According to Michelle Desiderio, most buyers interested in high-performance homes are motivated not so much by energy efficiency, but rather by personal interest in making the world a better place to live.
Desiderio, who serves as vice president of innovation services for Home Innovation Labs in Upper Marlboro, Md., spoke at the 2015 International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas about strategies to sell high-performance homes, including which audiences to target.
“You want to make sure you’re really speaking to things that motivate them,” she said. “If you’re only selling energy efficiency, you’re missing the big picture, and even alienating the young buyers.”
For Millennials especially, a message about saving money is a little offensive. “They’ll choose a high-performance builder simply because it’s the right thing to do, not just to save money,” she said.
Desiderio said that today’s high-performance home buyer is looking for a sustainable lifestyle that is healthier, efficient and better for the world at large. And 61% of builders say customers will pay more for a home that meets these criteria.
There are four groups of buyers that are particularly inclined to purchases high-performance homes:
The Persuadable Middle, a.k.a. The Mainstream Consumer
Desiderio pointed to research which showed that 16% of consumers are super green and “out to save the earth,” while another 18% have completely rejected the idea. This leaves 66% of consumers in the middle, most of whom have “good, green intentions,” she said. “They worry that they’re being excluded from the green movement a little bit. So make it real for them with what motivates them, like lower operating costs and walkable communities,” she said.
Women lean green across all areas of the country, income levels and ethnicities. In many households, women are the primary breadwinner and decision maker for the home. “They are interested in the health and safety of the family, not so much what they’ll save on energy bills. And they’re willing to pay a little bit more for the things that will make their house healthier and better for the family,” Desiderio said.
This group of home buyers really cares about the environment and the world. They’re socially responsible, globally-oriented, environmentally conscious savers, who are renting and living in green apartments right now. Ninety-three percent of them expect to own a home and don’t want their parents’ home. But they do want a tech-equipped home that is both good for the environment and their wallets.
“Granite and green will win over this new group of home buyers,” Desiderio said. They are focused on style, social status and sustainability, and desire construction and design that lends to less consumption in trendy ways.
The best overall strategy in catering to these groups, Desiderio said, is to demonstrate that the home is a better product and better value for the consumer, and that sustainability is about better quality of life.
Jenn Nowalk, director of sales and marketing for Homes by Dickerson, which sells high-performance green certified custom homes, provided some tactics, stressing the importance of educating staff and making sure they attain green designations.
“It provides proof to consumers that the company and its employees are experts in green and that your homes meet certain criteria,” she said.
Nowalk also recommends spending time building up your online presence so that consumers, who are spending an increasingly large amount of time shopping online, can see that you are a leader in high-performance home building.
“Blog or tweet pictures of your finished and unfinished homes. Use Pinterest; especially to attract women. It gives people the ability to go and dream,” she said. Infographics are another fun and fairly simple way to show consumers what interior and structural features to look for in your homes.
All of Dickerson’s homes display signs that showcase the builder’s name, designations and any certifications that are underway for the property, she said. In addition, each home also has small touch points inside and out, driving home important messages.
For example, Dickerson uses prominent vinyl wall decals that peel on and off to highlight certain features and provide key talking points to customers.
Participating in local green-related events also helps them get in front of consumers and demonstrate how they are experts in the field.
For Homes by Dickerson, the effort has paid off tremendously. In 2014, the company closed 96 homes at an average sales price of $510,610, leading to revenues of about $48.5 million.
Engaging Realtors is also a key step in reaching green consumers. Annette Bubak, a green-designated Realtor and regional builder sales manager at SolarCity, said that only 3-5% of high-performance homes are properly identified as such within local Multiple Listing Services.
Because agents really depend on builders to provide signage and information, videos and other marketing materials to sell their homes, she said its critical that builders add comments to their listings highlighting the benefits; upload their homes’ certificates; and provide professional-quality images.