Give Homebuyers What They Want
House Hunters Value Quality Over Quantity
by RIC JACKSON
“How much square footage do we really need”? This is a question
homebuyers are asking from coast to coast. The recession has been blamed
for many things, including a rebirth of practicality.
According to the National Association of Homebuilders’ (NAHB) survey,
“The New Home in 2015,” there’s reason to believe that buyers are seeking
smaller, more practical homes. Driving factors for this shift are lower
purchase prices and simplicity.
For most, however, lowering long-term cost of ownership is the key driver
for downsizing; this can include lowered property taxes, less maintenance
and, most significantly, lowered heating and cooling costs.
Window of Opportunity
Reports show that people are buying homes with the intention of staying
longer than in the past. Granite countertops, hardwood flooring and state-of-the
art appliances are all great selling features, but, surprisingly, they
aren’t at the top of most buyers’ wish lists.
"Many are waiting
for the economy to turn around–or,
until they absolutely have to change to meet the new standards. As a result,
‘good enough for now’ products currently are being sold in showrooms nationwide."
Instead, NAHB reports that the most desirable upgrades for
homebuyers are energy-efficient windows with low-E coatings, as well as
whole-home Energy Star ratings.
In short, buyers want homes made with quality materials proven to provide
long-term energy performance and, fortunately for us, windows with low-E
are a main priority–yet only 7 percent of windows in existing homes in
the United States have low-E. Clearly, we have work to do as an industry.
Economy vs. Progress
Despite consumer trends and regulatory factors, many manufacturers are
concerned about making any sudden moves when it comes to product development.
In fact, many are waiting for the economy to turn around, or until they
absolutely have to change to meet the new standards.
As a result, “good enough for now” products currently are being sold in
showrooms nationwide. If the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which
controls Energy Star for windows, has anything to say about it, by 2013,
“good enough for now” windows will have reached their expiration date
and today’s “high-performance” products will be commonplace, replaced
by something better. That is evidenced by the latest proposed Energy Star
updates for 2013, which, in its current form, will require windows in
the Northern Zone to achieve U-values between 0.25 and 0.27 to wear the
In the grand scheme of things, a year is a relatively short time when
it comes to product development when you factor in design time, sourcing,
re-tooling and certification testing. Wise companies are preparing now
because, like it or not, economic conditions clearly have not slowed the
need for progress.
After all, the fenestration industry will continue to face significant
changes, from Energy Star to ICC700 and IECC, that will drive thermal
performance to new levels, and likely increase thermal performance standards
by 30 to 40 percent in 2012.
These are just the imminent changes. There will be more.
Consult for Results
As an industry, we are in a constant state of transition. We all have
to be vigilant in understanding what’s happening now and what the future
will bring in order to make decisions that best position our companies
for growth. Just as we spend time understanding new standards, consumers
also are educating themselves about the thermal performance and durability
they should expect from their significant investment in new windows. Homeowners
are indeed more practical as NAHB warns, but they are also more educated.
They want their home improvement investments to translate to long-term
The bottom line? Energy efficiency is no longer just “nice to have.” It’s
expected. Househunters are recognizing the important role windows play
in the overall efficiency of the home, and their purchase decisions can
be swayed accordingly.
Ric Jackson serves as director, external affairs, Quanex Building
Products, based in Houston, Texas.
© Copyright 2012 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.