The NAHB's Housing Preferences of the Boomer Generation: How They Compare to Other Home Buyers report examines how various design features influence home purchase decisions of prospective buyers across generations. The survey asked respondents to rate over 150 different indoor and outdoor home features as "essential," "desirable," or "do not want," and breaks out those results by generation.

Top Five Features Most Wanted by Home Buyers

Among the top five design features found to influence home purchase decisions of all buyers, ENERGY STAR appliances, an ENERGY STAR rating for the whole home, and ENERGY STAR windows were considered essential or desirable to over 80% of respondents. These results indicate that buyers are increasingly influenced by the efficiency of a home, but that doesn't necessarily mean that incorporating energy-saving features can increase the probability of making a sale.

The report notes that respondents were explicitly asked not to consider cost implications when rating home features. Buyers are placing more emphasis on energy-efficiency (and the preference for those features increases with age), but only 14% of all buyers (and 13% of Boomer buyers) are willing to pay more for a home with those features out of "pure concern for the environment." Buyers will only pay more for efficiency if they will have lower annual utility costs in return, and the rate of return they require is substantial:

Rate of return required to make utility cost-saving investments:
Median (all buyers): 20.0%
Median (Boomer buyers): 20.0%
Average (all buyers): 9.3%
Average (Boomer buyers): 10.1%

The conundrum between the appeal of green home features and unwillingness to pay more leaves room for compromise. An ENERGY STAR rating for an entire home is ranked fourth among all buyers and second among Boomer buyers, but the cost implications of achieving that rating may negate the appeal. According to ENERGY STAR, installing ENERGY STAR certified windows lowers household energy bills by an average of 12% nationwide. Seeing as ENERGY STAR rated windows are ranked highly “desirable” across all generational cohorts, and the average savings surpass the average rate of return identified by all buyers surveyed, energy-efficient windows could be the green feature of greatest benefit to architects, builders, and remodelers.

Window Preference by Generation

As seen in the chart below, ENERGY STAR, low-e, and triple-pane insulating glass windows are considered essential or desirable by over 50% of all buyers surveyed, and the preference for those windows increases with age. The report also indicates that respondents of all ages care more about thermal performance than what materials are used to construct frames; no group indicated a significant aversion to any particular type of window material.

According to the NAHB, buyer preferences outlined in the survey, the industry "should no longer consider energy-efficient windows an optional feature in new homes, based on how strongly and often they influence home buyers' purchase decisions."

As more buyers indicate a desire for efficient home features, builders and developers can bank on the fact that any ENERGY STAR rated feature, whether it be a whole home ranking, appliances, or windows, will be viewed favorably by buyers. The EPA's brand has clearly been established as something desirable and positive, but it will be challenging to validate the additional cost of those features unless they provide a clear breakdown of future savings.

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