Should I Build a Custom Home?

If you are thinking of buying a home, the thought of purchasing either something new from a production builder or having a builder custom-build a home just for you may have crossed your mind. This can be a very exciting – and possibly scary – time! Usually buyers have a lot of questions about the process which can vary depending on if you are simply buying a home from a builder in a development or if you prefer to have a builder start from scratch on the land of your choice.

In the Tri-Cities, there are currently over 300 homes listed for sale which indicate they were built in either 2012 or 2013. Many of these homes are already finished, but there are several which are available in various stages of completion with some customization still available. Alternatively, there are over 250 pieces of land available to build a single-family home on ranging from property high on the hillsides of Richland to waterfront property along the rivers, to acres of agricultural land and even land bordering a golf course.

When we are working with a buyer who is thinking of building a custom home, we usually recommend they first think about where they want to live and HOW they want to live. For example, a buyer may be thinking of living in a golf course community because they like the access to recreation, yet they may need a three car garage and shop for their “hobbies” which may not be something that a standard lot in that type of development or homeowners association can allow. Furthermore, think about proximity to work, school, and extracurricular activities to determine an ideal radius to be within. This helps create a list of area “must haves” which is essential for beginning the search.

Then we look at new home developments within this to determine if anything that is already-built meets their needs. If the area is right, but the home or property just need a few tweaks in order to be move-in ready for the buyer, this type of new home may be a good fit.

However, if the buyer has specific wants and needs or there don’t seem to be any developments that are the right fit, then it is time to put on some boots and begin looking for the perfect piece of land. By this point, we should also have a list of home “must-haves” so we can find the right piece of land for your home. In the previous example, that buyer needed not only a garage, but also a shop. Depending on the needs of the buyer, we may also look for areas that allow homes to be above a certain height or allow a basketball court to be built in the backyard. Perhaps having some chickens is on the “must-have” list. Every buyer and list of needs is different.

Budget is also top of mind for us throughout the search and the “dreaming” process while we help our buyers find the right land fit and right builder fit. Helping find the right match and helping people live in an environment completely custom-suited to them is one of our favorite parts of our job!

If you have been wondering what it takes to buy a new home in a development, an almost-done home that requires customization, or a brand new home from scratch on your dream lot, give us a call! We are experts in helping our clients find – or build -  the right home for their needs. We are happy to consult with you to help determine the right direction. You can reach Jennifer at (509) 947-5670 or Jessica at (509) 947-2230.

Innovative Building Material – I.C.F. Construction

Through the years, man has relied on many types of materials to build shelters – brick, wood, mud, straw, and yes – even concrete.

But while one might picture a cold and unwelcoming institutional dwelling when thinking of concrete construction, it might surprise you to know that not only is concrete versatile and when combined with other materials, is very warm and inviting. It is also on the cutting-edge of energy efficiency, and is a building material that is perfect for the weather we have here in the Tri-Cities.

I.C.F. – Insulated Concrete Forms – are a great match for our climate extremes here in the Tri-Cities because, as its name says, they are very insulating. This helps homeowners use less energy to heat their homes during our cold winters. It might surprise you to know that they also do a better job of keeping a home cool in the summer because the thick wall regulates the temperature more evenly.

An additional bonus? Because the walls are more air-tight than their wood-built counterparts, the dust that plagues most stick-built homes (and becomes very bad in the wind here in the Tri-Cities), is significantly less in an I.C.F. home. In fact, a resident of Mediterranean Villas (an I.C.F. community in Pasco) reported having left for six months and returned to a virtually dust-free home!

So how does it work? Basically I.C.F. Construction is a series of lego-type foam blocks that stack on top of each other and lock into place, allowing concrete to be filled in the center. Then stucco or siding can be applied to the outside and drywall applied to the inside, just like a regular house. I.C.F. offer space to run not only plumbing but also electrical conduit.

Not only do homeowners of I.C.F. homes report they are much more comfortable (and outside noise-free!) than a stick-built home, the energy savings are very dramatic. David and Carol Myers who own an I.C.F. home in Mediterranean Villas reported that when they owned a comparable-size traditionally-built home, their energy bills would be up to $175 in the winter. However, since they moved to a Devoted Builders-built I.C.F. home, their highest winter energy bill was $66. Watch the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYfIHiQ5egw

You’ll probably be hearing a lot about I.C.F.s in the years to come.  If you’re considering a building project, you may want to consider insulated concrete form construction. For additional information and to learn more about this innovative, energy efficient way of building, please contact Jennifer Cowgill at (509) 947-5670 or Jessica Johnson at (509) 947-2230. You can also watch our videos here to learn more!

HOMEOWNERS: The New Carbon Monoxide Detector Law pertains to you!

The State of Washington recently revised RCW 19.27.530 which requires that all single family residences, condominiums, apartments, hotels and motels have working carbon monoxide detectors installed. Single family homes that were occupied before July 26, 2009 are exempt until the home is sold, at which point the seller must install a detector. This new revision requires strict regulation of carbon monoxide detectors in homes, condominiums, apartments, hotels and motels and allows for enforcement to make sure these regulations are being followed.

Carbon monoxide detectors are similar to smoke detectors in their operation. They are designed to save lives by sensing dangerous carbon monoxide levels and sounding an alarm to evacuate when these become too high and unsafe.

Under the past law, new residences must have carbon monoxide alarms installed upon completion. However, this new law applies to any home that is sold.

Why is there such a concern over carbon monoxide? Carbon monoxide is a very dangerous poisonous gas which cannot be seen or smelled. It is so dangerous it can kill a person or an animal in a very short period of time.  Carbon monoxide can quickly build up to fatal levels in either enclosed areas, semi-enclosed areas or non-ventilated areas.

It naturally occurs when fuel is burned. Cars, trucks, small gasoline power equipment like trimmers, chain saws, boat engines, lanterns, burning charcoal and wood, gas ranges, ovens, and furnaces produce carbon monoxide. It is also produced from tobacco smoke.

If you are thinking about selling your property this spring, you need to learn your options now and be prepared to have a detector installed.

And buyers listen up! If you are purchasing a bank-owned property, the property is not exempted from this law. Make sure that the home you are purchasing comes with a carbon monoxide detector.

We are advising our clients to make sure they have their carbon monoxide detector installed by a professional. This is essential for both safety and liability reasons.

If you have any questions about this new law as it might pertain to your personal situation please feel free to give us a call. You can reach Jennifer at (509) 947-5670 or Jessica at (509) 947-2230. We would happy to discuss your options with you.

Should I Buy a New Home?

There are many things to consider when buying a home – should you buy something that has been lived in before or should you splurge and buy something new? New homes are usually more expensive than their resale counterparts, but is it worth it?

Aside from the possibility of being able to customize your new home with the finishes (counters, back-splash, flooring, and sometimes floor plan) and colors you like, buying a new home can actually save you money each month.

According to the National Association of Homebuilders, a home is considered “new construction” if it was built within the last four years.  The NAHB recently cited the 2009 American Housing Survey in evaluating what homeowners spent on maintenance expenses per month. The survey found that 26% of all homeowners spent $100 or more per month on home maintenance expenses. But of the homeowners who owned a home classified as “new construction,” only 11% of owners paid this amount. What is a more startling figure? 73% of new homeowners spent less than $25 per month on maintenance.

So what about utilities? According to the survey, all homeowners spent about $.78 per square foot per year on electricity. This means for a 2000 square foot house, $1560 ($130/month) was spent on electricity. However, compare this with “new” homeowners who spent only $.65 per square foot per year ($1,300 per year or $108.33 per month for the same 2,000 square foot house).

A big difference was seen in homes with natural gas. Homeowners on average spent $.53 per square foot per year (for a total of $1,060 per year or $88.33 per month for a 2,000 square foot house) while owners of new homes paid $.38 per square foot per year ($760 per year or $63.33 per month).

And new homes that are ENERGY STAR® certified strive to be 30% more energy efficient than typical new homes. Using our example “new” 2,000 square foot home which could cost $1,300 per year in electricity, a comparable ENERGY STAR® certified home may cost $910 in electricity per year.

There are currently over 550 listings in the Tri-Cities which were built between 2009-2013 (classified as “new construction”). If you are in the market for a new home, an existing lovingly “used” home, or if you want to start completely from scratch and create something all yours, you owe it to yourself to learn your options and determine the best fit for you – and your budget. We can help! Please call Jessica at (509) 947-2230 or Jennifer at (509) 947-5670. We can show you all the costs and benefits of buying a used home versus buying a new home.

Housing Affordability in the Tri-Cities

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, 2012 was a record year in terms of housing affordability. The Housing Affordability Index is measured by the relationship between median home price, median family income and average mortgage interest rate. A higher index indicates the more purchasing power buyers have.

An index of 100 is the point at which a median-income household has exactly enough income to purchase a median-priced existing single-family home with a 20% down payment and 25% of gross income allotted for monthly mortgage principle and interest.

December’s Index numbers are not yet available, but at the end of November, it stood at 198.2 while it stood at 194 for the year overall – the most affordable on record since the Index was developed in 1970. This is an increase over 2011 when the index was 186 overall (which was the previous record).

Although the Federal Reserve has promised to keep interest rates low and wages are steady and moderately on the rise, interest rates will likely increase slightly in 2013, and with median home prices increasing, the National Association of REALTORS® has predicated the Housing Affordability Index will average 160 during 2013 –  still the third-most-affordable year on record.

Here in the Tri-Cities, the median home price ending third quarter was $184,700, a 1.9% increase over the previous year. And although we have seen unemployment rates rise locally, the ratio between monthly income and mortgage payment remains better than most markets during the third quarter at 10.1% (nationally this ratio is at 13.8%).

This is still a great time to buy a house if you are a first-time homebuyer, or ready to upgrade to something bigger! With interest rates still low and prices have not increased significantly, buyers have more buying power than almost any other time in history. Couple this with bankers lightening their lending requirements in 2013 and it is a phenomenal time to buy. Give us a call to learn more about just how much home you may be able to afford. You may be surprised! Call us:  Jennifer (509) 947-5670 or Jessica (509) 947-2230.

Source:

http://www.realtor.org/topics/metropolitan-median-area-prices-and-affordability/data

Tri-Cities Housing Market Update

The National Association of Home Builders/First American released their Improving Markets Index in January, and the Tri-Cities made the Index due to home price appreciation, an increase in employment, and an increase in building activity.

The Index measures improvements from “troughs” in building permits (measured from the U.S. Census Bureau), home prices (measured from Freddie Mac), and employment (measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics). Each metro area has different trough dates depending on the lowest point in each of those individual areas. Cities that made the Index are those who have shown improvement from their trough over the last six months. Here is how the Kennewick metro area shaped up:

Let’s take a closer look at the new housing permit data from the U.S. Census Bureau. As you can see in the chart below, building permits for each month were higher than the previous month for each month in 2012 with the exception of April of 2012.

Total permits for 2011 were 1598 and increased by 28.84% in 2012 to 2059 (measured from January – November for both 2011 and 2012).

We have  a few more months until spring when the new home construction season starts and we at Devoted Builders and Referred Real Estate are looking forward to being a part of it!

If a move is in your future this spring, we would love to help! Please give us a call – Jessica (509) 947-2230 or Jennifer (509) 947-5670. We would love to get you into the home of your dreams!

SOURCES:

Multi-Generational Housing Making a Comeback

Studies have been done on it. Books have been written about it. And now homes are being built or remodeled to accommodate it. What is it? A return to the multi-generational household!

While the last few decades have seen a decline in multiple generations living under the same roof, that trend tends to be reversing as more and more adult children are moving back home and homeowners are taking in their aging parents.

Sharon Graham Niederhaus, co-author of Together Again -  a book about multiple generations living under the same roof,  interviewed over 100 families who are living in this manner. She noted, “The balance and proximity and privacy is the key to success,” and indicated that “independence” and “separate facilities” such as a kitchen, bathroom, and separate entrance are essential to living together in harmony.

For hundreds of years it was not uncommon for several generations to live together although the trend towards smaller family units began to take hold after WWII. According to USA Today, the number of multi-generational households in our country is currently the highest since the 1950s.  The current trend is directly related to the economy, but many have noted the positive impact of having either their parents or adult children move back home.

PulteGroup Home Index (done by PulteGroup Inc, a national homebuilder) recently did a survey of homeowners with children 16-30. Fourteen percent indicated that they have one adult child who has moved back in with them and a whopping 31% expect that an adult child will return back home in the future. They also interviewed homeowners with living parents and found that 15% indicated a parent was already living with them and 32% expected that at some point they would be living with a parent.

In both cases, the number of multi-generational homes will double in the future if those numbers are correct. So how will current homeowners accommodate the additional people? Of the homeowners who were currently living with a parent or planning on it in the future, 72% planned on either renovating or purchasing a home with a floorplan that would work more effectively for the expanded family. 49% of the homeowners who were either living with adult children or planned to expected to renovate or move.

Builders across the country are beginning to see and provide floorplans which reflect this trend, and Devoted Builders is no exception. In fact, in 2011 the National Association of Homebuilders did a survey of builders and what they expected homebuyers would want in terms of new home amenities by 2015. They determined that 60% of custom new construction homes would have two master bedroom suites by 2015.

Here in the Tri-Cities, we have had several clients in the last few years who have had several generations living in the same household. We have seen adult children living with aging parents so they can help take care of them ensuring a higher quality of life and care. Also recently we have seen younger adults moving into Mom and Dad’s house to either go back to school or save money for a new house or simply due to loss of employment.

In our area most homes with multi-use spaces are in high demand, command higher prices and see a shorter time on market, especially if priced in a price range which is seeing a high turnover.

Our advice? If you are thinking you might need some extra space in the coming years, plan for it now. With interest rates and lower prices, it is a great time to either buy the home you will need in the future, begin planning for a remodel,  or even begin thinking of building. We are here to help and advise. Please call Jessica a call at (509) 947-2230 or Jennifer at (509) 947-5670 – we would love to hear about your plans!

SOURCES:

ENERGY STAR® certified homes – leading the way in smart new home construction

Energy Star Logo

You might have heard the term ENERGY STAR® in the context of new home construction and assumed the reference was regarding the appliances or lighting. However, did you know that some builders who are focused on developing more energy-efficient building science are building entire homes that carry the ENERGY STAR® seal of approval? These homes are built to standards which well exceed other homes on the market today. Typically, these homes are more than 30% more energy efficient as compared to an average new home.

In the Tri-Cities, there are 17 ENERGY STAR® “Builder Partners” – builders who are committed to building at least one new ENERGY STAR® certified home every 12 months. Devoted Builders is pleased to be one of those few builders and to have built 79 of the 893 ENERGY STAR® certified homes in the Tri-Cities.

According to the ENERGY STAR® website, www.energystar.gov, ENERGY STAR® certified homes built in 2011 are the equivalent of:

  • Eliminating emissions from 117 vehicles
  • Saving 705,432 lbs of coal
  • Planting 193 acres of trees
  • Saving the environment 1,383,494 pounds of CO2

So what does it take to become an ENERGY STAR® certified home?

  • Specialty Engineering: The engineering of new home systems including heating and cooling, foundation and wall construction undergo scrutiny up front to make the most out of energy efficient advances before the foundation is even poured! ENERGY STAR® building science includes:
      • Complete thermal enclosure system  – an air-tight envelope!
      • Complete heating and cooling system – more comfortable, great air quality, and quiet operation!
      • Complete water management system – both indoors and out!
      • Energy-efficient lighting and appliances – of course!
  • Climate-Specific Recommendations: ENERGY STAR® builder partners work with a ENERGY STAR® Home Energy Rater to determine the specific energy-saving techniques and features that are most effective for each climate. For example, an area whose climate is subject to severe winds (such as ours) would require a different climate-specific energy-saving solution than one that doesn’t have a wind challenge, but extreme temperature extremes.
  • Extensive Inspections: To verify ENERGY STAR® homes meet the stringent energy efficiency requirements, Home Energy Raters conduct inspections of the homes which include a blower door test to check for an air-tight seal, duct blaster test to check for duct leakage, and a wide range of other parameters.

If you have been thinking about shrinking your carbon footprint – or just want a home with cleaner air and lower utility bills, an ENERGY STAR® home may be just what you are looking for.

Come and see the almost-complete newest ENERGY STAR® certified home in Mediterranean Villas (and learn how I.C.F. Construction is paving the way in exciting energy advancements) or come and talk with Devoted Builders and Jessica Johnson and Jennifer Cowgill with Referred Real Estate, as we can help you find the perfect lot for your custom-built ENERGY STAR® certified home.  So whether you fancy a hip urban contemporary pad or a historic-feeling home in the woods, we are a perfect match for your needs. Please give Jessica  a call at (509) 947-2230 or Jennifer at  (509) 947-5670 to learn more about your options.