California’s recent adoption of the 2019 update of Title 24 Part 6, Building Energy Efficiency Standards has moved the state further towards its goal that all new homes will be constructed Zero Net Energy (ZNE) by 2020. With the recent approval of the mandate for solar panels for all new homes constructed in the state beginning January 1, 2020, California will once again be leading the way for energy efficiency, sustainability and the mainstream adoption of zero net energy homes.

As a homebuilder marketing and selling new homes in California, you’re probably asking yourself a lot of questions about how you can market and sell the benefits of these changes to your customers without creating confusion. We understand your concern, so our team of marketing, sustainability and green building experts have put together some tips for you consider when talking to your customers about zero net energy homes.

 1. Buyers are Looking for Energy Efficient Homes– The idea of living in a sustainable or Zero Net Energy home is becoming more mainstream every year. So, the fact you’re offering energy savings and sustainable features in your new homes make it very attractive to your prospective customer. According to a recent report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 61% of agents reported that buyers are interested in sustainability. “Consumers continue to make it clear that environmentally friendly features and neighborhoods are an important factor in deciding where and what home to buy,” said Elizabeth Mendenhall, president of NAR and CEO of RE/MAX Boone Realty in Columbia, Missouri, according to Realtor Magazine. Forty percent of respondents to NAR’s survey reported that their Multiple Listing Service (MLS) has green data fields, compared to only 15% that don’t. With a typical American household spending more than $2,000 a year on energy bills, that savings makes ZNE very attractive.

2. Focus on the Savings & Future Value – Although they certainly save on energy costs over time, building a ZNE home is going to cost more to build than a conventional home. The Energy Commission estimates that adding solar to new homes in California will add between $8,000 to $12,000 to the cost of a home. However, after weighing the data, the CEC determined homeowners would ultimately save money on their energy bills to the tune of $40 per month (CEC calculations found the standards will add about $40 to an average monthly payment, but save consumers $80 on monthly heating, cooling and lighting bills).

For many borrowers, though, paying a little more is worth the savings they’ll net in the future. They may pay more money upfront to have an energy-efficient home, but the value of that home increases each year as they save more and more on utilities. Also, they’ll be able to sell for more. Because of the savings in energy costs over the life of the home, Zero Net Energy homes are typically valued 10% — 15% higher than same-size traditionally built homes (reference?).  The real estate industry is working right now on incorporating green features into their MLS listings – so by the time you go to sell your home, buyers will be able to factor these features into their offer price

3. Millennials Want Sustainable Homes– As millennials (born between the early 1980s to early 2000s) continue to enter the market, there will be an upswing in the number of buyers looking for green and NZE homes. This is great news for you! These buyers are looking to lower their carbon footprint and live in communities that support a conservational lifestyle. They want to harvest rainwater to reduce reliance on a municipal supply and use recycled shower water to flush toilets. They want to treat sewage onsite with botanical cells and use it to nourish landscaping. They want to grow fresh vegetables and fruits and compost table scraps or use them to feed chickens or other livestock. Millennials care about the planet, and they do their research.  They want to live in a way that’s more environmentally friendly. For this generation, the financial payback of these homes is enticing but it’s not going to be the deciding factor

4.  What Inspires Your Customer– When selling a ZNE home, it is important to recognize what inspires your client.  Home buying is a big decision that can be personal and emotional at times. People see their homes as part of their value system and identity, so it is important to identify individual motivators when marketing zero energy homes. Begin by paying close attention to your customer and asking them open-ended questions about their wants, needs, and preferences in order to determine what is most important to them. Are they value, and emotion-driven or more technologically oriented? Is the environment their primary concern or is it a combination of all three?

After you’ve discovered what inspires your customer, here are some ways to motivate them to purchase a home from you:

Motivating the Value and Emotion-Oriented Buyer

The green building features in a ZNE home are inherently scientific and technical and can be overwhelming to less technically savvy buyers and selling based on them may be counter-productive.  Value and emotion-oriented buyers are usually more interested in how the home can benefit them and their family, rather than on the technical features of the home.

  • Take the time to discuss how quiet, comfortable and healthy an NZE home is to live in, as well as how easy it is to maintain.
  • Focus on the emotional benefits and value of the home, rather than talking high-tech gadgets, high R-value insulation, or heat recovery HVAC systems.
  • Ask them to imagine a home where advanced building technologies provide a blanket of comfort like none they have experienced before.” Then let them know that home is available right here and now.
  • Instead of “return on investment” use “provides economic stability.”

Motivating the Technologically-Oriented Buyer

Some potential zero energy home buyers are technologically oriented, and many are “early adopters.” Now is your chance to share your NZE technical knowledge to communicate the science involved in a ZNE home. Be prepared to know your terminology and explain how things work. It is important that you mirror the same excitement that trendsetters often feel regarding technological innovations and emphasize that they will be buying the home of the future right now. You can provide them with detailed information such as:

  • Actual energy savings data, compared to a traditionally built home.
  • Specific technological features of the home and how they work.
  • Information on how to actively monitor energy use in the home.
  • How many tons of carbon they are keeping out of the atmosphere.
  • How the home was built to the highest quality standards with detailed checklists and independent verification.
  • How the home protects each family’s investment well into the future by meeting and exceeding future code requirements and performance expectations. Living in the “home of the future” – a home that leads the way in performance, comfort, and technology can be yours today
  • “Don’t settle for an outdated home.” Another way to connect with innovators is to ask them, “Why would you buy a resale home that is outdated when you can buy a new home with the latest advanced building, mechanical and appliance technologies?” This approach provides an opportunity to describe the many inadequacies of a standard home in comparison to the advanced technologies in a ZNE home.
  • “Be a pioneer.” Zero energy homes are a growing movement. Feel good that you are challenging the status quo and making a statement that you are on the cutting edge of housing technology, energy efficiency, and environmental protection.

Motivating the Environmentally-Minded Buyer

Some home buyers are very concerned about the environment, so it is important for builders and real estate agents to have a good understanding of how ZNE homes help reduce carbon emissions. You may need to communicate how their future home will be carbon neutral over the lifetime of the home. Many environmentally concerned buyers are equally concerned with the internal environment of the home.

  • It is important to share with them that zero energy homes are built with non-toxic finishes, are very tightly air-sealed and have fresh-filtered air systems, so that they will be exposed to a minimum of dust, molds, allergens, and pollutants.  In other words, ZNE homes promote a healthy environment, inside and out.
  • You can also appeal to an environmentally concerned buyer by encouraging them to be a leader in protecting the environment for future generations.

When it comes down to it, many people are a combination of these three types of buyers. It is important to be able to switch easily from the emotional value benefits to the technical features to the environmental benefits. Use the “power of zero” to appeal to all three types of buyers, by reminding them that ZNE homes are powerful because they “live better, work better, last better, and protect the environment better.”

If you need assistance to develop a ZNE marketing and sales platform for your company, we can help! Our team has over 20 years of experience in new home marketing, master planned development, sustainability, energy efficiency, green building, and Title 24 permitting. Contact us at


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