|New Homes - Greener and affordable|
When the National Association of Home Builders surveyed members last year, 68% predicted homes were going "greener," with low-emissivity windows, engineered wood components, water-efficient dual-flush toilets, low-flow faucets and other water-conserving features.
Home-products manufacturers are making it easier, with counters, wall coverings, tile, hardwood flooring and paint with recycled content and reduced or eliminated off-gassing.
Even the appraisal industry is on board, training appraisers to give extra credit for some green features when establishing the value of a home.
"Right now, solar panels appear to be a bit too much, but eventually, maybe five years from now, they will be more standard, even in modest house sizes," NAHB economist Stephen Melman says.
The median price of a new home has dropped from $247,900 in 2007 to $210,300 this past December, according to NAHB and Census figures.
New-home sales in 2005 totaled 1.28 million, but that number dropped to 776,000 in 2007 and 322,000 by 2010. In 2011, they hit a record-low 302,000.
Builders responded by bringing down home prices and sizes. They are competing with an oversupply of existing homes, and costs for materials such as lumber and copper are rising, but they've enjoyed one area of savings: Falling land prices are keeping new homes affordable.