September 7, 2021

Thinking green in post-pandemic world

Today, many Americans choose to make green living a large part of their homeownership decision making.

For decades, energy efficiency was the primary driver of these green preferences, according to research by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

That hasn’t changed. In a 2020 NAHB survey of more than 3,000 current and prospective buyers, more than 60% said they were willing to invest as much as $9,000 upfront to save $1,000 annually on utility costs. Four in five buyers said heating and cooling costs were the most important environmental factors, followed by energy-efficient windows, doors, and siding.

But the survey introduced a new and pressing environmental concern – the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly 66% said they were willing to spend more than $2,000 upfront for a home certified to an above-code standard for personal health and wellness — features that have become increasingly important in the wake of COVID-19.

Health and wellness features include zone heating, purified air appliances, indoor air quality sensors and a connection to the outdoors to help residents live comfortably and safely in their abodes.

The combination of both factors presents new challenges. Builders and developers must bring homes and buildings to market with green credentials at the very heart of their specifications.

With real estate anticipated to consume around 40% of global energy annually, green impact has become a more urgent political issue, as well. State and federal governments often offer tax credits or similar financial rewards for new construction that minimizes environmental costs to future generations. Generally, similar incentives are available to current homeowners who make environmental upgrades.

In March, nearly two-thirds of agents surveyed by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said the promotion of energy efficiency in listings could help attract buyers.

More than half said their clients were interested in sustainability, and nearly a third reported being involved in a transaction involving a property with “green” or eco-friendly features in the last 12 months. More listing services are allowing home buyers to search by green features.

Though consumers increasingly want more information about green features, the current hot market and lack of inventory may mean some buyers delay the need for fulfilling those desires in favor of getting into a home.

The good news for consumers is these systems have gotten much more efficient and less expensive. A societal shift to clean and green has become not a question of if, but when and how.