Buyers May Want Greener Homes, But Builders Are Making Them Smaller

Sponsor/Writer - Louann Moss

Although 32% of people looking to buy a new home are first-time buyers, inexperience doesn’t necessarily equate to indecisiveness. In fact, a recent survey shows that home buyers really do know what they want in a property. And in many cases, American builders are willing to give buyers want they want.

According to the latest What Home Buyers Really Want survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders, buyers today are prioritizing energy efficiency above almost everything else. Energy Star appliances, energy efficient windows, and even whole house green certifications are mentioned among some of the most desirable home features for buyers surveyed. The need for home storage was also ranked highly, as well as features like hardwood floors and outdoor spaces.

But those aren’t the only interesting findings. Although the size of the average American home has nearly tripled over the past 50 years, data suggests that this trend may be reversing. In fact, U.S. Census Bureau data reveals that the average new construction home has a much lower square footage than comparable builds from just a few years ago. In 2015, the average new home had 2,689 square feet, but today it’s more like 2,576 square feet. And although the construction industry eliminated more than 40% of its workforce between 2006 and 2011, the reversal isn’t due to lower numbers of laborers.

It’s actually because most buyers can’t afford the steep price tag that comes with a bigger home. The lack of affordable housing has prompted builders to make changes to meet consumer demand. Townhouses and smaller, single family homes are on the rise, and builders are merely trying to keep up. To accommodate consumer needs, builders are opting to include fewer bedrooms and are definitely leaving out the three-car garages that many high-end buyers look for. Essentially, builders are making attempts to keep costs down in order to pass those costs onto the average buyer.

Rose Quint, the head of survey research at NAHB, noted in a statement: “Builders are trying to meet demand where it’s hottest, and that is at the lower price points… To that end, they are building more townhomes and smaller detached homes. Townhomes take up less land, and that automatically brings the price down.” And as the average homeowner spends 1 to 4% of a home’s value on repairs every year, that lower price point means real savings in the future.

That’s not to say every builder is going to factor in environmentally friendly features, however. But given the fact that net-zero energy homes are now becoming more prevalent in certain parts of the country, some builders may be willing to spend the effort (and cash) to appeal to a buyer’s sustainability mission. For now, the majority of buyers will probably be willing to sacrifice certain green home features for an affordable price, but with any luck, buyers might be able to have both in the future.

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