Currently Reading

The Puzzle of Selling Green Homes


The Puzzle of Selling Green Homes

Builders and buyers are at odds about what is most important about green homes

February 1, 2019
selling green homes can be puzzling, much like finding your way through this green hedge maze
The difficulty builders have selling green homes is puzzling, given that many surveys of consumers show buyers increasingly likely to select green products, with nearly half of those surveyed saying they're willing to pay more for them. (Photo: PickPik)
This article first appeared in the February 2019 issue of Pro Builder.


This past October, I attended the EEBA (Energy & Environmental Building Alliance) High Performance Home Summit in San Diego in an effort to learn where the builders that are most interested in energy efficiency and sustainability are concentrating their efforts. 

EEBA, a highly respected national organization that has been around for more than 30 years, provides training and education about resource-efficient, durable, and healthy homes for residential builders and designers. I joined the conference’s many attendees who sat in on and took copious notes about a variety of technical presentations concerning indoor air quality, building science, and resilience, along with getting to net zero—an especially important topic for the local builders facing the deadline for California’s 2020 mandate

But another important thread ran through the Summit’s offerings: sessions on “Perspectives from ZNE Homeowners Who Don’t Know What ZNE Is,” “Selling & Marketing: A How-To By & For Builders,” and “Builders vs. Buyers: What’s Real, What’s Imagined, and What’s the Way Forward?” These items were on the agenda in response to the fact that many builders find that selling a green (or high-performance or sustainable or net zero) home is at least as hard as building one. 

The difficulty builders have in selling green homes is a little puzzling, since many surveys of consumers show that buyers are increasingly likely to choose green products, and nearly half say they are willing to pay more for them. As far as the builders themselves are concerned, a 2017 Dodge Data & Analytics report on green building activity and the costs and benefits of building green found that single-family builders are increasingly determined to build a larger percentage of green homes, and 71 percent of them believe that their buyers are willing to pay more for them.

What, then, is the problem? In the months before the conference, Professional Builder partnered with both EEBA and Shelton Group, a marketing communications agency focused on energy and the environment, in a joint effort to determine where the disconnect between builders and buyers lies. Two surveys were developed, one each for home builders and consumers, to discern what the perceived value of green homes is for each group. Suzanne Shelton, president and CEO of Shelton Group and the presenter of the “Builders vs. Buyers” session at EEBA, says the builders she has worked with are often frustrated by their inability to connect with buyers on the importance of the green aspects of the homes they build and that buyers seem to place more emphasis on a home’s price or design features. After reviewing the results of the surveys, the data gives a pretty clear picture of why.

Shelton’s article on the conclusions that can be drawn from the research, lays out the differences that keep builders and buyers at odds about what each cohort thinks is most important about green homes. Many buyers are primarily concerned with what green homes can provide for them and their families: for example, a quality home, a healthy place to live. Buying a green home is also a way to demonstrate they are concerned with the environment and are doing their part to be aware of the issues and taking some responsibility for the outcome. Builders, on the other hand, are focused on the actual mechanics of what they are providing: materials, insulation values, and construction techniques—information that doesn’t resonate with buyers.

Shelton contends that these disparate ways of thinking about a home’s value are often what impel buyers to purchase a home where the value is concrete and visible, such as price and granite countertops. Her article offers another option: how to tailor marketing and sales approaches to reach buyers where they want to live, in a home that both meets their desires and responds to their concerns.

Written By
editorial director

Denise Dersin, editorial director of Professional Builder, Custom Builder, PRODUCTS, NKBA Innovation+Inspiration, and co-editor of Multifamily Design+Construction, has been in publishing as an editor and writer for 30 years and has worked in the housing industry for much of that time.

Related Stories

Green Design

The Pesky Side of Green Buildings

Building green has flourished and architects are designing spaces that feature sustainable construction methods, high performance features—even…

Net Zero

Housing's Now: The Ultimate Z.E.N. Home

The Ultimate Zero Energy Now Home is proof that combining high performance and market appeal is a recipe for success in today’s competitive production environment.  

Net Zero

Net Zero Energy: The Ultimate Z.E.N. Home's Comfort Solution

The Ultimate Zero Energy Now Home took a team approach to conquer aggressive performance and cost goals and deliver optimum indoor comfort.


More in Category


Create an account

By creating an account, you agree to Pro Builder's terms of service and privacy policy.

Daily Feed Newsletter

Get Pro Builder in your inbox

Each day, Pro Builder's editors assemble the latest breaking industry news, hottest trends, and most relevant research, delivered to your inbox.

Save the stories you care about

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet lorem ipsum dolor sit amet lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.

The bookmark icon allows you to save any story to your account to read it later
Tap it once to save, and tap it again to unsave

It looks like you’re using an ad-blocker!

Pro Builder is an advertisting supported site and we noticed you have ad-blocking enabled in your browser. There are two ways you can keep reading:

Disable your ad-blocker
Disable now
Subscribe to Pro Builder
Already a member? Sign in
Become a Member

Subscribe to Pro Builder for unlimited access

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.