Good Deal or Not? “Potentially net zero energy” edition (reader request)

This house is located at 411 Varnum Street, NW:

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The listing says:

“petworthgreenhome gives details for this green home targeting LEED Platinum certification! Doesn’t get greener than this in DC! Highly energy efficient, water efficient, better air quality home. Potentially net zero energy. Utterly unique 4BR/4BA stunner, open floor plan, large kitchen, deck, 2-car parking, awesome MA suite, large lot, storage, in-law suite, walk to metro”

You can see more photos here.

Originally listed for $729,000, this 4 bed/4 bath is now going for $699,000.

26 Comment

  • I tried to see this house yesterday, as I was curious, but arrived just as they were closing up for the day.

    I’m not in any position to criticize the so-called green construction and materials, but a $150K to $200K premium over what other properties near Grant have gone for seems spendy. As for the look, exposed brick is one thing…but ‘exposed lath’…well that’s kinda strange. And the yard? Basically dirt. For $700K I’d expect at least a little landscaping.

    • I was at the open house last weekend. They said the front yard will have plants that retain water in the soil instead of grass. You can see the downspot is rerouted under the porch from the right side and feeds the water out onto what would be the lawn. The goal is to capture and utilize it instead of having it run off into the street. Not sure if they will have this complete as part of closing or if this is set up as a recommendation.

  • I know you can repaint, but all that lemony color is a little freakish to me. And the exposed lathe and studs that have been painted with that color is really unattractive. I appreciate the creativity, but it’s a fail in my opinion. And the open living room/dining room is really ugly in this case. I agree, it’s way too spendy.

  • “potentially net zero energy” Does the house have its own generation capability? I don’t see any mention of solar panels…


    • Since you missed the open house where this was all detailed on the green boards the house is ready for the homeowner to install solar panels. This means that additional structural support was added in the attic and electrical conduit was installed so that the lines can be run from the solar panels to the electric panel. It just needs lucky homeowner to install the solar panels to get the promised net zero energy. Additional information can be found on the website

  • It isn’t surprising that we see all the time people simply trying to profit using whatever catchphrase, or trendy thing of the moment is. It works for awhile then they try something else.

    I don’t know how it is physically possibly to get an R-60 in the attic with fiberglass insulation, with its low r rating you would need it to be a thickness of more than 2 feet. With foam, or cellulose yes, not with fiberglass.

    And you are advertising a SEER 15 HVAC unit in a house you “hope” gets LEED platnium? The lowest rating allowed to be sold by law is SEER 13, and even Home Depot sells tons of units in the SEER 20-23 range (goes up to 27).

    This house is big on promise, short on delivery. It certainly isn’t going to make LEED.

  • I actually love the kitchen, but I think the house is a bit all over the place. Some parts look rather traditional, while others are very modern. Cool place though.

  • LOL on the “professional landscaping” which consists of mounts of dirt in the back yard with 2x4s to make beds. As if… This appears very overpriced.

    Rant: I’m in the market for a new home. While ultra-low interest rates make houses more affordable, I’ve found that the low rates are driving up prices as everyone can afford more house (and so can I). These low rates really only redound to the benefit of current homeowners who can refi. I made an offer on a house 2 weeks ago. I went over listing, but everyone else went way over. I was the lowest of 5 offers. Granted, there’s very little supply on the marker but does anyone feel like DC’s real estate market is again over-heated? I worry that when the Fed raises interest rates in a few years, these same houses may actually sell for less as they will have become less affordable, especially with incomes flat-lined for the past 10 years.

  • LEED is an MBA’s wet dream. All hat and no cattle. It’s either built to leed standards or it isn’t. and even then whether it’s energy efficient comes down to how it’s lived in. A rich idiot can easily defeat any leed design.

  • Pretty nice looking place. WAYYY overpriced for the neighborhood though.

  • I went through it yesterday. I would be amazed if they get close to the asking price. To me, it seemed like the efforts to make it a LEEDs house, made it seem “cheap.” They just reused the original bedroom/closet doors by staining them; the living room wall showing the lathe & studds by painting them. The house is about the same size as my Petworth home. My energy costs are the same as this house, according to their calculations that were on display. And, I paid about $330K less. I’m closer to Sherman Circle, not Grant, if that makes a difference in prices. If they get close to this price, Yay! for Petworth!

  • H!ll no! This is not a “good deal”. I saw this last weekend, odd design choices: in the entry way, they left the wooden slats from the wood & plaster originals…and then painted them sea foam green!

  • mtpgal

    U-G-L-Y you ain’t got no alibi, you ugly!

  • As a neighborhood homeowner who is a bit fed up with their fixer upper, just wondering, what would people expect to pay for a detached 3 BR 1 ba, unfinished but liveable home around the corner from here? Offstreet parking for 2 cars. Working radiators, fp, no central A/C. With a basementy basement with laundry hookups and one of those weird toilet + utility sink deals. The kitchen and bath need serious work. Did I mention it’s detached?

  • Terrible deal. Seems $100k over-priced to me.

  • I’m not a fan of decorating choices, but I appreciate the deck, size of the yard & parking and the fact that the bedrooms can all fit full sized beds. Too many 3-4 BR houses in DC have 1 or more bedroom that is only functional as an office or nursery.

  • This is actually a nice house; the workmanship seems to be several steps, I think, above your average flip; the paint choices, both in and out, are cosmetic and easily changed. Not usually a huge fan of open floor plans but in this case it works and while the lathe “wall” is a bit strange adding shelves and using it as an entertainment center makes it a useful built-in and reduces the need for another piece of furniture. Love the sitting room off the master, the way they reused the original doors and the office nook off the kitchen. The house would have shown better empty since it has a modern vibe but all the kitschy, yard-sale staging pieces give it a traditional feel. Can’t judge supposed ‘green’ features since I haven’t jumped on that bandwagon but I do hope it gets asking $$$…

  • Hello, I am the developer of 411 Varnum. I’m glad so many have chimed in!

    Couple of comments…this house is on track to be LEED Platinum. It is modeled to use about 50% of the energy of a comparable home. To get to this level of efficiency, there was extensive air sealing done, extensive insulation (R25 to 35 walls, R60+ attic…mostly cellulose.)…and a host of other energy saving strategies. All are outlined on If solar PV is added, the model shows it’s possible to get to net zero with this home…that’s how low its energy use is.
    For those who visited the home, all of the green strategies where explained on boards…it was a self-guided green tour for people to learn from. There is lots that can be achieved in these row homes from an energy perspective!

    It’s on track to be LEED Platinum…but that can’t happen until a homeowner moves in and gets training on the green features of the home. Until then, I can only say it is “targeted” or “anticipated”.
    As for the price…well… it’s green and it’s unique. I’ve been at the open houses and heard a lot of comments…most LOVE the kitchen, the master suite, the yard, the parking…. The entry wall is hit or miss…my impression is for most it’s a miss, but that was a risk I took. My last project in Petworth (the first LEED Platinum multifamily in DC, MD and VA sold at 20-30% above market. There are clear comps for homes of 411 Varnum’s size and location in the range of $640-$650k… All studies indicate people are willing to pay more for an energy efficient home. So, the question that I pose to you all is…how much would you pay extra for an extremely energy efficient home?

    Best, Tanya

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