Builders have spent years rolling out one environmentally friendly feature after another, only to see underwhelming interest from consumers. But now they are taking a different approach: They're playing up economics and, increasingly, including green features at no extra cost, according to the Wall Street Journal.
KB Home just unveiled a "ZeroHouse 2.0 " near Washington, D.C., its first home promising a zero energy bill in the mid-Atlantic. KB home began building the ZeroHouse 2.0 concept last year, as previously reported on ProudGreenHome. It joins similar models in markets including Las Vegas and Orlando. Meritage Homes Corp. has dedicated entire communities in Phoenix and Tucson to its greenest homes, while Shea Homes, a large private builder, has made green features standard in 10 communities nationwide since February.
There are signs that this pocketbook push might be paying off: KB Home says that in its Southern California communities with solar as a standard feature, traffic from potential buyers is 30 percent higher than in those where it costs extra. And Shea says sales at all-green homes are significantly topping expectations. "We hear every week from our front lines that having the net-zero product included in the price is making a difference," says Rick Andreen, president of Shea Homes Active Lifestyle Communities.
To be sure, most buyers will always pick their new homes based on location and price and they still don't seem willing to cough up much extra money for the green homes. Meanwhile, some builders aren't overly focused on the eco-friendly movement, saying they'd rather stick with the traditional homes buyers have always wanted.
Still, green sales are increasing. In 2011, these homes made up 17 percent of residential starts by value, up from 9 percent in 2010, according to the latest McGraw-Hill survey of members of the National Association of Home Builders trade group. That figure is expected to hit between 22 percent and 25 percent in 2013.
In many cases, customers are enticed by the promise of lower power bills: "Look at energy volatility over the last decade. Our customers value the predictability of their future expenses. That's more meaningful to them than a granite countertop," Mr. Andreen said.
Read more about building a green home.