The Obstacles To Building Green in Houston - Death of the term 'Green'

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The Obstacle to Building and Selling Green in Houston will be a Series - this is the first of the series.

Typically speaking in the Real Estate Market right now in regards to Green I would say that the average line of thought, the average acceptance of a 'Green' or 'Greener' home not only in Houston but around the Nation is very high.

We have gone from a few years ago, the average consumer thinking that a 'Green' Home was Recycled and only beneficial to the Environment to Today - Understanding that not only is a 'Green' home better for the Environment, It is better for the Homeowner.

This is a Drastic change in thinking for Society when you think about it in real terms and how fast this thought has changed.  Now, the acceptance of Greener Homes may be high, but do they sell?

Regardless of what publication we may read that 'Green' homes are not selling, then we hear that 'Green' homes sell faster and for more money.  When we speak to consumers we hear 'Green' homes are not being built in my area and then 'What is a Green Home?'

This tells me, my personal opinion, that there is still a lot of confusion out there in the market. In all actuality it is probably too soon to know what statements are correct.  In basic terms I personally believe that we have 3 different kinds of people:

  • The extreme Green Buyer that will spend and do what ever it takes
  • The what I call an Enviro Hater that won't buy anything termed 'Green' or 'EcoFriendly' just for the principle
  • The Buyer that wants to do the right thing, not be wasteful and have a better quality of home and environment

The 3rd point being the largest of the population generally speaking.  Then, there is the confusion.  The confusion comes in to play because everyone has a different opinion of what 'Green' really means.  Some think it means that the product costs more, some think of it as being Energy Efficient, others think made of recycled content ...

How effective really are the Checklists for Green Building if the purchaser has no idea what it means?

More than ever in the Real Estate Industry we are at a point where we have to sell Value whether it be for a service or a product.  People want to know what makes you or your product different and worth it for me to buy it whether it is Green or not.

What this tells me is that where a couple years ago we thought we had 10-15 years before the term 'Green' disappeared in relation to 'Green Building' - we are probably on the verge of it happening right before our very eyes.  Today, right now.

As a Real Estate Professional that specializes in helping people buy and sell Green Properties I see the need to use different terms to overcome this Confusion.  Let's get rid of the Term 'Green'.  Buh Bye,  See ya Later.

Why? Because it is becoming Normal.  It is expected now that Homes are more Energy Efficient now than what was built even last year.  It is expected that Homes are moving in the right direction and using Healthier Building Products.  And, what the heck is Green anyhow?

We need to, as Real Estate Industry Professionals, learn what it is that makes a product 'Green' and be able to explain it to people.  In markets, such as Houston, where we are still trying to get over the hurdle towards Mass Green Building, do we need a new approach?  A change in terminology and possibly even a change in the approach to what products we build with.

If it is a Green Home, Why?  What makes it Green?  Is it more Energy Efficient?  What products separate it from the rest and does the Home Buyer even care?

All of these are obstacles to building a better and greener home in the Houston area.  Over this series let's break it down and look at the real trends of where 'Green' building may be headed.  Let's take a looksy at how to get the Green Building movement going in a faster pace towards a more Sustainable Houston.

The answer may very well be where they always have been.  The answers may lie in our daily Housing Market and average Houstonian Statistics.

Part 2 of the Series - Who is the Average Homebuyer in Houston?  Who lives in Houston anyhow?


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Stephanie Edwards-Musa - The Woodlands, TX
knitwit at thred UP

Hi Charles - Thanks for sharing.

Hi @GreenShelter!  I agree.  Codes consistently move forward in making homes better.  This is just the next phase of it.

May 14, 2009 01:36 PM #13
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

We are having the same issues here in New Hampshire.  However, we are probably less "green" aware than Houston.  I can't wait to read part 2. 

May 14, 2009 02:08 PM #14
Eric Bouler
Gardner Realtors, Licensed in La. - New Orleans, LA
Listening to your Needs

Energy Efficient is what people may pay for. Out in the hitherlands green means more taxes on the way with little solved in regards to energy needs of the country. We cannot all be California.  Many here are glad to have roofs and floors.  People worry about food, sickness, and the basics of life much more.  Many of these people are actually green living in old homes, no a/c, no cars, several to a bedroom.  Now that is saving!

May 14, 2009 02:30 PM #15
Rene Fabre
First American Title - Seattle, WA
Marketing in the Digital Age

Stephanie: cool post and good info... I equate "Green" to common sense... the word gets so over used, yet the idea is great. Being a little 'frugal' goes a long way, and I mean that sincerely. I've known people to waste just because that somehow defines them as above it all. I come from peasant stock, wonderful people that just simply didn't want to waste, and had nothing to prove...

thanks for the post... I'm happy you took this on...


May 14, 2009 02:38 PM #16
Katerina Gasset
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services - Wellington, FL
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services

Stephanie- They just did a survey here in Florida for agents: what percentage of buyers have asked about green homes, etc. 80% of the agents said that they have NEVER even been asked to show green homes. That it is not even brought up. I have to admit- our buyers agent has never been asked about green homes and neither has any agent I have spoken with.

I think it is great that there is a choice. Mandates though, are another story. The more the green movement is pushed down people's throats the more they will rebel against it. The more we are taxed for it, the more the people will be hurt because the poor people can not afford going green. The more green homes are forced to be built the more the cost will be placed on the consumers. The more costs passed on the consumers, the less buying power the consumer has. The green movement and green homes are great for those who can afford those homes, but many people just likke Eric says, can not afford to be burdened with green mandates.

May 14, 2009 02:42 PM #17
Stephanie Edwards-Musa - The Woodlands, TX
knitwit at thred UP

Hi Joan,  I don't know about that.  :)  I think we are about like everyone else.  Would love to hear what you are seeing in your area.

Hi Rene' - Thanks a bunch.  I agree with the common sense statement.  :)

May 14, 2009 03:11 PM #18
Stephanie Edwards-Musa - The Woodlands, TX
knitwit at thred UP

Eric and Katerina-  Before you judge what I'm saying here, stay tuned for the rest of the series.  I may not be saying what you think I am.

And for the record, I decided to do EcoBroker because nearly every single one of my clients wanted green features.  They did not term it as 'Green', I did not consider it 'Green' at the time.

If buyers comment that they want less carpet because they or their children have allergies or asthma, if they mention the fact that they are concerned about HVAC equipment being old and about to have to be replaced, high utility or water bills .. or if they are concerned about ongoing house maintenance that costs a lot of money or has not been done on the home - Then they are concerned about Green features.

Thus starting my series with 'Death to the term Green'  But hang in there with me.

May 14, 2009 03:19 PM #19
Karen Rice
Davis R. Chant, REALTORS - Hawley, PA
Northeast PA & Lake Wallenpaupack Home Sales

My problem with the term "green" has nothing to do with the environment, actually and everything to do with "entities" - be it people or companies, that just use the term for marketing purposes. You see the term EVERYWHERE and as you said it has become "normal."

IMHO, to truly be "green" you wouldn't be using up fresh resources, you'd be reusing what we already have. 

I saw an episode of some show on HGTV one day where this "Environmentally conscious" couple wanted to sell their existing home - which they had recently renovated - in order to build a "green" home. They weren't leaving the area, they were going to build on a vacant lot not too far away, next door to their parents.  WTH?  How is that "green?"

Anyway - I love the environment, I love my planet - I do hate the "green" bandwagon because I think a lot of people just hop on for the sake of hopping on the bandwagon...

May 14, 2009 03:26 PM #20
Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude - Carlsbad

Stephanie - an excellent awareness raising post. I agree that there are many people who don't have a clue, a good number who don't care and perhaps never will unless mandated, and many who are environmentally aware and sensitive. It's an on-going process. After all we didn't get where we are with the issues we have overnight adn they won't be fixed quickly. Education is key, but for many there also has to be an incentive. But one has to wonder how much of is is really marketing.


May 14, 2009 03:42 PM #21
Steve Shatsky
Dallas, TX

Hi Stephanie... excellent post and congratulations on the gold star!  The term "Green" has been kidnapped by the marketing people everywhere (not just real estate related) and they have simultaneously diluted it's value and created uncertainty about what it actually means.

May 14, 2009 04:15 PM #22
Angelia Garcia
Pure Realtors - Dallas, TX

It is still a new concept around these parts.  Not seeing alot of Green homes yet.

May 14, 2009 04:16 PM #23
Daren Krause
Keller Williams Realty - Austin, TX

Let's get rid of the Term 'Green'

I agree.

Green has about as much meaning as 'organic' when it comes to buying food.  Not yet as bad as 'all natural' but getting there.

Any house can be "green"; change the lightbulbs to CFCs and it has a "green feature" or finish the walls with a low VOC paint.  Meaningless...

Programs such as LEED actually are able to communicate whether the design of the home is energy efficient and sustainable.


May 14, 2009 05:55 PM #24
Joe Pryor
The Virtual Real Estate Team - Oklahoma City, OK
REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties

Got the EcoBroker designation last year and found it very informative. If for no other reason when energy cost spike up again, and they will, just energy efficiency will be at a premium. Plus, I would rather spend money on another rent house than pay extra utility cost. What gets me is when people have an "energy efficient" 5000SF home. We also need to think about how much materials we can waste on being impressive. FYI, that home was built in Oklahoma for a couple without children. Yeah I know it's America, but lots needs to be done to change the culture also. Now if I could just get some mortgage company here to do green mortgages I will be happy.

May 15, 2009 12:40 AM #25
Susan Pomerantz
Coldwell Banker Resort - Lewes, DE
Coastal Delaware and Beyond

Good post Stephanie.  We have a lot of green abuse ging on here. I have started a series of seminars with a Nahb builder and an energy auditor trying to educate people about what to look for in Lewes and Rehoboth Delaware It is such a buyer beware kind of market.

I am also going to write a new.sletter on identifying qualified professionals, how to do your due diligance and how to protect your self from fraud. Misrepresenting is happening on everything from cans of food to contractors. I will now get off my soapbox.



May 15, 2009 05:06 AM #26
Ron Czecholinski
Natural Choice - Madison, WI

My work is in product sales and consulting for green building and I agree - let's get rid of green. I have been involved in this movement since the 70's and find it unfortunate that green is the term that stuck - I guess it has the most marketing appeal. Green building (before it was green) began with incorporating energy efficiency and resource conservation into our homes, and took on the aspects of a creating a healthy environment as it developed.

As someone else mentioned, it is all about common sense - education that whatever moves us toward better energy efficiency, resource conservation, and healthy environments is a move in the right direction and deepens our shade of green. My vote, if I had one, is for "sustainability" - a much better term to describe this movement. But that probably wouldn't sell as well - for sure it wouldn't leave room for the marketing hype.


May 15, 2009 09:38 AM #27
Katerina Gasset
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services - Wellington, FL
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services

Stephanie- OK, my dear friend, I will hang in there, just because it is you:)

May 15, 2009 01:31 PM #28
Russell Lewis
Realty Austin, Austin Texas Real Estate - Austin, TX

Stephanie, this is well written post and I am just glad that folks like you and many others, including myself are still committed to building sustainable , and energy efficient projects. Why someone think it will drive us back to the stone age is just neanderthal thinking...Sorry, I could not help that!

May 15, 2009 01:37 PM #29
Greg Nino
RE/MAX Compass, formerly RE/MAX WHP - Houston, TX
Houston, Texas

The average Houstonian has too many other things on their plate, unfortunatley.

May 15, 2009 04:32 PM #30
Stephanie Edwards-Musa - The Woodlands, TX
knitwit at thred UP

Katerina,  I posted part 2 last night.

May 16, 2009 01:39 AM #31
Chris Olsen
Olsen Ziegler Realty - Cleveland, OH
Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate

Hi Stephanie -- Great post and I wonder how much green will end up taking a back seat due to economic constraints of today.

May 16, 2009 03:06 AM #32
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