More Consumers Are Interested in "Healthy Homes"

By Elizabeth La Jeunesse, Senior Research Analyst

Americans are increasingly worried about the links between health and everyday environmental exposures in their homes, according to Healthy Home Remodeling: Consumer Trends and Contractor Preparedness, a newly released Improving America's Housing research brief from the Remodeling Futures Program. The brief, which presents results of our latest consumer and contractor surveys with The Farnsworth Group on the topic of healthy home remodeling, reports that 30 percent of all US households expressed concerns about some aspect of their home endangering their health in 2018, a three-percentage-point increase from 2014. Indoor air quality was the leading source of concern, driven mainly by worries over moisture, mold, and dust. Other major concerns included pests and water quality. Households headed by younger people—especially those aged 25-34—were most likely to express concerns about their home posing a health issue or risk, as were households with children and those headed by people with higher levels of education.

The surveys also found that while US consumers are growing more concerned about health risks at home, only half of remodeling firms report participating in the "healthy homes" or indoor environmental quality market. Why aren’t more remodelers reporting that they are actively integrating "healthy home" principles and products into their operations? The biggest obstacle appears to be higher costs, which was cited as a barrier by 64 percent of firms that reported being engaged in this market area. However, the survey suggested this might be short-sighted because the benefits of participating in "healthy home remodeling" appear to be substantial. More than two-thirds of remodelers active in this space cited increased customer satisfaction and loyalty as a major benefit of working in the healthy homes area. In addition, more than half of remodeling firms said that healthy home remodeling expanded their customer base, gave them a competitive edge, and/or was "the right thing to do" (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Healthy Home Projects Increase Customer Satisfaction, Loyalty

Notes: Out of 288 remodeling contractors who reported being engaged in the healthy home/indoor environmental quality market in recent years.
Source: Farnsworth Group and Joint Center for Housing Studies, Remodeling Contractor Healthy Homes Survey, August 2018

Another obstacle to greater contractor engagement in the healthy homes market may be that defining this segment is still tricky. In our surveys, we broadly interpreted "healthy home remodeling" as including not only projects and techniques aimed at protecting or enhancing basic safety and comfort, but also those aimed at avoiding less apparent hazards in a home's air, water, or building materials, such as emissions from paints. It appears that many residential remodeling contractors either do not explicitly focus on such issues, or they are not aware that they (or their subcontractors) already are using common healthy home products that consumers increasingly value, such as low-VOC paints and finishes. Nevertheless, it seems clear that consumer awareness of, and concerns about, healthy homes is growing, which means that more firms will have the opportunity and need to integrate healthy housing products and techniques into their business practices in the future.

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