Affordable green homes you will want to live in

Written by Rebecca O'Connor on 6th March 2017

If there is one thing it really makes sense to green-up, it’s your home. The savings from energy efficiency measures have a direct and positive impact not just on the environment, but on your fortunes too.

Living in a home that conserves energy through insulation, triple-glazing and underfloor heating can be several hundred pounds a year cheaper than, say, a period cottage with original sash windows and beautiful-but-useless floor boards.

Why aren’t we all doing it? Well, the upfront costs for homeowners with energy-leaking properties can be prohibitive. But if you are looking to buy your first home or move to a new one, it’s a good opportunity to bag a property that is already energy efficient.

A new developer, Fruitful Homes, will start raising money from investors this week to fund eco-modular home projects that are “high quality, good looking and also sustainable”, according to Luke Barnes, chief executive.

Fruitful sources plots of land, acquires planning consent and then designs and prices projects, offering investors the opportunity to finance the build, for a return when sales are completed.

Its pilot scheme is in Weymouth, Dorset – 22 timber-frame properties, from one and two-bedroom apartments to town houses to four-bedroom detached family homes, built in a factory so that Fruitful can guarantee the high level of finish.

Windows are aluminium and triple-glazed, insulation is top of the range and there is underfloor heating powered by air-source heat pumps in all homes. All power is electric – importantly, there is no gas: “We are building homes adapted for the future”, says Luke. Solar panels are an optional extra. Luke expects the first homes to be on the market by October.

Fruitful homes promise to be affordable, “the same as other new builds”, but with a higher standard of energy efficiency making them stand out.

Traditional housebuilders, wanting to keep costs down and new homes marketable, have been slow to implement energy efficient adaptations to new homes. Although London now has a “zero carbon” standard for all new dwellings, there is no policy requirement elsewhere for builders to make homes energy efficient.

The developer also hopes to offer something pioneering for investors with at least £1,000 to contribute – a highly attractive annual rate of return of 38 per cent.

Importantly, this is not an FSCS protected investment – if the properties do not sell at the desired price, your returns could be a lot lower. If they take longer to sell, you will not have access to your capital. And if they don’t sell and the market takes a turn for the worse, you could be completely out of pocket. However, with a typical project taking 18 months from start to fully sold, investors could expect a return of all capital and profits in a year and a half. The investments are collective investment schemes that fund “Special Purpose Vehicles” (SPVs) that own the developments. Fruitful is the fund manager.

The company hopes to develop 1 to 2 projects a month for the next 12 months. The first raise is for £2 million, “leveraged alongside bank finance, which is one reason for the very high return on offer.”

The buyers of Fruitful Homes can look forward to instant cost savings. “People will notice the difference in the efficiency of heating straight away”, says Luke: “Because of the large surface area, the underfloor heating works very fast”.

The company vision is admirable – and necessary. “We spotted a gap in the housing market to help solve the housing crisis in an eco-conscious way by using the latest design and build technologies”.