At Country Joe Homes we encourage Building and Buying Local.
Below are some helpful tips for you to consider when buying a new construction home:
Top Five Reasons a New Home is Better
- New Homes can prove they're more energy efficient. Many of today's new homes are energy tested by independent RESNET (Residential Energy Services Network) raters who assign a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) score. MN Green Path homes (over 1/3 of the Spring 2014 Parade Homes) provide a Home Performance Report (HPR) to allow you to compare expected energy use.
- New homes come with a comprehensive warranty. This means that the cost of maintenance for a new home is considerably less than a used home.
- With a new home you get to customize everything. You get to pick your lot, pick your floor plan, and pick your options rather than compromise and make due with things a previous homeowner selected.
- New construction involves a much higher level of quality construction than used homes built several years ago. Do to updated construction practices and new building codes buyers get a higher quality, more energy efficient home. In fact, homes built to the current MN building code are more than 20 percent more efficient than the average new home built in the United States.
- The new construction process is a very customer friendly experience. As an experienced builder, we walk the buyer through every step of the process from picking their lot and floor plan, to visiting our design center to select their options, to meeting with the construction superintendent to review each stage of the construction process.
Why New is Better
New homes are better than ever before! Really. A new home built in Minnesota today has better components, better materials, and they’re constructed in a way that is, quite simply. They’re more durable, safer, healthier, and more environmentally friendly.
“The housing market can be compared to the computer industry,” explained Mark LaLiberte, well-known speaker on energy. While the computer you bought a few years ago might have been the fastest one on that market, today it’s slow when compared to the new models. That’s how you should think of today’s homes.”
With a new home you pick the floor plan and finishes that you want. You choose the neighborhood and the home site that speak to you. And you can even select just the right “Green” features that balance your personal philosophy with your budget. What’s more, they truly shine when you consider how much more thay can do for you -- like built-in wiring and networking to accommodate all that YouTube® time, lighting controls to set every mood, and video in the family computer room that you can monitor from your bedroom.
Certainly older houses can become hazardous if wiring becomes frayed behind the walls or plumbing pipes leach chemicals into your water. But there’s a lot more to the safety benefits of today's new homes.
All homes are built to meet exacting building codes designed to promote safety and health, and every new home is carefully inspected by government building officials to ensure they comply with those codes. New homes feature hardwired, interconnected smoke alarms to alert everyone in your home quickly in case of a fire, and carbon monoxide detectors (MN building code since 2007).
Staircases and railings are required to meet numerous safety standards. Appliances, from your furnace to your water heater, offer the latest safety features, including closed combustion design which can’t cause backdraft problems.
New homes are not only safer, but they’re also healthier! The earliest examples of improved indoor air quality in new homes were the American Lung Association “health houses,” first built in the 1990’s. We’ve learned a lot since then and with the stringent Minnesota Energy Code, today’s homes ensure clean, safe indoor air.
Older homes, at best, offer air quality that compares with the outdoors with all the allergens, smog and other by products of our modern lifestyle. At worst, the indoor air in older homes can contain with dust, mold, outgasses, and even backdrafts or negative air pressure if a fireplace or furnace isn’t functioning at its peak. Today’s homes are tightly air sealed with controlled air flow to and from all appliances. The home’s Heating/Ventilation/Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems actually clean the air instead of potentially polluting it. And, new homes are sealed better to reduce the chance of carbon monoxide seeping inside.
New radon resistant construction helps lower radon levels, as well as reducing moisture issues. Air tight seals in the foundation and vertical vent pipes keep air circulating. New home buyers can even choose active Radon Mitigation systems (some BATC builder’s include these as part of their protocol).
Energy Efficiency is Key
Nothing is more noticeable between an older home and a new home than the check you write for utilities every month. This is where building science has helped new homes outperform old homes. Our own University of Minnesota has been working to improve energy efficiency in homes in their Cold Climate Housing Program. And, super energy savers are on the market today, like the US Department of Energy Challenge Homes.
The real benefit to all that study, is that in Minnesota, every home built to current code is going to save you plenty of money over a resale home. Independent testing shows that the average new MN home built to code will be about 20 percent more efficient than the average home build in the United States, and considerably more efficient than older homes.
Our own MN Green Path is paving the way to help people better understand energy efficiency in homes by providing a Home Performance Report (HPR) to energy tested homes in the region. These are homes that have been independently energy tested by certified RESNET (Residential Energy Services Network) raters. That means you’ll have important and easy-to-understand information about these homes’ expected energy performance at your fingertips.
Just like the MPG window sticker on a new car, the home’s HPR helps you make better choices for your family by providing a shortcut to understanding the complexities of building science, insulation and R-values, heating and cooling equipment and a whole lot more. When independent RESNET raters inspect these homes during and after construction, they confirm what specific energy-saving construction techniques and materials have been used. Then they conduct a final blower door test. All the gathered test data is analyzed to determine the home’s Home Energy Rating System (HERS) score.
The HERS score is an index that compares every home to an “average” home of the same size built to the 2006 International Residential Building Code, which theoretically would score 100. Older homes generally test over 130 (and often well over 150), and homes built to the current Minnesota energy code will test around 80 or lower. All you need to remember is that the lower the HERS score, the more energy efficient the home will be. (And don’t forget that energy use does correlate to the size of the space to be heated or cooled, so a 4,000 square foot home with a HERS score of 60 will still cost more to operate than a 1,500 square foot home with the same HERS.)
While builders have long understood the benefits of careful siting and landscaping of a home to aid in energy efficiency, it’s now becoming the norm rather than the exception as energy costs rise. Passive solar at its best places big windows along the home’s southern exposure and shades them with deep eaves, awnings or strategically placed deciduous trees. This serves to bring heat into the home during the winter when the sun is low in the sky, but shading the sunlight in summer to reduce heat load and aid in cooling.
New homes also benefit from continuing advances in the construction and science of building homes. Today, structural hangers and fasteners are used to frame new homes, ensuring floor joists won’t sag after a few years. Windows and doors are installed differently today, with careful flashing and sealing to ensure they remain water tight. A better understanding of how water vapor can move from inside to outside and vice versa has changed the way homes are sealed and how to best use vapor barriers like Tyvek. And today’s builders understand how the proper exchange of indoor and outdoor air can aid energy efficiency and air quality.
Better Materials and Products
Another key factor in making better homes today is the materials from which they are made. As technology advances, so does the ability to make lighter yet stronger materials. From engineered floor joists that make stronger, less expensive and squeakless floors, to engineered roof trusses that assure even the most complex roof is constructed from the least amount of material, these products make new homes more durable than ever before.
Windows have come a long way in the past few years. Efficiency is increased with both high-tech glazing and better insulated frames which decreases energy costs and makes your home more comfortable. You can even choose windows that have special coatings to almost clean themselves!
“Windows are a key part of the envelope of the house in terms of energy efficiency and reducing cost,” Bob Holdsworth, senior sales manager in the metro area for Iowa-based Pella says. "The U value (a measure of efficiency) of some windows (including Pella’s Designer Series) which have up to three panes of glass, can be as low as 0.3, about the best achievable value.”
Wood is still the most common framing element, but steel and concrete are becoming more popular as prices come down. Fiber cement siding is replacing wood as an effective, durable exterior, while improvements in both metal and vinyl siding are making these less expensive choices look and last better.
Inside finishes are also providing better choices for home buyers. Locally quarried granite and bacteria-reducing quartz countertops are attractive and Green. Low- and No-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paint and stains are making for healthier homes, while FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and renewable woods for floors and cabinetry are using our resources more wisely.
New materials are turning pricey features affordable and making life a lot easier for many families, too. Foam-based architectural components can affordably create a ginger-bread encrusted Victorian. Paintable, vinyl-coated ceiling tiles provide the look of a stamped tin ceiling at a fraction of the cost. Cabinetry with pull down shelves make life much easier and are a must for the elderly or infirm. Dishwashers and microwaves in drawers, showers with built-in TVs, and vinyl floors that look and last like tile are all available in today’s new homes.
State of the Art
If your game is technology, then a new home is truly where it’s at. With a new home you can interconnect phones, internet, video, audio, lighting, and household controls so that you are truly the master of your domain. Today’s security can include video cameras at doors and windows, motion and sound detectors, and practically hack-proof controls. With fully networked data lines you can monitor your kids’ computer use while playing that latest release of Grand Theft Auto yourself. And you can turn up the heat from your office computer or track groceries automatically as you use them.
Dollars and Cents
Buying a new home means you won’t be surprised with unexpected and expensive maintenance and repair issues. And it won’t require remodeling to make that old-fashioned floor plan and finishes work for your lifestyle today. The costs to update a typical, 30-year old, 1,300 square foot home by professional firms can range from a few thousand dollars to much more.
What About the New Home Warranty?
Starting with the obvious, only a new home comes with a New Home Warranty. If something does go wrong with your dream home, it is covered and that offers enormous peace of mind. According to Minnesota State Statute #327A, all builders must provide a Limited Warranty. Our great state’s requirements are standard: one year on workmanship (nail pops, drywall cracks); two years on mechanicals (plumbing, heating); and ten years on major structural problems.
New home warranties can be confusing, so ask to see your builder’s warranty in writing, which should explain what is covered and what isn’t. And, don’t forget about the outside of your home as well.
“Many landscape contractors will warranty plants for one year,” says Bob Fitch, President of the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association. “Make sure to ask your builder if their landscaper covers you. Warranties may differ.”
Make sure you get and keep all those manufacturers’ warranties that come standard with furnaces, appliances, shingles and other products, too.
Every home, whether new or old, needs to be maintained regularly. While a new home will take less time and money, it’s important that you take the time to check for problems at least every year. Always change furnace filters according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, keep the outside air conditioning unit clean and free of debris, and shut off outside water in the winter. These are just a few of the regular maintenance items you’ll need to do in order to keep your home in top shape and avoid warranty issues. For more information about regular homeowner maintenance, you can access a tremendous website that helps you do just that by clicking on the maintenance tab at Home-Smart.org.
When you buy a new home today, you will most often be joining a fabulous new home neighborhood. Developers and cities are working together to create new home communities that carefully balance outdoor private and public spaces. From urban condos to exurban acreages, developers are looking at neighborhoods in a whole new way.
Water management requirements mean new neighborhoods are usually chock full of ponds, a delightful result of the need to purify run-off before it leaves the development. Amenities in today’s neighborhoods range from sanctuaries where woods, wildlife, wetlands and privacy rule the day, to communities with pools, beaches, golf courses, community centers and theaters to entice families to play together. Paths to bike and walk on are the norm, too.
Lots are often divided to give the best views to the most people, and are set apart from the normal flow of traffic. Many of today’s developments have access to club houses, and other planned shared spaces, amenities that the neighborhoods from the good old days never dreamed of. Developers of these communities also understand the general sentiment towards home maintenance, and offer different levels of association maintenance as part of the package. The neighborhood you live in translates into the lifestyle you live. And today’s new communities have been built with you in mind, another reason to buy new.
In the End, There’s Nothing Like that New Home Smell
And, of course, a new home is just that, new. No one else has ever cooked in your new kitchen, slept in your new bedroom, or showered in your new shower. Everything is shiny bright and clean. You got to choose the style, the layout, the colors, and the finishes that make you feel perfectly at home. It’s truly your home, where you’ll nurture your family and make memories that you’ll cherish forever.
Ultimately, a home’s quality depends on the builder. So, Congrats! You’re in the right place to search for your new dream home. Take your time and have fun with the new homes built by reputable BATC builders.