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Housing Crash Crushes Green Movement

Green costs more, and today's already-skittish potential home buyers are not willing to shell out more cash for a greener standard of living.

At least that's the finding of a survey by Chicago Agent Magazine.

The magazine did a green survey last year and then repeated the same questions this year to compare trends. Last year 33 percent of agents surveyed reported that they had clients specifically seeking out properties with green features. This year that number dropped to 15 percent.

"I believe that buyers appreciate 'green' features, but they are not yet ready to pay extra for them," Bob Parris, broker/owner of Manchester Realty told the magazine.

The survey asked agents how many had completed "green transactions" in the past two years. 77 percent answered, none. That's up from 64 percent who said none last year. Apparently more agents this year said green in just a "marketing term" and more say the term doesn't make a difference to potential buyers. It's not surprising therefore that fewer agents reported getting their "green designations."

There is no question that Americans are more aware of and more receptive to the green movement than ever before, but green home features are still extremely costly, and while some can, over time, lower energy costs, it's often over a long period of time, and to many, not worth the up front cash right now. 57 percent of agents still say they believe the green movement is still relevant to home buyers, but that is down from 67 percent a year ago.

Still many of the big public home builders continue to tout their green features, hoping that will set them apart from the already tough competition for so few buyers.

KB Home boasts an Energy Performance Guide (EPG) for its homes, announced earlier this year, kind of following the auto industry. Meritage opened six new energy efficient communities, and both Lennar and Beazer have added green features to their homes. These builders are trying to add green to already more affordable homes, in the hopes that buyers will be lured in by green affordability.

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The bright side is that home remodeling appears to be on the rise, as more Americans decide to opt out of the housing market now and improve what they already have. I doubt people will be looking to add green features solely on their green merits, but it's likely that as they upgrade what breaks, the replacements will be more energy efficient.

Questions? Comments? RealtyCheck@cnbc.comAnd follow me on Twitter @Diana_Olick

  • Diana Olick serves as CNBC's real estate correspondent as well as the editor of the Realty Check section on CNBC.com.

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