Homebuyers Want “Better”

by Jan 26, 2017

I recently spoke at the International Builders’ Show, along with two successful residential homebuilders, in a session called “Taking the Mystery Out of Marketing High Performance.”

While we had not compared speaking notes, all three of us ended up sharing, essentially, the same insight in different ways: homebuyers don’t buy homes based on green or energy-efficient features.

They buy based on benefits. The secret is in telling the story of why high-performance homes are better in an emotionally compelling way.

I kicked-off our session with some consumer insights: our 2014 Energy Pulse study found that three-quarters of homebuyers would pay more for a “high-performance home” that was built to standards higher than ENERGY STAR®. And in an unaided question from our Energy Pulse 2016 study, we learned that the primary association with the phrase “high-performance home” is (not surprisingly) “energy efficient.” Finally, we know that energy efficiency is a fantastic selling point: 81% of people who expect to buy a new home in the next two years say higher energy efficiency would cause them to choose one new home over another.

So all homebuilders need to do is rattle off a litany of energy efficiency features to their prospective buyers and … SOLD! Right?


Buyers purchase homes they fall in love with. When you call your best friend to gush about the home you just bought, you don’t lead with “energy efficient.” That’s like describing your boyfriend as “honest.” That’s a fabulous attribute, but it’s probably not why you fell in love. Rather, homebuilders (and makers of energy-efficient products) should strive to make an emotional connection. You don’t do that by rattling off a litany of features. Instead, you lead with the emotional benefits.

We know, from our years of Energy Pulse studies, that there are several strong emotional benefits associated with energy efficiency – one of which is comfort, which can mean different things to different people, and often varies by feature. Comfort benefits add up to a better home living experience:

  • LED lighting = brighter for easier reading and daily tasks
  • High-efficiency HVAC = warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer
  • Better sealing and insulation = consistent room temperatures and less outside noise

My co-presenter, CR Herro of Meritage Homes (one of the highest volume homebuilders in the U.S.), said that they have standardized high-performance features in their homes because that is one of the easiest ways to ensure consistent quality. But their sales pitch doesn’t include a list of “standard energy efficiency upgrades.” Instead, he trains his sales reps to communicate why their homes are simply better by focusing on the benefits – not the features.

John Brandon, owner of Red Tree Builders, an award-winning custom green homebuilder based in Asheville, North Carolina, shared his early marketing pitch failures emphasizing building science, ratings and air quality certifications. He said he used to watch potential buyers’ eyes glaze over as he rattled off the details. Now his priority is to help his prospects visualize the experience of living in a green home.

Life is better in a high-performance home. Tell them why.

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About the Author

Lee Ann Head

Lee Ann is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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