Twenty miles outside the small town of Taos, New Mexico, the dry, flat landscape is interrupted momentarily by a small brown-colored dome that appears amid the low, desert scrub. Taking a closer look, the structure is somewhat cartoonish in appearance as it pops out of the landscape and — for anyone who has kids — looks very similar to Nickelodeon character SpongeBob SquarePants’ pineapple home under the sea.
Is it some kind of government installation? A utilities building? The source of the mysterious Taos Hum?
Nope — it’s just an adorably cute, 320-sq ft stucco dome home that blends in easily with its vast, 10-acre surroundings. Upon further investigation, this small piece of Taos real estate was constructed using a dome home assembly kit and it’s for sale for $74,000.
“There’s quite a few people who are interested in building dome homes,” explained listing agent John Kejr of Dreamcatcher Real Estate. “There are a probably a couple of dozen different companies that have [the kits].”
Dennis Johnson of Natural Space Domes in Minnesota sells kits for building a dome home — either the entire pre-fabricated kit with framework and sheeting and interior panels or a basic kit, which just includes the metal connection brackets.
While a small dome home kit, like the one in Taos, costs somewhere under $5,000, three, four and five-bedroom plus homes can cost anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000, and Johnson claims they’re relatively easy to build and someone without a lot of construction experience can build one.
“The dome is a connect-the-dots kind of thing, a very easy system,” he said. “It’s like a giant Tinkertoy set.”
Kejr said the little Taos dome home is designed to be more of a vacation home than a primary residence and it’s entirely “off-the-grid” — powered by solar energy and it has double-paned windows and a small wood stove. Buyers have the option of adding onto the home; there’s an additional dome kit on the property available for sale.
The home is near the Rio Grande river and has “spectacular views” of the mountains, Kejr said, but be prepared to use an all-wheel drive vehicle to access the property during heavy rainstorms due to muddy conditions.
So, will we see dome homes sprouting up all over the place? There has been a rise in sales, Johnson said. He attests that to the real estate downturn and downward trend in home values, as well as an increasing interest in green and energy-efficient homes.
“Our business has had a decent uptick — we’re seeing people who want something more economical,” he explained. “The dome shell part of it is going to be less cost than a traditional box house.”
Not only are dome homes extremely energy efficient — reducing heating or cooling costs by two-thirds or more — they’re also safer, and can withstand tornadoes and hurricanes, said Johnson. A few even made it through Hurricane Katrina without a scratch.
As an agent, Kejr prefers to market dome homes over a “traditional cookie-cutter home.”
“They’re fun to sell; they’re so different,” he said. “This will be challenging to find the right buyer but it’s a whole lot of fun.”