During the first-ever Green Day at the International Builders' Show, it's no surprise that two surveys -- one from the NAHB and one from a major consumer publication -- showed that home buyers and owners are clamoring for green options.
Nearly three-fourths of homeowners in the national NAHB survey said that energy-efficient features would most influence their decision to purchase a home. Of the more than 2,300 homeowners in the survey, 51 percent said they would pay $5,000 to $11,000 more upfront for a new house if they could save on their utility bills. Sixteen percent said they would pay more than $11,000.
"They are asking for energy-efficient features," said Gopal Ahluwalia, staff vice president, research for the NAHB, during the Feb. 14 session on consumer trends. "This is new."
A high level of insulation, Energy Star-rated windows, and energy-saving equipment were ranked among the top 10 must-have features by survey respondents. "When we asked about green, [the answers] come back to energy efficiency," said Ahluwalia. "There, builders are doing a good job."
Builders are on the right track, added another presenter. "Energy efficiency is the place consumers will start" when it comes to greening their homes, said Gayle Butler, editor-in-chief of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.
Mothers with small children also contend that indoor air quality is a great concern, Butler said.
In another survey conducted by Better Homes and Gardens, 57 percent of respondents said they wanted their builders to provide green options, explain what they are, how much they cost, and then let the buyers choose which ones they want.
But it's not Generations X and Y that are shouting for green attributes, said the editor. "People are mistaken that the younger generation is heading the green movement," the editor said. "Baby boomers are very interested in green. They want to leave a legacy and they have the money to do it."
Nevertheless, Ahluwalia noted that homeowners in the NAHB study contradicted themselves when they said they wanted more living space and higher ceilings. Also, homeowners still are willing to accept longer commutes to work for bigger houses, although the researcher said: "With gas prices going up, there could be some serious changes."
Besides green attributes, respondents in the magazine study said they craved a growing number of outdoor features. "Access to the outside is key from the kitchen," Butler added.
In the Better Homes and Gardens survey of more than 2,000 readers in January, 40 percent said that the yard and outdoor living are almost as important as the inside of their houses. Ahluwalia concurred with these findings.
Other results of the NAHB survey showed that 28 percent of all homes built in 2007 included three or more bathrooms and 38 percent contained four or more bedrooms.
Likewise, 51 percent of new homes had one or more fireplaces, and a majority of home buyers were seeking 8-, 9-, or 10-foot ceilings on the first and second floors. "A fireplace is expected in the house, but now they are asking for them inside and outside the house," Ahluwalia added.
The most popular kitchen features in the NAHB report included a walk-in pantry, island work area, built-in microwave, water filtration, and special-use storage. In the Better Homes and Gardens survey, 70 percent said what excites them about buying a new home is a new kitchen. "The kitchen is not just a room; it's an experience," Butler explained.
Better Homes and Gardens readers said they wanted more separation between the kitchen and family room, bench seating close to the cooking area, an organizing desk, and a computer workstation so moms can closely supervise their kids.As for bath features, the most popular in the NAHB study were a linen closet, exhaust fan, water temperature control, a separate shower enclosure, a whirlpool tub, and ceramic tile.
High-tech amenities that will become standard in the American home include a security system, energy management system, and lighting controls, the NAHB study showed. "Women say they can't get a good night sleep, so pay attention to climate control, light control, and noise control," Butler told the builders in the audience.
Meanwhile, home buyers crave color, with 70 percent saying that they paint their rooms after moving into a new house. "Bathrooms will remain white, but other parts of the house want more color," Ahluwalia said.
The NAHB report stated that the average size of a home built last year was 2,512 square feet, compared with 1,660 square feet in 1973. Fifty-seven percent of new dwellings were two or more stories, compared with 23 percent 25 years ago.
Specialty spaces are becoming more important, Butler said, especially the mudroom, separate laundry rooms, and cozy spaces for kids' projects. Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of baby boomers think they will need space for adult children and aging parents, Butler said.
At the same time, other rooms are becoming obsolete. "In the next 10 years, the living room will be history in houses less than 3,000 square feet," said the NAHB official.
On a final -- and positive -- note, Butler told the crowd of mostly builders that only 13 percent of the readers in her magazine's survey said they would not buy a home because of the current market conditions.