Many consumers support the idea of energy saving features in homes in theory. But in practice, many don’t want to pay for it.
About 10 percent of consumers are “core-value” customers who are environmentally committed and sustainability is part of their identity, said Eric Snider, president and CEO of Lifestory Research, based in Orange County, Calif.
Snider spoke on Thursday at a “Growing Green Homes in the New Economy” panel at a conference at the Brown Palace Hotel sponsored by the National Association of Real Estate Editors today.
He said consumers will show an increased willingness to adopt such things as solar power, but that doesn’t mean they want to pay for it, unless they are part of that 10 percent core-group.
“They will tell you one thing and will behave in a completely different way,” Snider said.
“Our forecast is not positive,” for consumers paying for green features, even though it will save them money over time.
His company’s research also found that it isn’t the younger generation embracing green with the most fervor. Lifestyle’s research found that 50 percent of the people 25 to 30 years old support the idea of being green, while 65 percent of those who in the 60- to 75-age range support green behavior.
But Gene Myers, president of the Denver-based New Town Builders, said that is not his experience with buyers.
He said on a macro-level, he thinks that Snider is correct, but when he can present energy payoffs that start in the first month of ownership, they are sold.
Myers said New Town is the best-selling builder in Stapleton, “and I am competing against eight other builders,” in the most popular master-planned community in Denver.
And when Myers returns to buyers after they have lived in their homes for a while, they are totally devoted to saving energy.
He was at a homeowner meeting Wednesday night at Stapleton, where every home New Town builds has a solar photovoltaic system and an energy monitor.
“Honey, I noticed a spike in our energy-use yesterday,” one man said to his wife. “That’s because I ran the drier,” she explained.
Myers said solar is what draws consumers to the home.
“Thicker insulation isn’t sexy,” Myers said. “Within in our niche, it is a powerful sales tool.”
He said that in 2010 New Town sold 42 homes, last year it sold 89 and last month it sold 19.
“We’re not a national builder; we really do not worry about national trends,” Myers said. “All real estate is local. In our market, solar is viable.”
Myers noted that a lot of builders his size did not survive the latest downturn.
“A lot of mid-sized builders are gone. I honestly don’t think we would have survived if not for our solar and other green features.”