Green Homes Getting Good Traffic, EVHA Winners Say
Winners of the 2009 EnergyValue Housing Award (EVHA) report that green building has increased traffic to their homes even in a slow marketplace, but once prospective customers come through the door, they said the burden is on the builder to educate them about the value and advantages of the home’s energy-efficient features.
Scott Bergford, president of 2009 EVHA Builder of the Year winning Scott Homes, says he is “overwhelmed” with work, primarily because his company has been able to distinguish itself as a green builder.
“While tract builders sell on price, I sell on green building, and it’s working,” Bergford said.
During a recent Parade of Homes, his EVHA award-winning home saw nearly double the foot traffic compared to other conventional homes open during the tour. “Don’t tell me people aren’t out there,” he said. “They want to buy, they just want to buy green.”
Bergford, who has been building energy-efficient homes for 25 years, said that he has always marketed their advantages. But, he noted, “it’s easier now because there’s a label for it.” Those labels include Energy Star, the EVHA and the Built Green program of the Olympia Master Builders. “It helps a lot to have the EVHA award, because it brings validity to our success,” he added.
Rob Sabin, of Aspen Homes of Colorado, said he has been able to differentiate his homes from other new homes on the market by delivering a product that can be expected to deliver low utility bills and high levels of comfort and air quality.
“You need to inform customers about how your house performs compared to other new homes,” said Sabin. “And you need to make it quick and simple, because they are looking at lots of other factors like location, schools and layout, too.”
Like Bergford, Sabin said that Aspen Homes promotes its links to established labels such as the EVHA, Energy Star and green building programs. “There’s real value there,” he said. His company also gives a heating and cooling guarantee on all its new homes which, he said, “everyone thinks is a good deal.”
In the Michigan market where 2009 EVHA winner McIntyre Homes builds, Energy Star is so pervasive that company president Arn McIntyre noted that he needs to explain how his Energy Star homes outperform the competition head-to-head. “Because Energy Star can be achieved with HERS 85, I have to talk HERS ratings with my customers. It’s not ideal, but not all Energy Star homes are created equal, and we have to differentiate.”
Bergford said that even though buyers seek him out as an energy-efficient builder, customer education is still key.
“I have to educate 100% of the customers that walk through the door,” Bergford said. Scott Homes doesn’t offer its home buyers many choices on energy efficiency, he said. “I have my own favorite systems that evolved over the years,” he said. “In the process of education, I demonstrate the benefits of the choices I am making for the customer.”
Sabin, on the other hand, has found offering choices advantageous for his business. “Markets have fragmented,” he said. “You can get exactly what you want at the coffeehouse and now home buyers expect the same thing. You have to start with a great product and then offer them more.”
Aspen Homes starts with a standard, high level of energy efficiency at an affordable price point, Sabin said. From that base, customers can elect to increase the efficiency of their home by selecting from a limited number of practical upgrades.
“People come to us with crazy ideas, and we say, ‘how about we do this instead?’ Nine times out of 10, customers listen because they trust our professional judgment,” Sabin said.
Sabin conceded that marketing energy efficiency, “just like everything that is worth its salt,” is more work. But, he said, “when it translates to more sales, it’s absolutely worth it.”
For more information about the EnergyValue Housing Awards, visit www.nahbrc.com/evha.
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