Home owners and potential home buyers are becoming more aware of the need for green home construction but the cost of going green is still a strong factor.
With my experience in Georgia, I definitely see a big increase on people's awareness about green construction or energy-efficient homes. It goes the same way for existing home owners in terms of retrofitting their home to be more eco-friendly.
I believe the power companies are playing a major role on explaining the consumer the benefits of energy efficient home. Local and regional builders are also doing their part by participating in trade expos and doing free seminars but definitely the marketing budget that these utility companies have are more effective ion reaching the masses.
The caveat is that consumers want all the benefits at the same price as your traditional minimum code new home or retrofit. For example, on the existing home market, even with the incentives given by the power companies, consumers are not willing to pay for the full energy audit mandatory to qualify for the full rebates.
Many homeowners are only willing to pay for half the cost of a home energy audit. So, if the utility company is giving a $200 rebate, then the homeowner will not want to pay more than another $200. For $400 it is very difficult for a company to be profitable and provide a good quality of service with a home energy audit. When you consider all the protocols one needs to follow per RESNET or BPI, and the inherit liability of the audit, it is difficult to perform an audit for that price. The ultimate result is that many homeowners either find someone that can do it for that price, or they simply do individual improvements and skip the energy audit.
For new construction, the story is the same. If you are building a spec home, I have not seen anyone that will actually consider the green features of the house worth paying a small premium for in comparison to a traditional home. It does not matter how much time you spend explaining the HERS Index, the forecasted utility savings, the comfort of the home, there reduce impact on the environment during construction, cash flow comparison of the true cost of ownership etc. These are all great things, but it boils down to money the home's selling price.
Now, if one could make an eco-friendly home at the same price as your competitor across the street, you will definitely sell yours first. In summary, there is more awareness but they are still some financial barriers. Economically it makes sense all the time.
Luis Imery, through his business the Imery Group, is a full service construction, home energy performance, green certification and real estate group specializing in infusing sustainability in every facet of the real estate cycle. Its construction division has become pioneers in the Athens, GA area in green building of speculative, custom and design-built construction. Just in 2011 they have over 110 units slated for green certification under the EarthCraft program.