Results from an online survey of 1,011 potential home buyers across the country by Robert Charles Lesser & Co. (RCLCO), a leading real estate research firm based in Bethesda, Md., found that more than 36 percent of respondents identified the environment, energy savings, or health benefits as a primary factor in their new-home purchasing decision. “Given all of the other concerns and factors that go into a home buying decision, we were surprised at the results,” says Shyam Kannan, vice president and director of research and development for RCLCO.

The survey required respondents to make sequential trade-offs among 42 home-buying factors, including types of housing, quality of education, and specific features of the neighborhood, lot, and house, as well as environmental choices—thus making the results even more gratifying to green proponents. “We were excited to find the results consistent with our anecdotal information,” says ­Kannan.

In addition to what appears to be a critical and credible mass of eco-sensitive buyers, the study broke down the respondents into three categories: Forest Greens (those feeling environmentally responsible); Greenback Greens (those looking to reduce home energy costs); and Healthy Greens (those most concerned with a healthy living environment).

While Healthy Greens accounted for 8.5 percent of green-minded buyers (as opposed to 21.8 percent identified as Greenback Greens), Kannan predicts they have the most potential to push sustainable development and building fully into the mainstream, in large part because they aren’t as concerned with their return on that investment (see chart, below). “Saving the planet and energy-efficiency messages are not making a dent in the consumer psyche,” after 40 years of promotions and debate, he says. “Healthy Greens are willing to take action and invest in their habitat to ensure and promote good health and take a leap of faith that spending a little more will give them peace of mind against the risk of toxicity.”

Kannan and an RCLCO team will spend the rest of this year touring the country to present the findings of their study, titled “Measuring the Market for Green Residential Development,” through various venues. “We just wanted to fill the hole regarding feasibility and ­financial questions that builders have about green-minded home buyers,” says Kannan. “It’s a reality check for those in the housing industry and to help them make decisions before they start a new project.”

To download a free copy of the report’s executive summary in PDF, go to The summary document includes an order form to ­obtain the full report for $250.—R.B.


If their investment might not pay them back over time, home buyers are willing to spend additional money on their home …

  • if it saves energy

  • if it provides health benefits

  • if it is good for the environment

source: “measuring the market for green residential development”