Interest in off-grid homes is growing among buyers who are wary of blackout events such as the incident in Texas in February that followed a severe winter storm.
The growing interest in self-powered homes has led some developers to go beyond energy saving features like solar panels, building even more protections into their properties.
“Houses can be built in much more efficient ways, so not just solar but they can have their own water treatment systems, other sources of electricity generation, and a number of other efficient ways to manage their utilities,” said Ben Keys, associate professor of real estate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, in an interview with CNBC.
As a result of the storm in Texas, around 10 million people were left without power. Moreover, blackouts that have affected at least 50,000 people have risen by more than 60% in the U.S. since 2015, according to the Environmental Science & Technology journal. Homeowners are also concerned about climate change leading to a rise in the occurrence of wildfires and flooding. Last year in California, more than 10,000 buildings were destroyed by fires, causing over $10 billion worth of damage.
These events have led to demand for more resilient homes to be built, CNBC reported.
A Redfin survey last month backs that up, saying that climate change is becoming more of a factor in people’s homebuying decisions. In that survey, 74% of respondents said they would hesitate to buy a home in an area that’s at risk of climate change. And almost half of respondents who said they’re planning to sell said that natural disasters and extreme temperatures were one of the reasons behind that decision. The most likely age group to worry about natural disasters and extreme temperatures is those aged 35 to 44.
In response, a boutique home builder in California called Dvele is building smarter, more durable homes that feature solar panels, batteries and other elements that use less energy so they can operate off the grid for longer. The homes use technology to monitor their energy output and can help their occupants to identify ways to save more power. If the power is cut off for any reason, the homes will continue to operate normally for a period of time.
CoreLogic’s recent Catastrophe Report said that homes in California, Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebrask, and also along the Mississippi River and in the Atlantic and Gulf coastal areas are at most risk of being impacted by weather-related catastrophes.
Keys told CNBC that building more self-sufficient homes is no longer just popular with extremists. “I think we’re going to see more and more people looking for ways in which they can protect themselves as there are increased risks from storms, more utility disruptions, and more need for resiliency,” he said.
Even so, the costs of building more resilient homes are high, Keys said, which may slow down adoption of such technologies.