In a real estate market filled with foreclosures, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd, and builders are frequently choosing to incorporate energy-saving features to attract buyers.
One such company promoting “green” homes is Betenbough Homes in Texas. According to Ron Betenbough, these green measures add less than $500 to the cost of each unit which the company choose to absorb. The problem is that in places such as West Texas where energy costs are low, it can be difficult to persuade buyers to pay extra for homes.
Ron Betenbough says “If I can do something that does increase the cost and the buyer can recover the money in two years, I’m game. If it takes 10 years, you’ve lost me. Most people don’t live in a home that long.” To date he has sold around 250 green homes.
Sales of green homes are increasing as in 2006 they accounted for just 2% of new homes. In 2010 this figure was 16%. It’s possible part of this increase may be due to strict energy codes being enforced, but this is only part of the picture.
Steve Ruffner, president of the Southern California Division of Los Angeles Based KB Home says “Our competition isn’t other homebuilders, its resale. We are very focused on showing why buying new is saving money in a consumer’s overall cost.” His company focuses on first-time buyers.
Vicki Bryan, a New York-based analyst for debt research firm Gimme Credit LLC says “I don’t know that energy efficiency is enough of an edge. The first decision anyone is going to make is whether or not to buy it all, not because you have a green product.”
Another problem is that mortgage appraisers don’t always take into account energy-saving features which can make it difficult for borrowers to get loans, and this is leading to many builders absorbing the extra costs involved. In general going green increases building costs by around 3%.