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What motivates a green buyer? Knowing may change your strategy

I am a student of people and when I take buyers out I frequently take mental notes of their comments, habits, and overall energy when they view homes.  Frankly, those insights come in more handy for me in prepping my sellers on getting their homes market ready or preparing for an open house than any of that advice you see on real estate websites or DIY shows.

Why? I personally believe one size doesn’t fit all in homes and neighborhoods and understanding what consumers are looking at can completely change how you would advise a seller.  In my neighborhood of East Nashville, many of my buyers take time glancing at the homeowners art pieces, perusing their book shelves and admiring artistic family photos.   They make comments like “these people are like parallel us” and “do you think they might consider leaving their pez collection?”  Obviously, advising my sellers to paint their walls egg shell and depersonalize their homes would be horrible advice.    My point is that most neighborhoods attract a specific type of individual and understanding who that may be obviously helps to both target where you promote but also how you and your seller present the home.

Now I Feel like a bit of a Schmuck

Imagine my complete disappointment in my having completely missed the boat on that useful tidbit as I have worked diligently the past few years to earn green business.  I have listed green homes, spent countless hours in open houses and sales centers for green projects and not once have I quizzed any of my guests on what appealed to them about this project nor did I take really take a good look to see if there were patterns in the demographic.    This is a reality I came to when I recently listened in on a Webinar about green buyer statistics made available to members of the Green Resources Council.   The presenter was The Shelton Group, an advertising firm who has spent a great deal of time and effort polling consumers about environmental and energy issues the past few years.   They then work with green businesses and curtail the marketing campaigns around what consumers are concerned with.  Novel eh?

And the Survey Says!

One of the surveys they shared with us was called eco pulse and there are a number of really relevant tid bits for green real estate practitioners to consider from the results of their study.   For example, one question was has the current economic climate affected whether or not you purchase green products(assuming most green products cost more than their counterparts)?  Nearly half said they are buying the same amount they were buying a few years ago and over 20% said they are buying more which shows consumers still see some additional value to environmentally friendly products.

Topping the list are environmentally friendly cleaning products, appliances, personal care products, lawn and garden products, home improvement products, automobiles,  and electronics.  It certainly seems like this is a tremendous opportunity for Realtors to provide relevant information about where these types of products can be purchased locally and maybe even some anecdotal thoughts on how they are performing from you or your clients.

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Some other interesting points were that the average consumer probably knows less about green features in a home than you might think.  When asked to name one in fact, the majority of the survey takers offered up solar panels.  Nearly half the respondents believe they are using less electricity than in the past and about half believe their homes are somewhat efficient even though many had homes older than 20 years.  When asked to name the highest value (i.e return on investment) green improvement a homeowner could make, most offered up windows followed by high seer rated heating and cooling units.   Interesting, we actually have consumers who may be interested in purchasing a green home or doing green improvements but may be holding off because they assume that having a green home means more of the higher ticket products such as windows or solar panels.  Many are not taking in to consideration the additional technology, computers, tv’s,  and extra refrigerator that are standard in the American home sucking kilowatts nor do they understand some of the more basic cost effective efficiency strategies have to do with sealing your home and changing some basic habits.  It sounds like we have a tremendous opportunity to provide very practical useful information to our warm market and clientele.

What about clients who do know a fair bit about green homes?   The majority said they would be more likely to seek out a Realtor with specific training in green housing.   Energy efficiency is a bigger priority then owning a “green” home.   Most would use a search engine or website to find a green home.   Of those wanting to use a  green credentialed Realtor,  40%  would pay 5-10% more for a  more efficient home and 38.5% would pay 20-30% more for a green home.

Who are your green buyers?  I’ll let the survey summary speak for itself.

Do with this what you may.  It has certainly inspired a complete change of strategy in my online and personal approach to this niche.  I have gone from a very real estate specific to a more organic lifestyle oriented   I am curious if any of this is news to you all or am I not the progessive, forwarding thinking, early adapter I think I am?

Written By

Anna Altic – Village Real Estate Services. I’ve called Nashville home for the last 15 years and have been practicing (practice being the key word here) real estate for just over 6 years. In the fall of 2007, I went to a local German Festival that had a home tour, including a LEED certified property, and I instantly became enamored with the idea of eco friendly living (ok, so I’d had a little beer and the dual flush toilet rocked my world). I have since devoted much of my time and energies in to studying and espousing the benefits of better building technology within our local residential market and my proudest accomplishment thus far has been successfully leading the initiative to get over 25 green features added to our MLS search fields.



  1. small house

    August 23, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Green homes is a buzzword now like feng shui homes used to be several years back. Many people are going green to save money and then when they pencil out solar panels and see that it takes 20+ years to pay them off (and who stays in their homes this long any more) then they become disinterested. Educating green home buyers on the “little things for a greener home” that will impact their bottom lines immediately will help convert them to buyers.

    • Lani Rosales

      August 24, 2010 at 9:57 am

      Thanks for commenting, Small House! Anna (the author of this article) is devoted to green real estate and has written many many articles advocating for greening the home in a financially friendly way because you’re right- an agent who is not well educated just tells clients to slap up some solar panels. Too bad, right?

  2. solar homes

    July 30, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Hey don't dis the solar panels. There are many buyers willing to pay a premium to go green. Hybrid cars, plug-in hybrids, electric cars all have there niche buyers. The same with green homes. Wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal energy, well water, composting – these things will appeal to some buyers and they will pay more for homes with these environmentally friendly components.

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