New-Home Shoppers Aren't Waiting for Housing Market to Bottom Before They Buy

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Americans shopping for new homes during May and June were much more optimistic about their personal financial situation than the overall economy, according to the results of the 2009 Builder/American Lives New-Home Shopper Survey.

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People are not waiting for the housing market to bottom out before they buy. They want to buy now because they can get more for their money.

Americans shopping for new homes during May and June were much more optimistic about their personal financial situation than the overall economy, according to the results of the 2009 Builder/American Lives New-Home Shopper Survey released on builderonline.com.

Ninety-five percent of shoppers polled, for instance, characterized the overall economy as "not so good" or "poor." But only 31 percent saw their personal economic situation that way, suggesting that people shopping for a new home may be in a good position to lead the economy out of recession.

Commissioned by Builder magazine, the internet survey of 686 people shopping for new homes was done by American LIVES, a Carmel Valley, Calif.-based research firm. American Lives obtained prospect lists from builders in top home building states of California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, North Carolina, Michigan, and Indiana.

Most of the people surveyed (59 percent) said that it's an "OK" or "Good time" to buy a new home. Moreover, 74 percent said that they are not waiting for the housing market to bottom before they buy. 55 percent said they want to buy now because they can get more for the money.

"The majority of shoppers/buyers rate the current economy as about the same or poor but their current conditions as the same or getting better," says Brooke Warrick, president of American Lives. "People are not waiting for the housing market to bottom out before they buy. They want to buy now because they can get more for their money."

The survey unearthed evidence that people are concerned about keeping their job, or their spouse keeping a job. A full 66 percent said that they are at least somewhat concerned about potential job loss within their household. Perhaps for that reason, a full 82 percent of respondents agreed somewhat or strongly that they don't want to stretch their finances too much to buy a new home.

The survey results suggest that shoppers are looking more for personal satisfaction from a new-home purchase than investment gain. The survey results unearthed strong demand for smaller homes. "There is a new market for a small home, under 1,300 square feet, with the most energy-efficient features possible," says Warrick. "These homes should be targeted at single women."

The survey also suggests that homes have become more important to Americans as they spend less time in restaurants and malls. Nearly four out of five new-home shoppers, for instance, feel strongly that spending time at home with family has become more important. Also, two-thirds agree with the statement, "I'm not going out as much, so my home is more important."

"Builders have a clear challenge," says Boyce Thompson, editorial director of Builder magazine. "They need to produce smaller homes that people can customize to fit their lifestyle. Today's buyers, especially young ones, simply won't settle for cookie-cutter homes."

The survey revealed that energy-efficiency is a stronger hot button with buyers than green features. Half of new-home shoppers, for instance, said they would pay at least an extra $5000 for energy-conserving features that would add at least $35 a month to their payments. Their favorite investments are high-efficiency HVAC, high-performance windows, and insulation that exceeds code.

"All these energy-saving options are 'must haves,'" says Warrick, with the exception of solar panels. Warrick believes that energy-efficiency is the builder's ace-in-the-hole in competition against resales. "Builders need to do a better job explaining the benefits of these features to customers."

New-home shoppers believe that green features are important in new homes, but they won't pay as much for them as energy-efficient features. Forty nine percent of buyers said they would only pay up to $2000 extra for green features that would add up to $14 a month to monthly payments.

About Hanley Wood:
Hanley Wood, LLC, is the premier media and information company serving housing and construction. Through four operating divisions, the company produces award-winning magazines and Web sites, marquee trade shows and events, rich data and custom marketing solutions. The company also is North America's leading publisher of home plans. Hanley Wood Business Media (Washington, D.C.), publishes 30 award-winning residential and commercial construction titles, including BUILDER, REMODELING, CUSTOM HOME, CONCRETE CONSTRUCTION and residential architect. Hanley Wood Business Media also offers the construction industry's foremost collection of Web sites, including BUILDER ONLINE, REMODELING ONLINE, and ebuild, the comprehensive online guide to building products, as well as the largest collection of house plans online through eplans.com and Dream Home Source.

Founded in 1976, Hanley Wood is one of the ten largest B-to-B media companies in the United States. Hanley Wood is owned by affiliates of JPMorgan Partners, which uses CCMP Capital Advisors to manage this investment.

About American LIVES:
Started in 1987, American LIVES has conducted more than 500 focus groups and surveyed more than 300,000 Americans on their lifestyles, interests, values, expectations, and symbols. Based in Carmel Valley, California, the firm does research into complex issues surrounding houses, communities, cars, consumer electronics, and other consumer durables. The company works frequently with the real estate industry to identify what kinds of communities, homes, and resorts consumers are looking for. The company recently authored a new study on the role of Technology in the Home. President Brooke Warrick is an international speaker on the impact of values and lifestyle trends on consumer behavior. He previously served as director of marketing for the VALS program at Stanford Research Institute, where he created the well-known video, "An American Portrait."

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