Overlooked “Must Haves”
There are some things missing from your new home shopping list of “must haves.” And they should be deal breakers.
When it comes to choosing a new home, we are all different. We have different ideas and individual preferences about size, floor plan design, interior colors and textures, and the ideal home exterior. We carry this mental list of “must have” items as we shop for a home, but almost everyone forgets to include two items that are more important than all the other “must-have items” put together. Not only that, these two items should be—without exception—important to everyone. So what are they?
Can you guess what these two things are? No, they have nothing to do with where the home is located, or if the community is gated, or if the rooms are spacious. The two items also have nothing to do with the luxurious granite countertops or designer ceilings and all the other “lipstick” touches in the home that homebuyers tend to focus on. Here’s a hint: while most of the items on a homebuyer’s wish list are visible, the two most important ones are not. Here’s another hint: most homebuyers assume the two things are a “given,” in other words, that they are already included in the home.
Give up? Okay—the two items most homebuyers assume they are getting when they are buying a new home are—comfort and energy efficiency. Think about it. The single most important quality of your new home—its comfort—is not even discussed before you buy a home! And you won’t find out how energy efficient your new home is until you move in and get your first bill. How ridiculous is that?
It is very possible that home comfort and energy efficiency are not on a homebuyer’s wish list, and perhaps, home shoppers don’t ask builders about them because, let’s be honest—no builder would answer those questions with, “No, my homes aren’t comfortable or energy efficient.” The problem is, and this is very important–if you don’t have interior comfort and energy efficiency, you don’t have quality construction. And if you don’t have quality construction, aside from a sticky, humid interior, your home will have a shorter lifespan, require more repairs, and may end up in a poor condition with a lower resale value.
If you don’t have interior comfort and energy efficiency, you don’t have quality construction.
So how can you be sure that your new home will be comfortable and energy efficient? First, don’t take anyone’s word for it. Get a written guarantee from a third party—preferably from a RESNET certified home energy rater who has a provider overseeing his work. Otherwise, your inspector has no supervision, and that’s not always good. The best recommendation is to look for a home with a BUILT TO SAVE™ certification. Builders who certify homes in the BUILT TO SAVE™ program have their homes inspected by a RESNET certified home energy rater before the sheetrock goes on and tested once the home is complete using specialized equipment and software to accurately predict a home’s energy efficiency.
What about the home’s comfort, you ask? Well, as part of the BUILT TO SAVE™ requirements, the heating and cooling load calculations are matched to the exact specifications of the home: orientation, size, number of rooms, number of occupants, plus more, to make sure the AC system is sized right for a comfortable room-to-room interior (See page 28) for the importance of a properly-sized cooling system.
A home that is certified in the BUILT TO SAVE™ program is awarded a certificate signed by the home energy inspector. The builder gives the certificate to the homebuyer as proof that the home will be more comfortable, and more energy efficient, than a similar home built to code. Other benefits include better indoor air quality, better durability, and traditionally better resale value. The BUILT TO SAVE™ certificate becomes invaluable years later when it is possible that no one may be around to vouch for the home’s superior construction.
There’s actually a third item hardly anyone talks about, and it could be a huge legal issue in the future. That third, little-talked-about item is whether or not the home was built to the current code requirements. Since not all municipalities have the same requirements, it is sometimes difficult to know what is required for code compliance. What makes it even more complicated is that Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law HB 1736 requiring the adoption of the 2015 International Residential Code (IRC) Chapter 11 (with some modifications). All local jurisdictions have been obligated to comply with the new code laws beginning September 1, 2016. This is where it gets tricky. Just because a city code official is not enforcing the law—namely, 2015 IRC as required by Texas HB 1736, that doesn’t mean that the builder is not responsible for complying with the law. As a home buyer, you should be aware that homes with permits after September 1, 2016, require a blower door test and a duct leakage test unless the entire A/C system is in conditioned space as outlined in the 2015 code. Just because a city is not requiring these tests from the builder, doesn’t mean it is okay to not do them. The tests are designed to predict a home’s energy efficiency and air tightness.
Keep in mind that we are talking about minimum code laws—that is, laws that have only “minimum” standards as their goals for compliance. If you are interested in homes with superior construction that are built to “above code,” visit www.builttosave.org or see the inside cover for more information on the BUILT TO SAVE™ program.
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