thinking about buying a 'geodesic dome home'

June 29, 2006

I know this is a late posting, but we too are considering buying a geodesic dome home. We just love the idea of it! Real unique! What I don't understand is some of the rationale lenders are saying for not financing them?! Aren't most homes subject to market forces?! Aren't many homes custom built?! Aren't many homes new and don't have a track record?! What's up?! IS there something I'm missing about these homes?!

Comments (35)

  • scryn

    Maybe they will not finance because they don't know enough about this unusual construction to be able to see if it is stable or will last long? To be financed the bank needs to agree on how much the home is worth and what shape the house is in.

    That may be very difficult to determine if you live in an unusual home.

    A bank will only finance a home for less than or equal to it's value and if you can't determine the value, well then, I guess they can't finance.


  • pamghatten

    Unfortunately most lenders do not finance "dome" homes. The problem is getting an appraisal completed using 3 other "dome" homes that are close by, that sold in the last 3 to 6 months.

    Are there other "dome" homes near where you are planning on buying?

    These are usually very unique properties. It's very hard to figure out the value of a very unique property.

    If this is what you really want, you'll need to probably put down a substantial down payment 40 to 50% and find a local lender who is familiar with the area, or that you have a banking relationship with.

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  • chisue

    It can be almost impossible to sell such a unique home. Compared to this, a split-level is a crowd pleaser.

  • rosie_2006

    There's a 5,000 sq ft one in my home town for sale, with 48 acres for $599,000. Go to and then click on homes over $100,000. Pics of inside

  • dgmarie

    What a strange place! Makes me think the mother ship has landed. To each his own. If you love it, buy it, but if you can't make the payment and the bank has to foreclose and sell it, I can see they might have a problem over a more normal looking place.

  • devorah

    I know 3 families in the NW who built dome houses. None of of the houses could be sold after months and months on the market. One family took a big loss and moved and two decided they would have to stay where they were

  • infodivamary3

    Have you read about the problems that this type of construction may present? Here's a sample from Wikipedia:

    The shape of a dome house makes it difficult to conform to code requirements for placement of sewer vents and chimneys. Off-the-shelf building materials normally come in rectangular shapes.

    Windows conforming to code can cost anywhere from five to fifteen times as much as windows in conventional houses.

    Air stratification and moisture distribution within a dome are unusual, and these conditions tend to quickly degrade wooden framing or interior paneling. Privacy is difficult to guarantee because a dome is difficult to partition satisfactorily. Sounds, smells, and even reflected light tend to be conveyed through the entire structure.

    Dome builders find it hard to seal domes against rain, because of their many seams and because solar heat flexes the entire structure each day as the sun moves across the sky.

    Sounds like fun, but also sounds like headaches.

  • disneyrsh

    It's a house with no right angles.

    I can't imagine how difficult every day living must be. No flat walls to put bookcases on, etc. If you buid right angles into the structure you're going to eat up a ton of square footage.

    I think the banks are trying to say, we won't finance them because they're WEIRD!

    Now, the geo dome at EPCOT, THAT one I'd live in any day, if they'd let me...

  • fifidanon

    To the OP:

    I doubt I would buy a geodesic home myself, but for the record, R. Buckminster Fuller is one of my personal heroes. In fact, as I write this, I have a large, framed print of his "Dymaxion Airocean World" on the wall right above my desk.

    He was ahead of his time 50 years ago, still is today, and IMO, probably still will be 50 years from now. Have you ever considered a less ambitious, geodesic vacation home?

    Best of luck to you, whatever you ultimately decide.

  • quirkyquercus

    I'd live in a tree house like swiss family robinson if I could but the reality is I have consider what it's going to be like a resale.. You may not have the patience for having trouble reselling it.

  • liketolearn

    The problem is that they are very hard to sell. Not many buyers. A problem for the bank if you default and they have to foreclose.

    You might want to check on some website that sell the dome homes. I think several of them lists mortgage companies that will finance dome homes. They may be willing to finance a purchase of a not-so-new dome home. Also find out the seller's mortgage company. Wonder if they charge a higher interest rate because it's not a "standard house"?

    You probably will need a large down-payment. I'd be sure to get a really good home inspector and hopefully the bank or a dome builder can recommend one experienced with dome homes. We have 2 dome homes in our area and both are in disrepair. Wonder if the difficulty and cost of maintenance is the reason.

  • dseng

    In SE Alaska, Juneau to be precise, I've seen the rotted remains of several less than 20 year old geodesic dome houses. They handled the rain (80+ inches/yr) OK, but the real problems occurred from the inside out - ventilation problems are inherent in the design. Cool to look at and an interesting concept, but I think perhaps fatally flawed in execution. I'd spend some serious time researching and finding people who have owned them and talking with them about maintenance.

  • kudzu9

    I was all excited to build a geodesic dome home many years ago (1970's), until I did a lot of research and found out all the practical complexities (like fitting kitchen cabinets to walls that slope at different angles), noise carrying all over the open spaces, keeping them weather tight, etc. I still think they're cool, but glad I decided to not build one. Take a look at what many people want or settle for: bland, ticky-tacky boxes. Many of us want our houses to be like McDonalds...they're all the same wherever you go. People want familiarity, not novelty. If you look at some of the small things people agonize over in other forums here (oil-rubbed vs. brushed nickel doorknobs, etc.), you'll see that a geodesic dome is way beyond most people's comfort level.
    Don't get me wrong, living in a geodesic dome would be a great adventure. Just don't expect to be able to sell easily or get back what you put into it.

  • quirkyquercus

    Hey how about a yurt?

    Or just build a dome garden shed and live in a mc donalds like the rest of us. Be glad your region has some architectural flair at all unlike Florida where everyone lives in an identical concrete bunker.

  • cindy_lou_who

    What about a Monolithic Dome home? They're shaped like a dome, but they're totally rounded, they don't have the flat edges like a geodesic dome.

    They can be totally round, or tall & oblong. You can build just one, or connect a series of them together.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Rainbow Dome Home In Sedona

  • dsally

    If you re still interested in dome home living, check out this website

    I'd be curious to hear what you decided about dome home living.

  • klimkm

    I have heard it is hard to get homeowners insurance on these because they are not standard construction. Cannot verify this though it seems very possible.

  • rlar7

    We bought a Geodesic a year and a half ago. The house was 30 years old and needed some paint inside and out. The financing was a bit of a challange but didn't take long to obtain and we didn't have a problem with insurance. I've attached a link to my blog about our geodesic that includes photos.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Geodesic Living

  • Thomas Tracy

    I just bought a dome home. Love it. Don't let anyone discourage you.

    We have hot water heat and our bills are really low. My mortgage company had no problem loaning the money on the home. In fact, I got a va loan and got $127 back at closing with no down payment.

  • Ann Scott-Arnold

    These geodesic domes are NOT a new idea. They were also a fad in the early 1970s and cropped up a bit again in the late 80s

    Note the word "fad"

    "rationale lenders are saying for not financing them"

    Rationale is pretty simple If they end up with the house in foreclosure, the odds of them being able to find a buyer for an off-beat not-popular type of house are soooooo slim. They would be sitting on that sucker forever.

    Lenders -other than local banks - really aren't doing doublewide trailers (oops manufactured housing) either.

    Lenders aren't dong condotels either - the buy the condo and rent it out when you aren't using it kinda place.

  • lookintomyeyes83

    We have at least one residential geodesic dome in our state that I know of - friends of mine owned it - they sold it when their son died, and it seemed to go off the market quite quickly (rural Manitoba, Canada). So I do think there is a market for them.

  • senterrenee

    Thomas can you tell me who fiananced your home? We are have had several people wanting to buy that can't find a lender and the last one was interested in getting a VA loan. We are in Washington state.

  • senterrenee

    rlar7 can you tell me who you got your financing through? We have plenty of people wanting to buy, but having a hard time finding a lender.

  • Sherry Toler Williams

    I just purchased a geodesic dome and I'm finally moving in! I too had trouble finding a lender with over 55% down and a high credit score. Find a local banker or credit union that does appraisals on unique homes. I succeeded with River Valley after 3 other lender attempts which resulted in a 5 month adventure. I DON'T recommend Wells Fargo and you'll see them advertising on all the dome sites. He is a big waste of your time and misleading! I just couldn't give up! The home is awesome! Going to be a blast decorating!

  • homechef59

    As an appraiser, it was always a joke among appraiser's that the definition of hell was trying to find comparable properties for a geodesic dome. That's the problem. Not the structure. It's just that there aren't enough of them to do a proper job making a determination of valuation. There may be two or three appraisers in the U.S. that might have enough expertise to perform this type of appraisal. That's why lender's can't deal with them.

  • Roger Manning Jr

    HI Sherry, thanks for your contribution here...I have been looking to procure a land acquisition-construction-to perm loan to build my dome and am running into all the usual issues. Lots of enthusiasm and not enough comps for the underwriters at the final stage. I currently live in and want to build in Los Angeles. I too have been advised to start investigating a more "piece-mealing" approach to this process w local banks. Simultaneously I have also begun a preliminary dialog w Mr. S.K. at Wells Fargo for the final take out loan portion should I get the land & construction loans in place first with other lending institutions. If I could trouble you with 2 questions it would be greatly appreciated:

    1. Can you recommend some smaller "mom & pop" type banks I should speak to that you have had luck with for any portion of the lending and...

    2. What should I be aware of specifically with Mr. SK? So far he has been nothing but helpful and enthusiastic. I am the first to admit I am a complete novice, first-timer here so I don't know where he may be misleading me or not. I of course am so excited to build and live in my dome that I am willing to give anybody with the slightest bit of interest the benefit of the doubt. However I of course I don't want to get myself in any financial trouble or in over my head.

    Any more advice in the right direction would be GREATLY appreciated.

    Thanks again, [[[roger]]]

  • venetiayates

    We built our dome home in NM in 1984-86 and lived in it until 2015. After '08 we knew we were facing a struggle to sell it (moved to a new area) so we carry the papers. Sadly the new owners, who LOVE the house, have to move due to a job situation. With the economy and housing market getting better we, too, hope they can sell. The issue is financing and appraisal. My question: okay there are no other domes near, but it's a 2-story home, 2400 sq ft - what is the problem?? What is a bit unique about our former dome is that my husband wisely built it on a 2.5 foot stem wall, so it is not flat on the ground or slab. It make it more functional and stately, and PLENTY of flat walls for furniture. Anyway, best of luck!

  • new-beginning

    any one considering a 'dome' home, rather than build a 'geodesic one, consider the dome homes that are made/developed by a company in Italy, TX (they use sprayed on gunite). These things are tornado and hurricane proof.

  • geoffrey_b

    They are 'white elephants' - avoid.

  • Current Resident

    I understand that the builder would take a hit, but why would the subsequent owners IF these houses are valued according to what people will pay for them? From the above comments, I would expect the cost to be substantially less, and I would also expect that there would be a good no. of buyers looking for low cost affordable housing who are OK with the design . As yall keep saying in this forum - if its not selling the cost is too high.

  • ncrealestateguy

    A large component of what determines a home's value is the availability of financing. or the lack of it. The easier to finance a home, the more the market will climb, as we saw to the run-up of 2008. And vice versa...

  • HU-34072019947218321

    My advice to anyone wanting to build a
    geodesic dome, is "Don't." This opinion comes from some
    one that built and owns an Oregon Dome, 50 footer on a 3 foot riser
    with two 6 foot exstentions. I've owned it for 25 years. This is not
    a hippy built dome. It is probably the finest built Geodesic Dome in
    all of Lane County, Oregon. I paid cash for its entire
    construction, therefore a bank loan wasn't needed, however other dome
    builders in the area, at my time of construction, had great
    difficulty getting construction loans. The first issue that
    happened was interpreting the blue prints as provided by Oregon Dome.
    They just didn't provide enough reference points for really laying
    out anything. So I had to spend a year, just looking at the plans
    and providing more detail as to where the systems and interior walls
    would all go in reference to fixed points My dome is on a floating
    slab so all the Drain, Waste, Vent had to be exactly placed with zero margin of error. I had to invent an entirely new way of triangulating where interior walls would eventually go and align
    those with the centers of the roof triangles for venting.
    Everything had to be converted to metric. Said, "Goodby"
    to my Speed Square. Next came the problems with the contractors.
    First the foundation perimeter walls. The contractor got it all
    wrong with his forms, its a ten sided structure with no right angle.
    We started to get into an augment as to how he was setting his
    forms. He was using conventional forms and foot/inches and none of
    what he did lined up. So I rebuilt his forms, in the middle of the
    night, using my reference points and didn't tell him. The pour
    turned out to be perfect due to my re-adjustments. The same thing
    happened when we did the floating slab and footings. So the
    foundation guy is now gone and I'm slightly frustrated that I had to
    make all these corrections because he really didn't have a clue how
    perfect the foundations have to be on these things. My roofer was
    excellent and specialized in Domes. I then had to fire three
    different framers in rapid succession. All three wanted to cut
    corners and build in the same manner one would build a normal stick
    frame with no forethought as to how the interior framing would fit
    the shell of the dome or creating backing plates for the drywall.
    Took me 6 years to personally complete all the rest of the framing,
    electrical and all the other systems. Think about how many holes
    you have to cut in a Dome shell to run electrical wire. Each system
    was mind numbingly difficult to complete as standard materials don't
    fit and most standard construction tools can't cut or work with in
    the angles and spaces needed. Had an excellent finish carpenter
    that understood the challenges. So I have a "Perfect"
    wood framed Geodesic Dome. Yet I'll never get back in value, even
    the materials put into it. I can't mortgage it, and I can't sell it,
    and right now I'm having a hard time finding a Homeowner's Policy.
    So, just don't build a Geodesic wood Dome. Its my dream house, but
    it isn't anyone else s' dream house.

  • geoffrey_b

    HU - that's a great story. The bottom line is if something is really odd - it's odd for a reason. Then, as you say, since it's odd, you have all sorts of problems getting conventional things: like a mortgage or insurance.

  • kudzu9


    Thanks for the thoughtful and painful explanation about your experiences. Decades ago I was enamored with geodesic dome homes, and seriously studied the techniques required and started some initial designs. However, extraneous circumstances came into play and I never was able to proceed with my plans. It wasn't until years later that I realized the true complexity of such builds and recognized it was probably fortunate for me that I never got farther than I did. I still think they are a terrific concept, but your personal story has cured me of my nostalgic thoughts.

  • new-beginning

    I still suggest the Monolithic Dome Homes out of Italy, TX - there can be a stem wall so one has actual straight (plumb) walls, and they teach folks how to build the homes - doesn't have to be 'round', can be a variety of shapes, gunite for the roof and sides.

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