediately called Mary.  "Hi Mary, this is John.  I have a kind of unusual question to ask you.  How would you and Gene like to be on a reality television show?"

After explaining the show, Mary said that she thought that it would be a lot of fun.  She gave me her permission to have the producer contact her directly to discuss.

On a future posting, I will tell about the whole filming experience.  It was very interesting, provided me some great publicity, lead to new listings, and further solidified my position as the real estate person who sells earthships.

------------

Entrepreneurs always tell you how important it is to find your own niche, separate yourself from the competition, and do completely different things that differ from what everyone else is doing.  The difficulty is determining what exactly that niche and how to claim it.  Sometimes you go after one with a real thorough plan.  Other times, like in my case, the niche finds you.

When I started selling real estate, I had no idea that earthships would become a significant portion of my business.  The pieces just fell into place:  the email from Evan, the expiration of the first listing, the article in Enchanted Homes, Michael Reynolds noticing my success, the television program, and many others.  Each presented opportunities which I took not knowing where they would lead.  It's hard work, but also a whole lot of fun.  I would not trade it for anything.

For those of you looking to start your own business, I wish you well in your niche.

October 5, 2006

How I started selling earthships (part 2 of 3)

I could just feel the opportunity of my first sale slipping through my fingers.  It was so close.

I discussed the situation with my qualifying broker and remarked at my shock that after sitting on the market with no action for years, there was suddenly an offer.  He explained to me how some agents will unethically use a false offer or a false promise of an offer to persuade a seller to continue with an expired listing.  He was persuaded that this was the case.  He encourage me to revise the listing agreement to exclude any offers presented by the other company within 7 days. 

The seller agreed to this and I had my listing.  Six days later I got the call from the seller stating that he received the offer and accepted it.  My listing agreement was cancelled.  Again, I felt this one slipping through.  Evan cancelled his trip out and this transaction was dead.

About a month later, the seller called telling me that the other transaction had fallen through and he was ready to list.  To this day, I do not know if the offer he had received was real or just a stalling technique by the other agent.  It would be difficult to prove, but I have my suspicions.

With the listing now firmly in my name, I called Evan and gave him the good news.  But, he was involved in some major projects and would not be able to come out for a while. I regularly received other inquiries to the property and within a couple of months successfully sold my first earthship.

The Star earthship community lies at the end of eight miles of horrible unpaved roads.  The fact that I had sold an earthship in Star really got the attention of the people who lived there.  No one had resold and earthship there before and many of the property owners there really felt trapped because resale was so difficult.  This resulted in another listing in the community.

Looking back, I am amazed how one thing lead to another especially when combined with a really special unforeseen blessing.  I placed my newest earthship listing in Enchanted Homes, the local real estate publication.  Once a month, a drawing was held at the Taos County Association of Realtors® luncheon.  The winner would receive a free profile article in Enchanted Homes.  When I saw that the business card drawn was the same color of blue as mine, I waited in anticipation and finally found out that I had indeed won this profile.

The Enchanted Homes article contained my picture and was basically a puff-click on this picture to read the enchanted homes profile of John Kejrpiece based upon my interview with the writer.  I told him that I wanted to be featured as the "Rising Star" of Taos real estate.  By this time, I had completed a number of other sales of different types of properties, so I did not direct the article in the direction of earthships and sustainable housing.  Instead I had the article focus on how I regularly visited properties every week to keep current on the market, used GPS technology, and some of the special education that I had received.  Read the article here.

About a week after the Enchanted Homes article hit, Margaret called me and told me that she read the feature, saw the ad with my earthship listing, and wanted me to sell her earthship in the Greater World Community.

Margaret's home was just beautiful.  Michael Reynold's designed and built this home as a "package earthship".  It's two-bedroom one-bath design with great views made it the type of listing that I was very proud to have.  She wanted to sell the home quickly so she priced it property. The Greater World location also meant much easier access to Taos than the other listings I had in Star.  Several months later Mary and Gene from Alamosa, Colorado bought this earthship as a second home.

This sale lead to two very significant events 1) my experience with the reality television program "Vacation Home Search" on The Travel Channel, and 2) A phone call from Michael Reynolds himself saying, "I see that you are the Realtor® who is selling earthships, and I want you to sell some of mine"

... to be continued...

October 4, 2006

How I started selling earthships (part 1 of 3)

I gained my first exposure and familiarity with earthships when I came to Taos for a job interview about 4 years ago.  Coming down from Colorado, I approached Taos from the west on US 64 and saw these strange-looking solar homes just to the west of the Rio Grande Gorge.  I found them interesting but nothing more than a curiosity.  Little did I know that I would be the real estate agent known for selling them in a few short years.

You can probably figure out that I got the job and moved to Taos.  While the position that I accepted challenged me, I did not see it taking me in the career direction that I wanted and started thinking about what else I could do. Real estate sales had always intrigued me so I started taking classes while I continued with my other job and decided if indeed was what I wanted to do.  Several months later I got my license and joined Dreamcatcher Real Estate.

During this time, I had only brief exposure to earthships.  I remember going to a yard sale at one.  Since some of the things for sale were inside the home.  I was more fascinated with the home than anything that was for sale.  I could say that I had now been in an earthship, but that was all.

Joining Dreamcatcher was a case of choosing the right company for the wrong reason.  Through the Taos Community Chorus, I meet Linda Knief who was - and still is - an agent with the company.  I talked with her about her company.  She told me that Dreamcatcher had opened a second office on Kit Carson Rd. in the tourist district.  She was usually working there alone, and needed to have at least one other agent to work there because there were times when people were lined up and she had to call other agents to the office to talk about them.  This sounded like the best opportunity for a new agent just starting out - instead of having to look for clients, they would just come to me.

I started in late September - just when the summer tourist season ended.  Hardly anyone came into the office. But, the goldmine was sales leads from Dreamcatcher's website which were shared with me.  These made up for the poor foot traffic experienced after tourist season at the Kit Carson office.  One of these was from a Evan in Wisconsin and he had interest in an earthship listed by a competing office.  This was the beginning of my earthship sales process.

At the same time Dreamcatcher had a partially completed earthship listed for sale in REACH Community.  REACH is a cluster of earthships built on the side of a very steep mountain.  One day my a took my wife out with me to look at some of our company listings, including this one, so that I could be familiar with them should anyone call.  The directions were not to clear, but involved driving past a sign that said "4 x 4 only" (and they meant it), then going up a very steep road to a driveway that was even steeper.  I tried to drive up the steep driveway, in my SUV, but found that it was not going to work.  So we hiked up this steep trail, to find that it was the wrong one.  We climbed back down, found the right equally steep driveway, climbed it and made it to the house.  Exhausted, we opened the door.  The house featured fabulous views overlooking the entire Taos area, a marijuana plant in the planter, and not a whole lot else.  After joking about how the plant might effect the value of the property, we quickly climbed back down to the car - before the farmer could return to defend his crop.  I later sold that earthship (the pot plant was gone by that time) and will tell you about it sometime else on this blog.

Evan and I kept phoning and emailing about the earthship and when he would be coming out to see it. 

About a month later I received a panicked call, "It's gone!" he exclaimed.  "Did someone buy it?  I am not coming next week if it is not on the market".  Indeed the earthship was no longer showing up our website which features listings of all properties in the Taos County Multiple Listing Service.

I looked it up in our multiple listing service and saw that the original listing had expired.  I explained this to Evan, and told him that I thought that the seller still wanted to sell and that I would get back to him.

In real estate, we are only allowed to accept listings for a specified period of time after which time them expire.  Both the Realtor's® Code of Ethics, and our multiple listing service prohibit soliciting another agent's active listings.  But once a listing expires, it is fair game.   Any agent is welcome to track down the seller, persuade him or her to sign a new listing agreement, and take it over.  This is exactly what I attempted to do.

After researching the ownership of the property, I reached the seller.  He was quite unhappy that the other agent had allowed the listing to expire without notifying him.  He explained that this had happened before and that he was not pleased at all with the service that he had received.  The property had been on the market for several years with no offers.  When I explained that I had a likely buyer and would love to have the listing, he said that he would be willing to give it to me but wanted a reduced commission.  After quite a bit of discussion, he settled on something that I could agree on.  I drafted the papers.  Unfortunately, he did not have a fax machine or a way for me to email them to him.  So I had to wait till he could get to a copy shop a couple of days later where I could get them to him.

Finally I sent them and he received them, but did not fax them back.

I called him the next day.  "Clayton, what's up?  I need the signed listing agreement otherwise I cannot show your home and I have this buyer coming in a couple days."

He said, "I was just about to call you.  I just got a call from (the previous listing agent) and she says that she has a full price offer.  I think that I will take it.  Sorry."

... to be continued...

October 3, 2006

Try one before you buy one.

A lot of potential earthship buyers ask what it is like to live in an earthship and if they could possible stay in one.  The good news is that there are a number of options for staying in an earthship during your next visit to Taos.  They are:

  • Earthship Biotecture.  They presently operate the 1 bedroom Hut earthship and a finished bedroom portion of the Phoenix Earthship.  Both of these earthships are in the Greater World Community.
  • The Dobson House.  This Bed and Breakfast features a Mike Reynold's designed earthship.
  • Suncatcher Earthship.  A nightly rental earthship home near the south end of Blueberry Hill.  Telephone number is (575)758-8745.  I can't find a website for them, if you know of one, please contact me.
  • The Helio House.  Earthship rental in the Greater World community.

If you know of other earthship rentals, please contact me and I will add them.

If you are just curious about earthships and want to see what they are like and see exhibits on their systems, Earthship Biotecture has a museum at the Greater World Community.  See their website for driving directions and more information.

October 2, 2006

Earthships and the real estate market

A recent visitor to my website asked, "Do you know anything about resale values of Earthships? I have also put this question to the person at Greater World Community and am awaiting reply. Do they sell at full value, how long does it take to sell one, do they turn over a lot and go thru multiple sales?"

I can answer the first question with a definite "Yes, I do know about the resale values of earthships", but the rest of the question is a little more difficult to answer.  Let me delve into the questions a bit more.

Do they sell at full value?  What makes this difficult to answer is how do you define "full value".  Compared to listing price, some of my sales have been negotiated at below the listing price (this is common in most real estate sales in our area, not just earthships), some have sold at listing price, and I had one where a bidding war erupted and it sold for over listing price.  I know that many of the earthship resales have sold for less than what it would cost to build them today, but they had have older systems, some maintenance issues and are not a shiney new house.  Some have been sold for what I consider a steal, others I am surprised sold at all. 

How long does it take to sell one?  In my experience the answer is somewhere between 3 days and 6 years.  Like any other real estate attractive properties, in good locations, and especially that are priced right sell.  The opposite is true for overpriced properties in poor locations.  I always remind both buyers and sellers that it is the seller who determines the listing price, not the real estate agent.  If a seller wants to move an earthship fast, priced right it will sell fast.  Those holding out for lots of money may wait longer.

Do they turn over a lot and go thru multiple sales?  In the two years that I have sold earthships, I have not seen one of the earthships that I have sold go back on the market.  I take this to mean that I have happy buyers who are living their dream and don't desire to move on.

Having said this, the earthship market is much much better than it was a couple of years ago.  There used to be next to no resale for them, no one knew how to finance or insure them and few real estate agents know how to demonstrate their systems and explain how they worked.  These challenges still exist, but to a much lesser extent.  Overcoming these challenges is what makes selling these properties such a fascinating niche.

September 27, 2006

Water and earthships

"Do you really get enough rain and snow to provide the water that you need?" I am often asked when showing earthships to someone who has never owned one.  Since earthships are off the grid the do not connect to a public water system or have their own well for water.  All of the water comes from the sky in the form of melted snow, rain, and occasionally melted frost and dew.

In a desert climate such as Taos, people marvel how this is sufficient.  I explain that on average Taos gets about an inch of rain a month pretty evenly distributed throughout the year.  One inch of precipitation a contributes about .62 gallons of water per square foot of roof area.  So in theory a house with a 1,500 square foot roof will harvest about 930 gallons a month.  If users keep use below 30 gallons a day, they should be fine.  This is accomplished by recycling shower water in a gray water system to fill the toilet and other conservation techniques.  A bigger roof also helps since it gathers even more water - especially in a house with teenagers that like long showers.

Does it always work this way?  No. 

This year is a perfect example of a year where dwellers were at the mercy of the climate.  This past winter and spring we had a horrible drought.  According to the New Mexico Drought Monitoring Work Group Report on Drought Conditions August 18, 2006, from November 2005 to May 2006, Taos Airport received only a total of 1.41 inches of precipitation.  Since the Greater World community is about 5 miles from the measuring location at the airport, its rainfall was probably about the same.  This means that the 1,500 square foot roof house would have only yielded 2115 gallons of water.  The household would have to cut consumption to 10 gallons a day to avoid running out.  This is just not practical.  Many homes had to supplement their water.

The good news is that you can get water.  Some of the off-grid communities have wells for just such a purpose. The picture below shows the community well house for the Cielto Lindo and Cielto Azul communities.  Rows of solar panels gather power to extract water from this deep well.

 Solar powered community well for Cielto Lindo and Cielito Azul communities near Taos

Members can then use the trailer below to take the water to their home.  They fill the tank from the well and then cart it to their home. Upon arrival at the home, the homeowner puts the hose into their cistern, plugs in the pumps on the trailer and refills them.

 Cart used by homeowners to transfer water from community well to cisterns in off grid community

Your other choice is to pay to have water trucked in.  It costs about $100 for a truck to cart out a couple-month supply of water.  Hopefully it will rain before the supply is diminished.  But even this expense is less than what water bills run for many homeowners in more traditional communities.

Then the world changed.  From the end of June on, Taos had a very healthyOverflow cistern captures excess water from earthship when regular cistern is full monsoon season.  The same report sited above shows that by August 9, 8.63 inches of rain had fallen since November 2005 - Meaning that from June 1 to August 9 a total of 7.22 inches of rain fell.  The valley changed from dry and dusty to lush and green, filled with wildflowers.  The 1,500 square foot roof house would have generated an incredible 10,830 gallons of water.  And the rain did not stop on August 9 (the last date covered in the report) but continued on a daily basis well into September.

Many homeowners now faced the opposite problem.  After their primary cisterns filled, their overflow cisterns - like the one at the right - quickly reached capacity.  Homeowners had to decide what to do with all of the extra water.  Many had no choice but to dump the it to make room for future water.  I can only imagine the pain that they must have felt after having to ration their precious treasure for so many months and to then have to throw it away.

To deal with the variability of precipitation, the earthship dweller can do do the following:

  • Add cistern capacity.  The home with the full overflow cistern picture has 6,000 gallons of capacity and has never had to import water.  After seven months of drought, followed by abundance, many earthship dwellers have decided to add cistern capacity to bank their valuable water for future use as their summer home improvement project this year.
  • Arrange access to a community well or other water source for times of drought.
  • Conserve water.  I knew of one earthship owner who would collect cold water from the tap in a bucket while waiting for hot water to arrive.  He would then empty the bucket back into the cistern for later use.
  • Maintain the plumbing.  Dripping faucets and running toilets will quickly drain cisterns.  Keeping the gray water system functioning property reduces having to use cistern water.
  • Arrange to have water hauled when needed.

Living in an earthship is really not that different from conventional living.  Conserving water and keeping track of your water level takes very little effort and with the proper systems and storage is quite simple.  For more information on harvesting water, I recommend Michael Reynolds' book Water from the Sky.  For details see the link on my about earthships page.

I welcome your comments

September 23, 2006

New Mexico Septic issues

About one year ago New Mexico enacted legislation designed to protect ground water through out the state and drive real estate agents crazy.  It has at least been successful in the second point.  Basically prior to the transfer of a property with a septic tank, a state certified inspector must come out and have the tank pumped and inspected.  If problems are found they corrective action must be taken within 14 days to bring the system into compliance.  Seller's of properties must now face an additional charge of about $600 to $800 in addition to their other closing costs for these inspections, and if they fail, then the costs could be well into the thousands.  Meanwhile, a home which has a toilet that basically flushes into a stream beside the property can continue to pollute the streams indefinitely as long as it is not sold.

Yesterday I had a conversation with an homeowner who was looking to list his property and I brought up the topic of his septic tank:

"Is your septic permitted?".  "No, but it works"

"Would it be possible to have a truck come up an pump the tank out for an inspection?".  "No, it is on the slope of a 45 degree mountain.  There is no way to get a truck to it."

It became apparent that this could be a real nightmare when it comes time to sell this property.  The real wild card is the state environmental department.  It is a crazy guess as to what they will require.  It could be that they some how grant a variance and allow the existing system to continue, they could require some new advanced treatment system costing over $20,000, or they could condemn the whole property and demand it be torn down.

Our discussion ended with him deciding to discuss options with experts and hopefully come up with an economical solution that will meet environmental department approval.  One option is to revert back to a composting toilet.  But I am not quite sure what their position will be - I have heard conflicting views on whether composting toilets are allowed (the law says that they must be permitted).

Some people choose to not have the inspection performed at all.  Lack of an inspection report will not prevent a sale from happening. But, the seller could face criminal and civil prosecution if the environmental department decided to enforce the law.

In all, this whole thing is a mess and I am really not sure what to recommend that this seller do.

September 22, 2006

Gray water system under construction

Yesterday I visited an earthship where the gray water system was being replaced and a new system being installed.  Since they usually just appear as large indoor planters, this provided a unique opportunity to see how it they are constructed.

gray water system under construction

My understanding is that this picture shows the liner used to keep moisture in the planter.  On top of that large rocks surround the pump area so that water will pool there and will be easily removed when needed.  The gravel on top of the large rocks filters the water to prevent soil and other particulates from entering the area where the pump lies.  The large white pipe is provides access to the pump.  The smaller pipes distribute water for recycling.

Additional layers of gravel, sand, and perhaps charcoal will be placed on top of this and then finally this will be topped off with garden soil and  plants.  If I have the opportunity to photograph this when it is complete or further along in construction, I will place updated images in this blog.

As I am not an expert in gray water systems, I would appreciate any comments or corrections on anything that I have said above.  For more detailed information on Gray Water systems, I would recommend the book Create an Oasis With Greywater by Art Ludwig, and Earthship vols. 1, 2, and 3 by Michael Reynolds.  You will find links containing information on the books and for purchase on the About Earthships page of this website.

September 21, 2006

First snow in the mountains!

Today I snapped this picture out at the Greater World  Community after the clouds finally cleared from the previous night's rain.  The mountains have their first snow of the season.  This view looks towards Wheeler Peak - New Mexico's highest mountain.  Hopefully this is a sign of a good moist winter coming.

Earlier in the day

Welcome to the first post in my blog.  Here I am planning on commenting on sustainable housing and earthships with a focus on the Taos, New Mexico area.  But, I really don't plan on structuring things too formally.  I will address some of the frequent questions that I get.  Please check back from time to time if you find this interesting.  You can also email me with any questions, comments, etc...

When it became clear that earthships were becoming a substantial portion of my business, and that I was the leading real estate broker selling these unique properties, I decided to establish a web presence focusing on this niche. I bought an advertisement in a local real estate publication showing my listings and telling people to go to TaosEarthships.com for more details.  The only problem is that there was no such website.  The night before the real estate publication hit, I got out my copy of Microsoft FrontPage and launched the site.  First it had just one page showing the listings, but has expanded to give each listing its own unique page.  As I have seen need for additional content, I have added it.

My commitment was (and still is) to have:

  1. Unique content:  There are probably about 50 real estate agents in the Taos area with their own websites - and they all have the same stuff on them.  My focus on earthships allows me to focus on these homes alone.
  2. Current content:  The properties featured on my site are available now unless otherwise noted.
  3. Interactive content:  Most of my page have forms to request more information.
  4. Reasons to come back:  That is what this blog is for.

This site has been successful beyond my expectations.  I am grateful to the buyers who have seen this site and used it to as part of their search process before buying.  I appreciate my sellers who keep providing me wonderful earthship listings to put on the site.  And finally... I am thankful for visitors to my site which make this whole thing more than just a business tool but also a whole lot of fun. 

I welcome your comments

 

Your name: 

Your email address: 

Your comment:

 

Note: Do not include any HTML codes like <a href> in your postings (you can put a website address in, but no code).  This page is frequented by spam robots and any messages with these codes will be considered spam and will be automatically deleted by the computer never having been read.

 

 

Call 1(888)TAOS-HOUSE or 1(888)826-7468 toll-free and direct

 

John Kejr, Associate Broker, Licensed in the State of NM

Dreamcatcher Real Estate, Inc.

515 Gusdorf Rd, Suite 2

Taos, NM  87571

(575)758-3606