A good friend of mine is real estate crazy. She trolls Craigslist and New York real estate blogs like Brownstowner and Curbed admiring all the goods — beautiful uptown brownstones, sexy downtown studios, “classic sixes” with classy ZIP codes, rambling Victorian mansions in the outer reaches of Brooklyn, etc. — that are on the market for millions of dollars. Thing is, she doesn’t have that kind of money to spend on a home in New York City. But it doesn’t hurt to look, right? Is it okay to say, “what if?” for a brief moment and pretend that a $2.5 million two-bedroom apartment is within reach? My friend has insisted on calling real estate brokers to arrange viewing appointments, the ultimate in real estate interloper fantasy. “It’s an open house,” she’d say. “They can’t deny us. We’re just looking.”

Me, I’m not much of a masochist. I’d rather torture myself by looking at astronomically priced properties from the comfort of my own home. Mercifully, there are plenty of sites that facilitate this.

Below are a handful of sites offering virtual — and a couple real — green home tours in the form of photos, videos or slideshows with accompanying text. Please note, not all of these properties are for sale; they're simply on display as feats of sustainable design. But that’s not always the case. So put your “pretend cap” on, kick up your feet, and let’s take a tour, shall we?

• The always excellent, green-leaning modern design mag Dwell offers over 50 green home tours on their Website complete with stunning photos and accompanying text. Feeling bold? Dwell also has a non-virtual home tours program.

 At HGTV.com, you can take a room-by-room virtual tour of the stunning 2008 Green Home. And building enthusiasts: Be sure to keep track of the under-construction 2009 Green Home in Port Saint Lucie, Fla. 

• Natural Home magazine is a reliable source of insightful text paired with photographs of eco-excellent properties. All homes featured meet the publication's standard of "Living Wisely, Living Well."
• Re-nest plays tour guide at an eclectic mix of sustainable homes from across the globe.  Recent highlights of these slideshow-based tours include visits to homes in Denmark, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Austin and Chicago. 
 A great resource for perspective buyers, ListedGreen features green homes for sale in the U.S. and abroad. There are many unique finds — including plenty of homes with LEED certification — currently listed like an off-the-grid hut in the Hawaiian jungle and a solar-powered dream home in Sun Valley, Idaho. 

Another excellent place to peruse homes for sale is Green Homes For Sale, a site that bills itself as a "Green & Healthy Home Marketplace." There are photos galore and users can search by country or by categories like "Strawbale Homes," "Solar Homes," "Adobe Homes" and "Green Prefab Homes." 

• Build It Green doesn’t offer virtual tours, but if you're in the San Francisco Bay area you can tour, in person, some of the greenest homes in California through the Build It Green Home Tours program. According to its website, “In a single day, these innovative self-guided tours showcase many beautiful single- and multi-family residences that were built or remodeled using healthy, energy- and resource-efficient products and practices.”

 Like Build It Green, Seattle’s Green Home Tours offers in-the-flesh tours of remarkable eco-abodes. The tours are free and give “tourists” a glimpse into both finished homes and homes being built or remodeled.

• Sunset magazine, a staple in my home growing up, features notable green homes of the West in the “Natural Home” section of its website. 

If you have any recommendations, please share in the comments section below. And if terms of non-virtual green home tours, I mention a couple above but there are a ton out there in various cities. They're generally sponsored by local building associations or environmental organizations and take place on a monthly or yearly basis. The GreenHomeNYC Green Buildings Open House events are also worth mentioning (the above photo was snapped at one of the organization's tours). The goal of these tours is usually not to seduce prospective buyers but to educate on green building technology and, of course, show off some pretty fabulous real estate. 

Photos: Andrea R (top); RenataGross (bottom)

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Eco-home tourism
Whether you're buying or just looking, home tours — the collision of real estate, voyeurism, and envy — are a time-honored tradition. Here's a few good green p