Retirees and Move-Down Buyers Want Energy and Health

Home buyers who are ready to retire have key things in common with people who are a few years younger but wish to move into smaller homes. And when it comes to green features, they respond to many of the same hot buttons.

One common thread is that most of these buyers have been there and done that. They've had it with the big, rambling house that's expensive to heat and cool and tough to keep clean. Although they may have owned several homes, they're likely to look at the next house as the one they'll stay in for the rest of their lives. They want to spend their money wisely, on items that will help them live better, longer and more comfortably.

The retiree's next house is the one they'll stay in for the rest of their lives

They also want the products they select to be easy to take care of, to last for the long haul, and to put as little burden as possible on their wallet and their health.

Most of these buyers would prefer trading down to a high-quality new home, rather than remodeling an existing one. "They don't want to remodel," says Michael Anschel, principal of Otogawa-Anschel Design, a Minneapolis-based green builder and remodeler. "They've done it before and they don't want to do it again." He also says they're generally willing to pay a little more for less space. "They want it smaller, they want it done well, and they know it will cost more per square foot. We really like these clients."

Retirees want to buy a new home with quality appliances

ENERGY STAR® branded products are an easy sell with these buyers. The brand has high name recognition and very high perceived value. According to a Builder Magazine/American Lives Homebuyers Study, baby boomers who account for most of the move-down group almost unanimously agree that ENERGY STAR ®-rated products would save them money in the long run, and reduce their impact on the environment.

The study also found that many of these buyers are willing to pay extra upfront for features such as more insulation, high-performance windows, and efficient water heaters and lighting fixtures. About 33 percent said they would pay an extra $5,000, while 21 percent said they would spend an extra $10,000, for those features.

Most are willing to pay more for high-performance windows, efficient water heaters, quality lighting fixtures and insulation

These buyers are also health-conscious and pay close attention to their HVAC systems. That makes it a good idea to offer features such as whole-house air cleaning and ventilating dehumidifiers, both of which meet the American Lung Association's Health House guidelines.

Retirees and move-downs make up about 35 percent of buyers for ICI Homes. The Daytona Beach, Fla., company says its "EFactor" program of green, high-performance building gives the company an edge over its competition. All of its houses offer energy-efficient design, including such features as ENERGY STAR ®-rated lighting and appliances, conditioned attic construction, fresh air ventilation, and low-e windows and doors.

Home buyers want an energy efficient home

For move-down buyers, the hottest button among ICI's EFactor offerings is the fact that a green house is healthier. "People believe that if you have a better-constructed home and a tighter envelope, you'll cut down on allergies," says Rosemary Messina, ICI Homes' vice president of sales and marketing. "One in three of our move-down buyers has allergies, and that's the overriding thing for them. Plus, they don't have to dust every other day. And they appreciate the soundproofing. These homes are very quiet."

Buyers are also intrigued by ICI's three-year comfort guarantee, which responds to this group's desire for a quick payback on their investment in energy efficiency. "We quote, on a 2,000-square-foot house, that they can heat and cool the house for between $58 and $62 a month," Messina says. "It's working well for us."

Energy efficient homes are popular with American homebuyers