What Does Green Mean to Homebuyers?

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Photographer: Anthony Rich

With home buyers becoming increasingly concerned with efficiency, green homes are developing into an emerging growth market. Not only are these homes in demand, they also have broader implications due to their low impact and environmental responsibility. The growing popularity of green and high performance homes offers builders an opportunity to provide the high efficiency features that clients are seeking. However, the green building field has quickly become saturated with a myriad of terms and home features—so much so that both consumers and builders can become confused.

The NAHB Sustainability & Green Building Department and the Economics & Housing Policy Groups conducted a 2015 study of consumer preferences to better understand consumer awareness and perception of green home features. This information has been published in “What Green Means to Home Buyers” and is available through BuilderBooks.com. The report surveyed recent home buyers, those looking to purchase a home in the next few years, and those investing in a major home renovation (more than $25,000). The results provide insights into the green terms, features, and programs that consumers respond most positively to. This information is then grouped into various demographics such as buyers’ age, and price of the home. These findings not only offer a glimpse into consumer preferences, but also help green builders understand how to best promote their services to home buyers who may be unfamiliar with this new market segment.

Results of the report show that the words used to market green homes really can make a difference –even for words that have essentially the same meaning. In a field where there are so many terms used to describe green values, it is important for builders to know which ones will provoke a stronger positive response from clients. The report asked consumers to choose between two words and to indicate which they felt conveyed the most value. Certain word pairings showed a significant consumer preference for one term over another, while other pairs showed a more or less equal preference. This data can help builders understand when it is in their best interest to use one term over another.. The report examines more than 20 word pairings, a few of which are listed here:

Thus, the language builders use on their website and in their brochures is crucial. And when speaking to clients about a home’s amenities, using the words “environmentally-friendly” as opposed to  “green conscious” can make a big difference in the consumer’s mind.
The new report also looks at which home features will most likely influence a buyer’s decision. While many components can be included in a green home, knowing which aspects will most likely influence a consumer’s decision allows builders to decide which features to emphasize in their marketing, and which are less important. An expanded list with over 30 ranked features can be found in the published report. Here are the features that scored highest and lowest:

Builders will want to ensure that the features most likely to influence buying decisions are mentioned first and foremost by salespeople, and given the most prominence in marketing materials,. Discussing reduced carbon footprint before mentioning energy efficiency could make it harder to connect with consumers.

A third question in the survey asked participants to provide their own description of a green home. This concept is at the very heart of the report because it specifically identifies “what green means to home buyers.” Each green home can be entirely different from the next and have completely different technologies. Therefore, it is important for builders to understand which features clients immediately associate with green homes. Below are some of the most common themes participants used to describe green homes:

 

Original article, written by Jaclyn Toole, can be viewed here.

 

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