Earthships are unusual, funky-looking houses constructed from rammed earth, car tires, and local materials. They appear to have sprouted from the earth instead of being built on top of it.
“I could have sold this house 30 times over to someone with 5% down, but lenders don’t like [earthships],” said listing agent Heather Erb.
That’s because the 2,190-square-foot home, built in 2000, doesn’t conform to some loan types such as FHA loans, which have many contingencies such as proper heating.
For example, there’s no central heating in this home because the desert sun heats it. There’s a backup fireplace for particularly frigid days, but that’s often not enough for lenders.
Instead, expect to put a large down payment on a home like this one, Erb says. It’s not impossible to find a lender who will help finance an earthship home, but it might not be easy. You’ll likely have to pay in cash or find a creative way to get the loan you need.
An extraordinary home for ordinary living
Despite its alien look, this place “lives like a regular home,” Erb says. And while some earthships are built by back-to-the-land people who want to live totally off the grid, this example in Durango might just be for everyone.
That’s because this particular earthship is a hybrid. Instead of relying solely on solar panels for power, it’s connected to the electrical grid. Instead of a closed sewage system, it has a septic tank and well water. Passive solar heating and cooling––thanks to walls made of rammed earth and car tires––keep the home temperate year-round.
Gregory Moore, the home’s builder and owner, says he and his wife opted not to go for off-the-grid living because he’s “no expert on how to do it.”
That’s not to say he didn’t want it. Originally, the couple wanted to power the house with only solar panels, but they were too costly at the time for the Moores, who were financing the construction “out of pocket.”
“However, the place is ideal for it and any buyer could do it without a lot of trouble,” Moore said.
Home is a labor of love
The Moores started building their home in 1993, putting it together piecemeal over the course of seven years. The end result is a stylized home adorned with pillars, beams, and ladders made from local trees. Adjacent to the home is an artist studio, which can also double as a guesthouse.
The walls are 3 feet thick, but Erb assured us that the earthship isn’t as dark as outer space. Large windows, positioned at just the right angle, let in the light and warm the home, while never taking the full brunt of the desert sun. Glass bottles wedged in the walls allow bits of sunshine to seep in.
“It’s really comfortable inside,” Erb said.
And it’s affordable as well—you don’t have to worry about heating bills.
“If we get just a few hours of full sun, even in the middle of winter, then I do not have to do anything except open the window shades to heat the place,” Moore said.
The sellers are looking for buyers who “will love it like they do,” Erb says. They want an “active participant”––someone who will be there year-round to take care of the property.
Durango is a popular vacation spot for skiing and tourism, Moore noted, but that makes it “harder for the folks who want to come here as a great place to live full time and raise kids in a great family environment.”
The earthship is located on 5 acres about 20 minutes from downtown Durango.
The area “isn’t really rural, but they picked a pretty private spot,” Erb said.
Erb remains confident they’ll find a buyer. When she arrived in Durango 10 years ago and saw earthship homes, she thought about buying one herself. “I was like, ‘Oh, that’s so cool! I want one!’”
So, if you want to live in an eco-friendly home but don’t want to make the necessary sacrifices for off-the-grid living, now’s your chance to blast off into a home of the future.