Leah Thayer | daily5Remodel
Selling home-performance improvements can be a challenge even in strong housing markets. With little visible “bling” to show the neighbors, and energy savings that may take months or years to be significant, the likes of energy assessments, duct-sealing and attic insulation remain a dubious and decidedly unglamorous investment in the minds of most homeowners.
So how is it that a longtime builder of new homes has grown its home-performance revenues to $3 million in less than three years — in one of the most depressed housing markets in the country?
In part by emphasizing comfort instead of energy savings. And in part by leveraging the existing strengths of the company and its region — namely, a brand the community has known for 45 years, as well as regional utility programs providing rebates to homeowners who invest in energy-saving projects.
“Everybody wants to save money, but we’re pretty adamant about emphasizing comfort,” said Mark Fischer, president of Stockton, Calif.-based Green Home Solutions (GHS) by Grupe and chief financial officer of The Grupe Company, which launched the home-performance company in 2009.
Selling energy savings, as most auditors and contractors know, can be a slippery slope that concludes with disappointed clients. Unless pressed, said Fischer, “we just don’t sell savings, because as you know energy efficiency is a mixed bag,” depending on occupant behavior and other factors beyond the contractor’s control.
Fischer, a former contractor with both an MBA and a CPA, has been with Grupe Homes for about 20 years. In post-project client surveys, he noted, “we get all kinds of comments about savings. Some clients say their utility bills have been cut in half. But we would never promise that.”
If anything, “we’ll give them our best guess, making sure they know it’s an educated guess. And we generally help them think about how long they want to live in their house and how much they’ll enjoy it. And what’s the return on investment for that?”