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How well do you think you know what the average buyer wants in a home? Elevate Energy recently hosted four focus groups of Chicago homeowners and real estate agents to better understand what features they prioritized when purchasing a home and how Pearl Certification’s materials impacted their view of the home. What they learned was surprising!

The participants were first given a list of features and asked to rank them in order of importance for their buyers (agents) or themselves (homeowners). They were then given a list of benefits that the features in the first list provide and asked to rank the features again.

These were the lists of features and relative benefits:

  • Open floor plan - This home has an open floor plan to allow you to choose the layout of your home.
  • Attic insulation - This home has consistent temperature from room to room no matter the season, so that it's a comfortable home no matter where you go.
  • Stainless steel appliances - This home has stainless steel appliances for a professional look.
  • Finished basement - This home has a finished basement to give you more living space.
  • Air sealing - This home has less mold, dust, fewer bugs, and cleaner indoor air than most homes.
  • Patio/deck - This home has a patio/deck to allow you indoor and outdoor living.
  • Heat pump - This home uses significantly less energy than typical homes, helping you save on utility bills while protecting the environment.

So what did Elevate learn? When presented with the list of features and then the list of benefits, real estate agents didn’t change their ranking at all: They didn’t think people prioritized energy efficiency. For agents, attic insulation, air sealing, and heat pump were the last three on their list.

However, the homeowners did change their lists after learning about the benefits. For homeowners, heat pump came in at #2, attic insulation #3, and air sealing #5 out of the seven options.

Other takeaways from the focus groups were that homeowners didn’t really know that much about energy efficiency and what features contributed to the benefits they wanted. Perhaps no surprise there. A sampling of comments included, “What’s a heat pump?” “Aren’t all new furnaces energy efficient?” and “I don’t know what air sealing is.” They explicitly said they expected their agents to educate them on these features, but the agents were unlikely to do so because their assumption was that buyers didn’t care.

Ironically, the agents said they were worried about standing out from the crowd and that their expertise was taken for granted. And yet right in front of them was a missed opportunity to raise awareness with buyers and gain that differentiation they wanted.

As Green Designees, you’ve sought training that leads you to (hopefully) the opposite conclusion. But just in case you need some reinforcement, consider the results of these focus groups - people care about what you know, and they want to understand what features lead to the quality of life benefits they desire. Don’t be shy about your expertise and how it can benefit potential clients.

Lastly, homeowners thought Pearl’s Certification report provided them with a deeper understanding of a high-performing home that made it more desirable and boosted their confidence in purchasing it. Don’t forget that you also have access to a special discount with Pearl Certification because you are a Green Designee. We look forward to working with you this selling season!

*Originally posted in the March, 2022 edition of REsource News, by the National Association of REALTORS, GREEN Designees


Pearl Certification is transforming the housing market. We’re making a visible difference nationwide for homeowners and the businesses that serve them.