How to Choose a Home Builder
If you're in the market for a new home, you should shop for your builder as carefully as you shop for your home. Whether you are buying a condo, a townhouse, a house in a subdivision or a custom-built house, you want to know that you are buying a good quality home from a reputable builder. Here are some tips to help you choose a builder.
Make a List of Possible Builders
Once you have thought about the type of house you want, you can create a list of potential builders.
Do Your Homework
When you have a list of potential builders, it's time to start asking lots of questions — of both the potential builders and the owners of their homes.
Shop for Quality and Value
Look at new homes whenever you can. Home shows and open houses sponsored by builders are good opportunities to look at homes. Model homes and houses displayed in home shows are often furnished to give you ideas for using the space. You may also ask a builder to see unfurnished homes.
When examining a home, look at the quality of the construction features. Inspect the quality of the cabinetry, carpeting, trimwork and paint. Ask the builder or the builder's representative a lot of questions. Get as many specifics as possible. If you receive the answers verbally rather than in writing, take notes. Never hesitate to ask a question. What seems like an insignificant question might yield an important answer.
Questions to Ask Your Home Builder
When you're thinking about buying a new home, selecting the right home builder is a key step in creating the home of your dreams. You should feel comfortable asking a potential home builder every question that you think is important. And, a professional builder or sales representative will want to make you a happy and satisfied home owner.
Besides the questions of "How much does it cost?" and "When can we move in?" here are some other questions you should ask:
Aging-in-Place: Remodeling for a Lifetime
What is “Aging-in-Place?”
According to most experts, aging-in-place is a term used to describe a person living in the residence of their choice, for as long as they are able, as they age. This includes being able to have any services (or other support) they might need over time as their needs change.
According to a recent NAHB survey, “desire for better/newer amenities” and “need to repair/replace old components” once again ranked as the top reasons owners remodel their homes. However, several other reasons to remodel are gaining ground, particularly the desire to be able to age-in-place.
The baby boom generation has many choices as this large population of potential clients for remodelers, builders, contractors, and occupational therapists considers where to live – but overwhelmingly, seniors would prefer to stay in their own homes.
What does Aging-in-Place look like?
If you are like the majority of Americans you want to continue living at home in a familiar environment throughout your maturing years. Aging-in-place means living in your home safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age or ability level. It addresses the need to remodel existing homes and design new homes so that people can age in place and not have to move to assisted-living facilities as they age. Since the vast majority of homes we live in are not well designed for aging seniors, a movement in residential construction has sprung up to meet this new consumer demand.
Boomers, who are 77 million strong and make-up 28% of the U.S. population, are leading this trend. The economics of aging-in-place modifications are a no-brainer. Moving to a typical assisted-living facility can cost up to $60,000 annually. The cost to widen the bathroom door, put in safety bars, and add a roll-in shower would typically cost about $6,000 to $8,000, but doing so is a one-time expense, not a yearly drain on your finances.
Too early to think this applies to you? Consider how many folks struggle with bouts of arthritis at an early age. If you fell and broke a leg, how easy would it be to get up and downstairs in your house? Perhaps you have an aging parent or relative who may need to move in with you. Most home owners don’t think they will need traditional aging in place items like task lighting, grab bars, and other home modifications for their own use, but their family members and visitors might.
Aging-in-place means so many different things to so many different types of home owners, it’s difficult to find where to begin the process of evaluating the needs of everyone living in, or potentially living in the home. A good place to begin is universal design, which refers to products and spaces that can be used by the widest range of people.
The theory behind universal design is to have an environment (in a building, product, or service in that environment) that is designed to meet the needs of all people who wish to use it. If an environment is accessible, usable, convenient and a pleasure to use, everyone benefits. Universal design considers the diverse needs and abilities of all throughout the design process and takes advantage of products, services, and environments that meet peoples' needs.
Aging-in-place Action Plan
Fortunately, there are industry standards in place to help potential remodelers make sense of the multiple challenges of aging-in-place planning. NAHB’s answer to this is CAPS, which stands for Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist. It’s a construction credential that has builders, architects, remodelers, designers and even occupational therapists using universal design ideas, aging-in-place principles designed to custom-fit your home to you and your family as time goes by.
CAPS design takes your current and future circumstances into consideration by using the universal design principles to focus on elegant, aesthetically enriching, and barrier-free environments. These are changes that can actually increase the value of your home, according to most realtors.
Construction and design professionals are taking advantage of CAPS training across the nation. This designation is taught through the National Association of Home Builders in collaboration with AARP.
Aging-in-Place Planning Checklist
Universal design taken to the practical level can include the most common aging-in-place remodeling, like raised toilet seats, chair lifts, and walk-in tubs. However, improvements that make homes universally more livable (e.g., replacing lower cabinets with pull out drawers, large windows providing natural light), however, will make them appealing to everyone regardless of age.
Here are some ideas additional aging-in-place ideas to consider when planning a new or remodeling home project:
Smart Homes = Smart Aging in Pace
The trends in home automation and interconnection are a perfect example of taking the many tools of universal design to its practical conclusion. Internet-connected thermostats, lighting, heating, air conditioning, TVs, computers, security, and camera systems that are capable of communicating with one another and can be controlled remotely not only help everyone in the house live well together, but can save time, money and energy.
With so much to consider while using aging-in-place during your remodeling project, it’s hard to go it alone. The CAPS designation is a reliable way to identify professionals to modify your home or build a new one that is designed for a lifespan. CAPS graduates receive training about the technical/construction aspects and learn about the unique aspects of working with older Americans.
Visit NAHB’s aging-in-place and remodeling website for more info.
To find an NAHB Certified Aging-in-Place professional in your area, contact your local builders association at www.pabuilders.org/find-a-local.
Without the proper training and preparation, a DIYer can and has landed in the emergency room. Unfamiliarity with new tools and techniques can lead to life-threatening accidents. Follow product directions and safety procedures and always use proper safety equipment.
A good rule of thumb for any homeowner is to avoid projects that require a license. Veteran remodelers advise against doing electrical or plumbing work on your own and avoid making structural changes to walls, roofs, and floors. You run the risk of compromising the structural integrity of your home and having a large hole in your roof or floor. Leave this work in the hands of professionals with the proper training.
Even projects that appear simple like laying floor tile can result in you stubbing your toes every time you are in that room if improperly installed.
DIYers often tackle larger projects than they can handle before the holidays so that visiting family can enjoy the updates. But when something goes wrong, there is no one to hold to the deadline. Hiring a professional will ensure that you have a contract with a completion date and that the remodeler will bring in whatever help is necessary to get the job finished on time.
Even professional remodelers sometimes need extra time on projects when they find surprises behind walls. Troubleshooting these issues often takes more time and expertise than originally planned. If timing is a priority for your weekend warrior, call a professional remodeler to get your project completed.
Purchasing new tools is exciting but consider the price of all the specialty tools used for a one-time project when they are sitting untouched in your garage for a few years.
Additionally, many of the products purchased for the DIY market, although designated by a name brand, are not always the same quality available to contractors. It is also important to verify the terms of the product warranty. Many warranties become void by improper installation.
Depending on the scale of the project, some home improvement projects can also involve compliance with local codes that require permits and inspections. In addition, older homes may have asbestos and /or lead paint. The removal of these two dangerous materials are often strictly regulated in most states. Other common DIY code violations are deck ledger fastening problems, basement bedroom egress windows, and botched electrical work.
Work that’s not up to code may be discovered by an inspector when you try and sell, putting a big damper on your plans. You may be required to fix any problems (with added expense) before a buyer will consider making an offer. And if your buyer should later discover fixes that aren’t up to code, you could be sued for repairs and damages.
Not all projects require permits and inspections. Start off by inquiring with your local building authority and discussing your project in detail.
There are some home projects that professional remodelers believe can be tackled by determined DIYers such as hanging pictures, interior painting, caulking, changing door knobs and cabinet pulls, and some aesthetic work (depending on skill level) such as installing crown molding. Just consider the safety risks, time and cost involved in a DIY project of any size.
Still think you can tackle a big remodeling project? Just remember, DIY projects should be fun and suit your skill level. If they’re not, then consider hiring a professional.
For information about hiring a remodeler, contact your local builders association or search the Directory of Professional Remodelers (www.nahb.org/remodelerdirectory) to find a professional remodeler in your area. Visit www.nahb.org/remodel for more information on remodeling. The PA Builders Association Buyers Guide has hundreds of products and services for the DIYer from all over Pennsylvania.
Bathroom Remodels – Hire a pro for the new king of home renovations
You’ve collected ideas of your dream master bath, drafted a general budget, and talked with friends about how you wish your home was more comfortable or modern. You’re hitting remodeling websites to find the latest trends in bathroom design and fixtures. It sounds like you’re ready to hire a professional remodeler to get your project done right.
You’re not alone. Bathrooms have now overtaken kitchens as the most popular remodeling project. The kitchen is king among the spaces with the most impact on a home’s identity. But having a beautiful bathroom is just as, if not, more important for many homeowners.
In fact, bathrooms overtook kitchens as the most popular remodeling project, according to a new NAHB survey. NAHB has released the results highlighting the most common remodeling projects to kick off National Home Remodeling Month in May.
In the survey, remodelers reported the most common projects in 2017:
81% did bathroom remodeling
78% did kitchen remodeling
49% did whole house remodeling
37% did room additions
30% did window/door replacements
While remodeling is commonly associated with kitchens and baths, demand for green upgrades continues to swell as homeowners seek to save on utili
ty costs, improve air quality and increase the value of their homes.
An additional survey by NAHB Remodelers showed that high-performing, low-emissivity (Low-E) windows are the most common green-building product installed by residential remodelers. Programmable thermostats and high-efficiency HVAC systems also ranked highly among the most common green products used.
Check out these steps for hiring a professional remodeler:
Collect names of remodeling companies.
1. Start by searching the National Association of Home Builders’ Directory of Professional Remodelers at nahb.org/remodel. You’ll get a list of licensed remodelers in your area to contact.
2. Call a few remodelers from your list to discuss your project. Describe what you envision for the home remodel, styles you like, your estimated budget, and other ideas for the remodeling work. Ask the remodeler if they can provide background information on their expertise. They may have a website or brochure they can share that describes their experience and accomplishments.
4. After you start speaking with remodelers and find one or two who match your project’s needs, be sure to conduct some background research by checking with the Better Business Bureau, talking to their references, and asking if they are a trade association member (such as NAHB Remodelers). Remodelers with these qualities tend to be more reliable, better educated, and more likely to stay on top of construction and design trends.
5. Many people may be lured by the lowest price to their remodeling project, thinking that they have found a great deal. But beware of these alluring low prices. These bids may be more costly in the end if the contractor is cutting corners, not taking into account certain costs, or is inexperienced. Professional remodelers have stories about coming into homes to fix remodels from unscrupulous contractors who did shoddy work or failed to complete the job. Often times, the lowest price may not ultimately provide the best value for your home remodel.
Make the smartest investment in your home by hiring a professional remodeler. They’ll help you stay on budget, solve remodeling challenges, and provide a higher-quality service.
For more tips on planning a home remodel or hiring a professional remodeler, visit nahb.org/remodel or contact your local builders association at www.pabuilders.org/find-a-local.
Rep. Charlie Dent (R) was honored on April 30th by Lehigh Valley Builders Association (LVBA) with the National Defender of Housing Award, acknowledging him as a forward-thinking federal legislator who recognizes housing’s significant role within the U.S. economy.
“Dent understands the key national issues facing home builders and remodelers here in the Lehigh Valley,” said LVBA Executive Officer, Chuck Hamilton. “We commend him for his past support of pro-housing policies such as removing needless regulatory barriers that drive up the cost of housing making it more difficult for families to afford a home.”
The Defender of Housing Award honors a very important partnership--the working relationship between builders and lawmakers. In many ways, members of Congress create the blueprint for our businesses with their votes on legislation that defines how our industry operates.
John Howard, chair of the LVBA Governmental Affairs Committee, added, “This award represents a strong commitment to affordable housing, consumer choice and most importantly, the significant contribution that home building makes to the economy. Homeownership is the engine that drives this nation, and the Defender of Housing Award goes to those who enable more homes to be built.”
On May 1, 2018, the PA Uniform Construction Code (PA UCC) Review and Advisory Council (RAC) submitted their required report to the Department of Labor and Industry (Department) adopting the majority of code provisions contained in the 2015 International Code Council (ICC) Model Codes.
The submission of the report to the Department signals the end of the RAC’s re-review of all previously un-adopted code provisions contained in the 2012, and 2015 editions of the ICC Model Codes.
PBA was successful in advocating for the non-adoption or modification of the most egregious code provisions contained in the 2015 ICC Model Codes, but all residential builders should be prepared for a major update to the current PA UCC beginning in October of this year.
On October 1, 2018, new regulations will go into effect codifying the RAC report on the 2015 ICC Model Code re-review including the provisions of the 2014 National Electric Code.
PBA is working on materials and educational training sessions to help make the transition to the revised PA UCC easier to manage for our members.
Moving forward, all subsequent RAC review and adoption of future Model Code provisions will be delayed by a full three years. As an example, the 2018 ICC Model Codes will not be eligible for enactment in Pennsylvania until March of 2022.
Other Key Changes for Builders:
Design or Construction Contract Time-frames:
Members should also be aware that a new limitation relating to design and construction contracts will be implemented with the updates to the PA UCC. A design or construction contract that is entered into prior to the effective date of regulations implementing changes to the PA UCC, in this case October 1, 2018, may be issued under the code in place at the time that the contracts were signed if the permit to build and inspect is applied for within six months of the effective date of the regulation or the period noted by municipal ordinance, whichever is less. Simply, if you want to build under the 2009 PA UCC you must have a signed design or construction contract dated prior October 1, 2018, and pull the building permit prior to April 1, 2019.
As the spring home-buying season kicks into full gear, the home building industry is celebrating New Homes Month in April. If you’re in the market for a new home, you’re probably thinking about what features are essential on your must-have list. Do you wonder if other home buyers are looking for the same things?
A recent survey from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reveals what consumers are looking for in their house hunting this year. Both first-time buyers and existing homeowners were asked about the features they consider essential in their next home.
Nearly half of first-time home buyers rank these features among their top five must-haves:
· Living room
· Laundry room
· Dining room
· Garage storage
· Walk-in closet in the master bedroom
First-time buyers are also looking for a front porch, a 2-car garage and a double sink in the kitchen.
Are existing homeowners looking for dramatically different features as they look to move up or downsize? In fact, their list of essential items includes many of the same preferences of first-time buyers. But they also are looking for more, including a patio, table space for eating in the kitchen, hardwood floors on the main level, Energy Star appliances and granite countertops in the kitchen.
Both sets of home buyers are continuing their commitment to energy efficiency in 2018. Energy-efficient features like low-E windows and Energy Star-certified appliances are among the popular desired features.
Home buyers also indicated their openness to joining the tiny home trend. NAHB found that 53 percent of respondents would consider purchasing a home of 600 square feet or less at some point during their lifetime. Perhaps not surprisingly, Gen Xers and millennias were much more open to the idea of a tiny house than baby boomers and seniors.
Contact your local builders association in Pennsylvania at www.pabuilders.org/find-a-local to learn about the latest features available in new homes in your area.
Andrew Kaye of Stevenson Home Builders, LLC in Conshohocken, PA and the BA of Bucks/Montgomery Counties has been appointed by NAHB Chairman Randy Noel as the PBA NAHB State Representative, filling the roll vacated by the passing of previous State Rep Ray Venema. Andrew will fulfill the current 2018 term and will also remain a member of the PBA Senior Leadership Committee serving as its Past President.
Bringing Housing Home is an opportunity for members to conduct in-district meetings with their U.S. representatives and senators. These meetings, especially important during each election year, are key to strengthening relationships with lawmakers and to maintaining housing issues as a priority in Congress.
Meetings in the home district often allow for less rushed and more open conversations between members and their elected representatives in Washington. This year’s events are set for the week of April 30 through May 5. If you want to set up a meeting, you can use this letter template. If you have already scheduled a meeting, please let us know.
We would love to send someone from PBA leadership, a BUILD-PAC trustee and/or one of the NAHB government affairs staff to join you if schedules permit. The sooner we know the date and place, the more likely we can send someone to help you carry the message. If you would like help in scheduling, Pennsylvania’s BUILD-PAC trustees would be glad to assist. We can give you contact information for any of the trustees if you are interested.
You can download the NAHB 2018 Legislative Priorities brochure and related materials here. The brochure provides a useful “cheat sheet” for your members as well as being a great item to leave behind for your legislator or his staff. Don’t pass by this opportunity to make an impression on your U.S. lawmakers. Those running for reelection are more likely than ever to want your input.
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