Green Premium

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Contributed by Sam Lai:

Is there such a thing as a Green Premium?This is one of the more controversial topics in the residential green development realm.  From the residential green and energy efficient advocacy perspective, we all want the answer to be unequivocally "YES!  There is a HUGE premium."  Numerous  consumer surveys comport that a majority of Americans want green homes.  But I’m not so sure the "Green Premium" is the most accurate way to describe positive consumer response.

Let's start from what most people think of when we say "Green Premium."  For example, Joe the builder just finished up on an Energy Star-certified and 4 Star BuiltGreen-certified home.  Joe's home is at the tip-top of the local market in terms of marketable appealand functional utility.  There are plenty of conventional high quality homes that have recently sold in the immediate vicinity of similar design, appeal & functional utility for $815k, $822k, $830k & the highest sale in the area $835k.  Joe and his real estate agent decide that the home might be worth about $830k if it wasn't green.  But they decide that because there is a "Green Premium" of 6% based on a recent research study, the market value of the property should be $880k.  The definition of "Green Premium" from this example is the premium a green home yields above the competitive market.  This is a great way to not sell a house.

The question of whether or not there’s a “Green Premium” reminds me of a scene in a mockumentary movie “Spinal Tap”, where guitarist Nigel asserts that his guitar amplifier goes to eleven.

Every market has an upper threshold whether you call it 10 or 11.  From a valuation or banking perspective, if a home is superior to the rest of its market it is overbuilt because at some point the market stops responding.  Although most consumers in America desire green characteristics in their next home today doesn't mean that they throw all other deciding factors aside.  Green characteristics are weighed alongside all other distinguishable marketable characteristics including price, functional utility, aesthetic appeal and quality.

Speaking of quality, how does the market distinguish quality in residential homes?  I would assert that our homes can be seen as an emblem of the leading cultural values of the moment.  In 1999, common characteristics for what was considered high quality new construction home would be 5,000 sq ft of living area, master suite with whale size soaking tub, “drive-through” shower and of course a gourmet kitchen with Viking range and Sub-Zero refrigerator.  Shifting values of our time are reflected in the kind of quality buyers are looking for today:  energy-efficiency, ‘quality over quantity’ and low-toxic finishes.

So, is there such a thing as a “Green Premium?”  Or, does it go to 11?  Sure, call the “tip-top” whatever you want.  We believe that green characteristics will continue to be the hallmarks of quality in residential homes into the future.  We just need to remember that people primarily buy homes for location and you can’t just slap on a “Green Premium” and expect the market to agree.   Do you agree?