Home Buying Guide

Buying a new home can be a daunting challenge. With such a significant investment, you want to make sure that your money’s well spent, which means paying attention to all the little details that make the difference between a good home and a great one.

So where do you start? What should you be looking for? What questions do you need to ask? Lou “Mr. Fix-It” Manfredini has put together the following 10 tips to help you identify the home that’s right for you.

Ten Tips for Choosing a Great New Home.

Start with a Solid Foundation ­
The foundation is the rock on which your home is built, and may even provide the walls of a future living area, such as a rec room or workshop. Make a visual check to see that walls and floors are straight, with no waves. Ask the developer about waterproofing, drainage tiles and backfill elements that help keep the foundation dry and decrease water damage. A good builder will be happy to educate you on the pains taken to ensure a long-lasting foundation and dry basement.

Ensure a Strong Framework
Homes framed with wood are recommended for unsurpassed strength, durability, affordability and flexibility (for when you decide you want a window moved here or a door widened there), and for wood’s environmental edge over other materials. Wood is the only choice that’s renewable and sustainable over the long term, and manufacturing wood uses less energy and produces far fewer greenhouse gas emissions than either steel or concrete. It’s also superior in terms of soundproofing, which means less noise travels between rooms.

Check Water Drainage and Landscaping ­
Take a walk around the property and think about how water would flow around the home in a downpour. Check for gutters and make sure downspouts direct water away from the home. If it’s a new development, ask about landscaping options. Trees, shrubs or even grass planted around a home can absorb excess water.

Ask About Energy Efficiency ­
Ask developers about any special energy-saving measures. If they’re building with wood, you’re ahead of the game. Wood is the best natural insulator against cold and heat, and can actually help keep utility bills in check. In addition, radiant barrier panels can be placed in the roof sheathing and help control the home’s temperature. Radiant barrier panels feature a foil layer that faces up, reflecting up to 97 percent of the sun’s radiant heat away from the home. They reduce attic temperatures by as much as 30 degrees and significantly lower air conditioning costs.

Look Behind Window Treatments ­
Energy-efficient thermal pane windows drastically reduce energy bills. As an insulator against heat and cold, solid wood windows will have less draft around the window edges. Studies also show that wood windows consume less energy and generate about half as much waste as vinyl in comparative life cycles from manufacturing through their use in a home. If the home has yet to be built, determine where windows will be placed-both to maximize views and control the amount of sunlight in your living areas. Too much sun increases cooling costs, while too little makes the home more expensive to heat.

Insulated glass is usually standard, but upgrading to low E glass is another way to reduce UV rays and increase energy efficiency-and heat mirror glass is even better. These upgrades will cost a little more, but the added investment will result in lower energy bills.

Examine Trim and Finish Work ­
The trim and finish work speak volumes about the overall care and attention to detail that goes into home construction. Look for clues to craftsmanship, everything from tight miter joints to good stainwork and painting. Look beyond window treatments and decorations to assess how much actual trimwork is being used. While less trimwork can provide a cost savings at purchase, more can be an important feature for prospective buyers when you’re ready to sell.

Walk About ­ Floors are the most heavily used surface in a house. Hardwood flooring is not only durable, but an elegant way to add value and beauty to your home. (Check any broker’s listings to see that it’s always a trumpeted feature.) Plus, if the floor needs maintenance down the road, it can be refinished for around $2 per square foot, which is about a quarter of the cost of replacing carpet or other flooring options. An added benefit of hardwood flooring is that people with allergies tend to suffer less because, unlike carpeting, wood doesn’t trap mold spores and dust.

Open Up to Smart Extras ­
Look for little extras such as solid wood doors and cabinetry that can add value and beauty to your home. Solid wood doors also offer better sound insulation, while providing a sense of added design quality.

Look at the Labels ­
Make sure to find out the type and brand of furnace, air conditioner, plumbing fixtures, electrical devices and lighting. Are the manufacturers reputable? What are the warranties? This information can help you avoid costly maintenance down the road.

Spend Time with Your New-Home Builder ­
If you’re buying a home that isn’t built, don’t assume that the builder can read your mind. Make sure you communicate all of your concerns and desires. Don’t go to the job site every day, but try to set up key visiting points during construction, such as:

When the foundation is poured
When framing is complete
When mechanicals are complete, just before insulation is installed
After drywall is taped, finished and primed
On completion, for a final walk-through

reprinted from www.beconstructive.com

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