As most of us expected, the foot traffic on the floor of the International Builders’ Show last week was noticeably lighter than in recent years. But while the mood was certainly much more somber, many manufacturers I spoke with reported a steady flow of quality meetings with pros who were there to learn, to buy, and to strengthen themselves and their businesses. These weren’t the elbow-to-elbow harried booth visits we’ve been used to seeing, but rather focused, thoughtful meetings that will most certainly lead to lasting relationships.

In the simplest terms, many of us are reconnecting with the value of quality versus quantity. I’m seeing this trend—this desire—nearly everywhere I look. And though I don’t view this economic crash as a positive situation, I do believe that we’re learning important lessons that will make us stronger, better people in the end.

The recession is a wake-up call for many in my generation—which hasn’t experienced much economic and political hardship—and our time to live for the moment has passed. As many of us begin what we should have been doing all along—saving and putting quality of life ahead of “the Joneses”—we are shifting from valuing materials to holding tight to relationships and security.

These are the new mentalities infiltrating the young home-buying generation. We’ve gone from thinking of homeownership as a right to realizing that it is a privilege. And we’re looking for products that will stand the test of time and that will be worth the hard-earned money we spend on them. We don’t want a house that’s assembled as quickly as you can build it; we want a home that is an investment in our present as well as our future.

“This is not a cyclical recession—this is a major shift in our culture,” says a Generation X commenter on a recent Builder blog post. “… Taxes will go up, social security won't be a viable retirement option, so people in my generation and younger will be focusing on saving money for retirement, so we have to rethink the whole idea of the dream house. It's not going to be some McMansion ... It will be smaller, greener, more energy efficient, and much cheaper to own, heat, cool, furnish, and pay taxes on. Americans will be rethinking their priorities.”

Pros looking for the silver lining need to recognize this preference shift. There’s no better time to differentiate yourself with quality, comfortable, green-built homes. It’s doubtful that customers will ever stop wanting granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, but now more than ever they’re likely to be just as interested in hearing about the health-enhancing, resale-value-boosting features, as well.

What’s more, like the attendees at the Builders’ Show, now is the time to conduct training, diversify your offerings, explore new technologies, and reach out to new customers and vendors. Take advantage of the slower buying pace by taking the time to explain your green homes—and their promise of durability and comfort—to potential buyers and to form true relationships.

Katy Tomasulo is Deputy Editor for EcoHome.