Green Myth No. 3: I Can’t Sell It; Customers Don’t Think It’s Valuable

This is the third in a five-part series of columns debunking the top green-building myths. In the March issue, page 16, I discussed the fallacy green costs more. In May’s issue, page 20, I discredited the belief green doesn’t improve comfort or perform. This month, I address the opinion you can’t sell green; it doesn’t represent value to your clients.

When I come into contact with designers, remodelers and builders who ascribe to this notion, I know they are really saying they are not knowledgeable enough or do not have the skills to properly educate their clients about the tangible benefits of green design and building. If they did, there would be little selling involved; clients would be begging them for green.

A green home, particularly one that has been certified through any existing local, state, regional or national green certification program, is just going to be a better home by definition. Keep in mind boasting that your company delivers projects that are “built to code” is meaningless because anything less is illegal.

In comparison, think about food choices. Certainly one could eat fast food every day; it is cost-effective, and it is FDA-approved for consumption. However, we don’t eat fast food every day. Why would we go the cheap and easy route with our homes, which arguably are one of our most important investments and significant factors influencing our families and quality of life?

Operational Value

A green home will be far less costly to operate because the focus is on conservation. The cheapest, cleanest and greenest energy is the energy we don’t have to add to the system. By investing in a high-performance thermal boundary, a home requires a smaller, less-expensive mechanical system. The homeowners begin cashing in the moment they flip on the heating or cooling system. Depending on the mechanical system and the energy demand of the new or remodeled home, our firm has typically seen 50 to 75 percent in energy-cost savings—many times after adding significant square footage. Pair these savings with local, state and federal incentives, grants and rebates, and the pot is sweetened even more.

Durability Value

To achieve a certification, green homes must be solidly based in building science, which considers energy and moisture flows through a building. Water, as we all know, is the enemy. A home with good moisture management will outlast a home without it. Durability is one of the key components in green building. It is not a green strategy to build or remodel a home that is not going to last. There should be little problem with selling your clients a more durable building. The benefit to you is less costly callbacks.

Health Value

The products that constitute a green home, particularly one that is certified, will typically contribute far fewer VOCs, carcinogens, endocrine interceptors, allergy triggers and respiratory irritants than a conventionally built home. With a significant rise in respiratory diseases and allergies in America, what is the true, long-term value of a healthy green home?

To truly understand the worthiness of green building, you must understand the difference between short-term price and long-term value. This is where the math on a green home really shines. Consider the following:

A typical Midwestern green home can be built for 10 to 15 percent more than a traditionally constructed home. Matt Grocoff, GreenovationTV, points out the typical U.S. household spends $2,573 per year and will shell out upward of $174,000 in energy costs during the next 25 years if energy increases by 7 percent annually as predicted by most energy analysts. If a homeowner invested in renewable energy right now, he or she would instead be saving money during that same period—potentially the equivalent of their child’s college education.

If this homeowner chooses to sell, the market is starting to recognize the intrinsic value of a green home. Ongoing market analysis by the National Association of Realtors is showing green-certified homes are trending for quicker sales and higher resale values than similar homes that are not green-rated. (Visit GreenTheMLS.org/step-6-track-publish-market-trends.cfm.) As appraisers begin recognizing what the market is already experiencing, the pedal will really hit the metal. Are you positioning your company to offer the high-value return a green home will command, or will you still be whining you can’t sell green?

Michael Klement is principal of Architectural Resource LLC, Ann Arbor, Mich.

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