Home Innovation Insights

Health & wellness are front and center on consumer minds. Make sure your homes are meeting their needs.

Michelle Foster
October 7, 2020

Is Wellness the New Energy Efficiency?

For the past few decades, new homes have been designed and constructed to be more energy efficient. There have been two main drivers for this trend. First, with each new building code cycle, the energy efficiency level required to be IECC compliant increased. Like it or not, some builders had no choice but to build a tighter envelope and install more efficient, higher-performing systems, windows, and appliances just to be code compliant. But the second driver is the cohort of progressive, innovative builders who voluntarily design and build a more energy-efficient home. While these builders’ motives to build more efficient homes vary — consumer demand, financial incentives, deeper understanding of building science, desire to outpace the competition, or just because it is the right thing to do — one thing we have learned from them is clear. Most consumers prefer more energy-efficient homes and are willing to pay more for energy efficiency (how much more is a topic for a future post).

Energy-efficient home builders report that their homes sell faster, for more money, and perhaps more importantly, that their buyers are more satisfied with their energy-efficient home than with their former inefficient homes. Win-win-win. Builders are rewarded for their energy-efficient homes, the environment benefits from homes that require fewer nonrenewable resources, and homebuyers get a more high-performing home.

Is an energy-efficient home the golden ticket for builders? Unfortunately, no. Energy codes are becoming more stringent, so now, depending on a home’s location, even code-minimum homes can be relatively energy efficient. That makes energy performance less of a distinction among builders.

At the same time, market research tells us that while energy efficiency is one factor that influences a homebuyer’s decision, there is another factor that is even more important as an emotional driver for selecting one home over another: health and wellness. We understand that if a builder tells a prospective customer that a home is more energy efficient, the buyer does an automatic calculation: If this home costs me X more than the same non-efficient home, how much will I save on my energy bills and when is the breakeven point? Homebuyers understand that efficiency costs more money up front, but can save them money over the long term. They are looking for the payback for their investment because buying an energy-efficient home is a (mostly) rational decision. [For now, let’s recognize but set aside the buyer interested in energy efficiency because it is good for the environment — those buyers exist, but that decision-making process is even more complicated.]

The same buyer will not do that equation with health and wellness. They know a healthier home that improves their wellbeing may cost more, but they are not looking for a payback. Buying a home that can improve one’s health and wellbeing is an emotional decision. Once you have made an emotional connection with the buyer and the buyer decides they like your homes, they will then use their rational thinking to justify their emotional choice. [And for those who claim they only make “rational” buying decisions? Don’t believe them. Research shows that people who claim emotions are not very important, who consider themselves to be rational, are more prone to fall prey to making emotional decisions.] 

Emotion drives purchasing behaviors. Homebuyers will pay more for a healthier home. And for women buyers, market research shows that protecting the health and wellbeing of their families is paramount. Moreover, women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchasing decisions and currently, the top homebuyers after married couples are single women (18%; double the percentage for single men at 9%).

So, what does this all mean? If you have put all your eggs into the energy-efficiency basket you are missing out on the stronger green marketing message of health and wellness. And it bears repeating, that as energy codes become more stringent nationwide, your marketing message will be as effective as paint manufacturers touting their product is lead-free.

Let’s put this in context of the current state-of-affairs: COVID-19 and wildfires. Both have put air quality, inside and out, at the forefront of our health and wellness conversations. Individuals who previously never gave a thought to building ventilation are now discussing its importance and efficacy for schools, offices, restaurants, and gyms. And they are doing this while spending an unprecedented time, with their families, in their homes. If health and wellness were not on our minds pre-March 2020, it can’t help but be the main focus now. 

Consider recent interest in products that help improve indoor air quality. Below is a graph of Google searches for “air purifier” and “HEPA.” You can see the steady increase in both since early this year, with major percentage upticks at different points along the way. At some times, searches surged by 100%; and even the lowest point since March of this year is higher than the same searches being done this time last year.

Google Search for Air purifier and HEPA

Google Search Tool

What does this mean for green homes? Now more than ever, a green home with features that help improve the health and wellbeing of its occupants is a strong selling point. It appeals to our desire to have a higher quality of life, and as important, it does this with an upbeat, positive message: “NGBS Green Certified homes are a better place to call home!”

Want to learn more about how your homes can earn NGBS Green certification? Contact us.

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