Apartmenttherapy.com | March 15, 2021

Three Things Nobody Tells You About Buying a Home with a Greenhouse, According to the Pros:

An Expensive Perk, and Lots of Work in the City or the Burbs

By Jennifer Billock

Credit: Photo by Arno Smit on Unsplash

When I was a teenager, my family flew out to Boston to visit one of my mom’s cousins. They had a big lot, and I was completely shocked when I walked into the backyard to find two gigantic greenhouses. I felt like I’d just discovered the Secret Garden. Now, I live in a Chicago neighborhood known for apartments with alcove sunrooms. I use mine as a reading room, but our upstairs neighbor uses theirs as a greenhouse. Seeing that got me wondering — what does it take to actually run a greenhouse inside your home?

As you might have guessed, it’s not all sunshine and roses. Here are three things nobody tells you about life with a greenhouse, according to real estate pros.

It’s going to cost a decent chunk of change.

Whether your greenhouse is in a sunroom, attached, or detached, it’s going to cost you a lot of money to take care of it. On average, says Simon Isaacs, owner of Simon Isaacs Real Estate in Palm Beach, Florida, it costs between $2,000 and $4,000 annually to maintain it. Sanna Iriti, a realtor at R New York, breaks it down:

“Annually, you will need to clean it two to three times, and that can be easily over $1,000 for each visit, depending on the size of the greenhouse,” she says. “If you replace the windows, each panel will cost you from $450 for a small window panel to more than $2,000 for a curvy window panel from top to bottom.”

Aside from money, putting in the work to maintain it can be a pain.

Replacing the windows is part of the maintenance required for a home greenhouse. They’ll need to be changed every 15 to 20 years, Iriti says. Though the structure itself is usually built to last, the windows gather condensation and the seals between the window panels wear out and break. Plus, you’ll need to repaint any greenhouse struts occasionally, find a way to keep the space heated throughout the winter, and use extra water on plants in the summer when the sun dries everything out.

You may have to clear a lot with the homeowner’s association or condo board.
In many urban areas, you’ll have to get a greenhouse approved. Daniel Wollman, CEO of property management company Gumley Haft, says this is the case in New York — and most places won’t approve them. If you find an association or board that does, you’ll also need to get any repairs or maintenance approved by them as well. That includes the “scope of work, the contractors, and the insurance for the job,” Wollman says. And because they tend to leak unless they’re meticulously maintained — causing damage to your property and in some cases the property beneath yours — this is something you’ll almost certainly go through.
But you can’t beat the perks of having one.

Imagine having all the natural light and wow-factor that comes with a greenhouse — inside your home. Plus you get your own sustainable garden at your fingertips every day. Greenhouses can also be hard to come by, so if you find one, you probably won’t want to let it go.

“Greenhouses are extremely charming and attractive,” Iriti says. “I am actually negotiating an apartment with a greenhouse for my buyer at the moment, and my client just can’t stop talking about it. The more we visit the apartment, the more we fall in love.”

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