Guest Post: Driving Demand with Home Performance Data
Data is vital to every industry. In the world of home performance, data is needed by contractors, homeowners, real estate professionals, financiers, efficiency advocates and other stakeholders.
Many home performance experts invest substantial effort in tracking and analyzing their project data. In pursuit of excellence, they’re looking to learn from both successes and mistakes. Tracking data effectively, however, can be very time consuming. I believe that many more contractors would do so if they had a tool to make it fast and easy.
Data is the hard-earned cornerstone of a performance company’s credibility. Those who can communicate it effectively earn their client’s trust and respect, often winning work over their competition.
I recently recorded a short video testimonial from a homeowner who chose a home performance company over another contractor because the first company had data to back up its recommendations. When the local competition was asked about data they fell back on their “30 years of experience.” Needless to say, they lost the deal.
Home performance experts use their data to inform ongoing work-scopes and innovations, as part of their business management and control and to provide immediate feedback to train their crew. But as many contractors are the first to admit, communicating this data effectively is often a weak link. How often do they leverage the power of their data to resonate with clients? Or to raise awareness in their communities of the positive impact their work has on the local economy or their city’s climate action plan?
Today, home performance data looks a bit like this image.
Some contractors collect more data than others and some data is more colorful or interesting but without connecting the dots, our experts’ brilliant work has limited impact. Fortunately, a number of new initiatives to help connect those dots are already underway.
Home Performance Data Network
Home performance has started to collect data and its reservoirs are filling but many stakeholders are still in a data drought. The conduits and network to deliver data to those who need it to drive demand have yet to be built.
The good news is that a home performance data network has started to be framed up. The development of HPxml to facilitate data exchange is a foundational building block of this network. HPxml (HP for home performance) was developed in a collaborative effort by a nationwide working group that produced a data dictionary to standardize terms and its correlated xml coding.
Three New Game-Changing California Projects
AjO is a new mobile data tool that equips contractors to quickly and easily manage their project data. Contractors can note project details like PRE/POST conditions and measured results while out on site. AjO is designed to speed and expand contractors’ capacity to conduct routine data tasks and to help them be even more effective at communicating and leveraging their data to better serve both current and potential clients. AjO, which is Latin for to affirm, supports value affirmation of healthy, efficient homes.
AjO’s One Page Report, addresses the consumer problem of too much or too little information. The guide is a handy summary for homeowners’ records and it can inform real estate agents and appraisers in their assessment of an upgrade’s value.
AjO aims to help contractors first, but goes on to facilitate data accessibility to others who need it to drive demand. With HPxml coding for search and exchange capacity, AjO will be a conduit to the home performance data network and other similar projects.
The Home Energy Propensity Map (soon to be launched), a Center for Sustainable Energy project, is an interactive map of homes with energy upgrades and/or solar. As a compelling illustration of market activity, it not only supports real estate valuation but connects viewers to project data such as AjO reports via hyperlinks, raising visibility of home performance experts and their stories.
The Green Home Registry will connect data on energy-upgraded homes to the MLS, increasing accessibility and utility to real estate professionals and their affirmation of value.
Real estate professionals are an essential group that could help drive demand if they had access to home performance data. Thousands of homeowners and builders have invested in energy upgrades only to be frustrated when agents, appraisers and lenders don’t recognize the added value of upgrades. This has been a detriment to market uptake. Consumers need certainty that their investment will pay off. There are many reasons for real estate pros’ reticence, lack of training is certainly one, but access to data is a crucial element in the solution.
Using Data to Tell Stories and Drive Demand
Every upgraded home has data. But it’s the story behind the data that gives it meaning. I’m convinced that stories are our most powerful vehicle to help consumers connect-the-dots.
Mark and Jane’s story is a great example. The couple sold their home in Carmel, CA to buy a fixer with a couple acres in Grass Valley so they could pursue their micro-farm dream in their retirement. With extensive energy upgrades in attic, crawl space and mechanical systems, they reduced consumption by 56 percent. Then they waited a year to add enough solar to be zero energy. All of this was impressive, but for them the most remarkable benefit of their upgrades was the incredible improvement in Mark’s health. For 75 years Mark suffered from asthma, but now his symptoms have disappeared and he has been off medication for over two years now for the first time in his life.
Who is hearing their story? What’s working in Mark and Jane’s house and why? What upgrades were installed?
With a whole-human approach we can resonate with both emotion and logic. Data is the strong foundation and when paired with a visual story can be a compelling sales tool. Whether it’s told with a few simple photos or a detailed narrative rich with fascinating intrigue, stories help consumers visualize what energy upgrades might look like in their own homes. A solution like AjO’s One Page Report to clarify data for the rational brain, combined with a short video or photo gallery makes good sense.
When these stories and their data can be accessed through a vast connected network, home performance experts will be equipped to better resonate with consumers, inspiring action and driving demand.
You can see the AjO Video Tour here
Debra Little has focused on home performance since 2008 and with a background in real estate appraisal and has been active in education of real estate appraisers and agents on valuation and market representation of high-performance home assets, including energy efficiency, beyond energy, and renewables.
Debra’s experience building her own high-performance home in 2007, along with her work in data, marketing, and video production in NYC informs her current work of integrating behavior and brain science to drive demand for building science.
You can contact her at DL@AjOhp.org