Tri Pointe Homes, one of the nation’s biggest homebuilders, wanted to know which high-performance features home buyers most want today—so the builder asked them. In late 2021, Tri Pointe, which constructs about 6,000 new homes per year, tapped Cambia Information Group to survey over 600 home shoppers across the country. After analyzing the survey data, Tri Pointe recently announced several updates to LivingSmart, the builder’s program of high-performing, efficient features provided in all its homes.
LivingSmart started back in 2001 with California-based Pardee Homes—long before Tri Pointe acquired Pardee and its parent company, Weyerhaeuser Real Estate, in 2014. The LivingSmart program covers five areas: energy efficiency, indoor air quality, technological connectivity, water usage, and environmental sustainability. Features range from smart thermostats to LED lighting to formaldehyde-free insulation. Every couple of years, Tri Pointe takes the pulse of homebuyers to identify the features that most resonate with them.
TRI POINTE HOMES 2021 SURVEY RESULTS
For the 2021 survey, Cambia, an independent research and data consultancy, surveyed 613 home shoppers across ages and regions. The questionnaire listed and described various features and asked respondents to rank them in priority—what they most and least want to have in their homes. Then the survey presented the same features but this time also gave their retail prices and asked respondents to rank them again.
“It was quite telling,” says Kevin Wilson, national vice president, strategic sourcing and sustainability, Tri Pointe Homes. “Today’s buyers were more biased toward energy, number one, and health, number two.”
That’s not surprising, Wilson adds, given the concurrent realities of rising consumer prices and ongoing health concerns. “The dollar is not going as far, so there’s a focus on low maintenance costs,” he says, “and certainly health is top of mind.” The survey results held true across geographic regions.
The vast majority of respondents (86%) said it is extremely or very important that their new home include energy-saving features. And 75% said they expect or are excited to have features that contribute to energy savings.
Consumers’ interests change, Wilson notes; in the coming years, water conservation, for instance, could become a more pressing concern. “As our buyers change, we change,” he says.
Buyers' Most Valued Features
But for now, surveyed buyers’ most valued features include energy-efficient HVAC equipment, MERV 13 air filters for HVAC systems, tankless or high-performance water heaters, video doorbells, and whole-home surge protection.
So Tri Pointe decided to give the people what they want, outfitting its new homes with several standard features, including the following:
- 220-volt, 50-amp circuit for a Type 2 electric-vehicle charger—ranked by homebuyers as the most appealing feature
- Whole-home surge protection—ranked as the second most appealing feature (which makes sense, Wilson points out, given our growing dependence on electric and connected devices)
- MERV 13 filter for the HVAC system
- Hands-free touch faucet in the kitchen
- WiFi door locks
- Smart, WiFi-connected irrigation system (for houses with sprinklers)
- Tankless or high-performance water heater, which Wilson says provide both savings and convenience. Tankless water heaters create hot water on demand, rather than continually heating and reheating a giant tank of water. “Tankless water heaters don’t mean instant hot water but they do mean endless hot water,” he says. Which is no small thing for families running out of hot water for their morning showers.
Following the survey, LivingSmart also introduced a few optional features, such as a dual flush toilet and a central vacuum, as well as an electric outlet beside the toilet in the primary bathroom, so owners can plug in a bidet. With options like the bidet outlet, Wilson explains, Tri Pointe considers features that cost relatively little during construction but likely would cost the owners much more to install on their own.
The company continually weighs the costs and benefits of all its high-performance features, Wilson says. “You could in theory out-green yourself but make the home so unaffordable that you can’t sell it. We have to be very careful about the dollars we invest for homeowners.”