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Steve Chiotakis: Think you can build an eco-friendly house in a big city for about 100,000 bucks? One real estate developer in Philadelphia is betting that you can. But the toughest part may be selling the house when it's done. Here's Joel Rose.
Joel Rose: Philadelphia's 100k House is supposed to prove that green design isn't just a luxury item. For now, the 1,100 square foot house looks more like a two-story box with windows in funny places. Developer Chad Ludeman says it's a little behind schedule, but right on budget.
Chad Ludeman: We're under the, you know, the $100,000 target. Which puts us I think around $95 per square foot so far.
Courtney Ludeman: We're gonna do a washer-dryer all in one, it's an LG, which takes up less energy and less space.
Ludeman's wife, Courtney, is a realtor. She says the point is to build a house that's both cheaper and more energy-efficient than other new homes.
Courtney Ludeman: So we have a product that, you know, we can sell to a market that usually cannot afford a new construction home, much less a LEED Platinum home.
That's developer-talk for the highest rating in terms of sustainability. Originally, the plan was to sell this house, and a more expensive one they're building next door. But that was before the bottom fell out of the housing market. The Ludemans decided to move into the house themselves, although Courtney says the soft market wasn't the only reason.
Courtney Ludeman: We decided to keep it as a model. Since it is a case study, be able to show it to people.
The Ludemans have been trying to sell the second house with the fancier finishes and the corner lot since October. As of now, they do have an offer of sale, and they've found a buyer for another house they haven't even built yet.
Chad Ludeman says that's great, but they'll need to build a lot more of these houses to make the business work. And loans are still tough to come by.
Chad Ludeman: It was definitely more difficult than we though it would be. Especially with the pre-sale, and us having now a track record of being able to build this and pull it off under budget.
But while the recession has made financing these houses more difficult, it might make them easier to sell. Realtor Courtney Ludeman says that's in part because they'll save you up to 50 percent on your energy bills.
Courtney Ludeman: People are starting to care about that stuff that they didn't care about before. And so that's made it a lot more appealing.
The Ludemans hope to move into their new house by March. And undaunted, they're also planning to break ground on two more.
In Philadelphia, I'm Joel Rose for Marketplace.