July 20, 2016

2016 Remodeling Trends: 4 Takeaways for Green Pros

By Marc Bigby, Build It Green Senior Contractor Engagement Manager

As the experts predicted, 2016 is seeing a major upswing in home improvement spending. A strong real estate market finds homeowners favoring a remodel rather than searching for a more “perfect” home. We got a glimpse of homeowners’ choices and motivations in June when Houzz released its 2016 Houzz and Home Report, an overview of renovation activity in the U.S.

Here are some of the most relevant findings and what they mean for professionals like you who are passionate about healthy and efficient homes.

1. Homeowners Are Staying Put

More homeowners are renovating instead of buying. It’s certainly easier than trying to out-bid other buyers in a crazy real estate market. And remodeling is usually a good investment to increase a home’s value. But the top reason for renovating vs. buying is that people want “a personalized home that fits [their] vision.”

  • Take-home for green building pros: Help your clients refine their vision.
    For people who want to make their house a home and live there for the foreseeable future, emphasize the comfort and quality of life that your solutions can offer them—whether it’s an energy upgrade or sustainable product choices. Paint a picture of how your solution fits their vision. That’s how top-selling HVAC and home performance contractors in PG&E’s Energy Upgrade California® Home Upgrade program make their pitch: by selling comfort, health, and efficiency, with “saving the planet” as a sweet side benefit. Other surveys show that homeowners are much more interested in a “comfortable and healthy home” than a “green home.”

2. Baby Boomers Spending More

While millennials are just as likely to remodel, they don’t spend as much as older homeowners, perhaps because they don’t expect to live in a given house for very long. Conversely, boomers are settled in their homes and ready to invest in making them more livable and comfortable. Top projects continue to be kitchens and bathrooms.

  • Take-home for green building pros: Equate “green” with “quality.”
    Emphasize the superior quality and durability of a green home upgrade done right. The benefits are lower utility bills, lower maintenance costs, improved health and indoor air quality. That’s how leading new home builders use Build It Green’s GreenPoint Rated certification to differentiate their homes—by always equating “green” with “quality.”

3. Recent Homebuyers Most Active

Renovation is a key priority for new homebuyers, accounting for more than a quarter of renovations. The Houzz survey revealed that homebuyers are more likely than existing homeowners to upgrade core systems like plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling, and ventilation. Home automation (lighting, smart thermostat, etc.) continued to rank high as a system upgrade, in the #3 spot behind plumbing and electrical.

  • Take-home for green building pros: Help new homebuyers make healthy, cost-effective renovation choices.
    The opportunity with homebuyers cannot be overstated. That’s the whole reason behind Build It Green’s push to train real estate professionals: They are the perfect evangelists to educate their homebuyer clients on smarter home improvement choices that enhance health and comfort, and save energy and money. Our industry has simply got to do a better job of engaging and educating homebuyers because they are the ones spending money and doing larger projects.

4. Product Choices Matter a Lot 

The #2 reason why homeowners hired a quality general contractor or design contractor (besides “getting a quality result”) is to get help in finding the right products and materials. Even more so for an interior designer. The #1 reason remodeling projects went over budget was because the homeowner “decided to buy more expensive products or materials.”

  • Take-home for green building pros: Explain the benefits of choosing better materials.
    You are a trusted resource to help homeowners make smarter product choices—from flooring to insulation to adhesives—that will help keep their families safer and healthier. A healthy home is of critical importance: The 2014 Houzz Healthy Home Trends Study found that “preventing health problems” was a high-ranking motivator for renovations. Build It Green recognizes the emergence of health as a driver for energy upgrades, and we are evaluating new initiatives that capitalize on this welcome trend.

While the 2016 Houzz and Home Report doesn’t call out green remodeling or energy efficiency upgrades specifically, it’s still a treasure trove of insight into the customer’s mindset and motivations. Remember that just like any other contractor or home specialist, green gurus need to sell customers what they want—not what we want them to want.