Bad News For Green Builders? Not So Fast

The collapsing housing market has wreaked havoc in a variety of industries. Everyone from realtors, to mortgage bankers to builders has seen lay-offs and steeply declining sales. The savviest of the group have realigned their businesses to go after the new markets a recession creates or focused on smaller, still growing niche markets.

For builders who thought going green was the answer there’s some bad news. While the hype surrounding green building features would make one think this trend would last forever, a recent study by the New York Times reveals some holes in this theory.

Ninety-three percent of all home buyers, both nationally and in the New York metro area, are not willing to pay more for green or energy efficient features when building a home, according to a recent independent study commissioned by The New York Times Customer Insight Group.

On the other hand there’s no need to despair. Another report shows that consumers ARE still interested in the health benefits of a green home.

As many as 42 percent of all buyers would be motivated to purchase a green home based on knowledge of their health benefits, compared with only 17 percent for energy savings and 12 percent for the environment…

While I find it a bit surprising that more consumers aren’t interested in the cost savings associated with a green and energy efficient home, it may simply be a case of cost versus benefit. With the economy rapidly declining consumers are interested in saving money –RIGHT NOW. If the higher price tag associated with an energy-saving appliance doesn’t equal cost savings within a year or so many buyers will simply pass.

On the other hand, appealing to consumers’ health concerns taps into a strong emotional need…much harder to put a price tag on. Green builders would be wise to focus on those health issues that can be avoided by installing non toxic materials, especially in the residential sector.

Healthy living, more often the purview of women, particularly mothers, can be a strong selling point for green builders. Women make more than 90% of the purchasing decisions for all kinds of products in this country. With health a strong motivator in the purchase of a wide variety of green products, refocusing green building from an energy saver to a life saver just makes sense.

Photo Credit: Spunter at Flickr Under Creative Commons License

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About the Author

Hear Maryanne speak on Social Media for Socially Conscious Brands at Expo East on September 27th! Maryanne Conlin is CPG brand marketer and digital marketing expert, CEO of RedRopes Digital and Partner Digital Strategy, 4GreenPs. A Shorty Award winner for best Green Content on Twitter, she was a member of the IAA team that won the Green Award in 2010 and most recently was a finalist for the PRSA - Los Angeles PRISM awards for social media. She and her team focus on providing strategic marketing direction, custom content for web, mobile and social platforms, social media community management and online promotions and digital advertising solutions for companies in the green, food and Hispanic space. Follow her on Twitter @maryanneconlin
  • One thing I notice a lot of people aren’t talking about is the added value of a green home. I have no idea what these numbers would be, or if it’s even viable, but by buying a green home, is there some sort of guarantee of greater equity down the line than a home that isn’t green?

    Of course that still doesn’t address the immediate gratification of saving money now, but I don’t see the subject discussed very often.

  • Dave,

    Good point! I’d like to see some discussion develop here. We have some pretty savvy readers.

  • A green home is definitely a logical next step for the environment and a choice not all of us can make. Most of the green building going on right now is the “green condos” set and I am sure there are a few green townhouses out there. There should be more thought put into building green restaurants and commercial spaces where most of the world spends most of its time. At least I know I love to eat. The housing market will do its thing and no matter how you build building is expensive today. I want to hear more about green building innovation where the public benefits.

  • Teresa Ambord

    This is a good article, but I wish the author wouldn’t use hyperbolic terms like “the collapsing housing market.” Last I checked, the overwhelming majority of mortgages are still being paid. Is the author suggesting that we all be living in the alleys instead of homes? Doubtful. I wish journalists would stop trying to be scary and just be accurate.

  • ouch!

    Point taken!

    How about “moderating housing market”

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