Home builders are using the energy efficiency of new homes to try to get buyers buying. For example, KB Home is giving buyers an estimate up-front of what their monthly gas and electric bill will be in their new home, as well as insight into where the home ranks on an energy efficiency scale.

Similarly, McGuyer Homebuilders Inc., based in Houston, has begun providing its customers with estimates of what the annual heating and cooling portion of their utility bills will be on homes. If the buyer ends up with higher utility bills than what’s estimated, McGuyer will even reimburse them the difference in the first two years.

Sales of new homes have fallen flat in the last few years, sinking last year to its lowest level since 1963. Home builders are banking on energy efficiency to try to lift new-home sales.

They call their approach similar to that of automakers, which have provided miles-per-gallon labels on vehicles, a move that ultimately helped make fuel-efficient cars more popular in the market.

It's the biggest purchase decision that people are making at that time in their lives, and typically they have no idea what it's going to cost to truly own the thing until they've been there for several months, Jeffrey Mezger, KB Home's president and CEO, told the Associated Press. It's a cost of home ownership that hasn't been out there.

Source: “Homebuilders Take Page From Automakers, Tell Buyers What Their Monthly Utility Bill Will Cost,” The Associated Press (Feb. 14, 2011)