New Home Inovation
I talk to people everyday about the decision they are trying to make between buying a home from existing inventory or building new. Because I am compelled by integrity the first thing I point out is the obvious fact that you can buy more house for less money from existing real estate inventory then I could possibly build for them new. I know, that is not a very good sales pitch, but it is true and I hate sales pitches. That said, there is another truth. Today’s construction standards are much different then they were 10 years ago and building materials and methods are considerably improved. I thought it would make sense to outline some of the tangible differences.
I like automotive analogies because vehicle life expectancies are shorter and more tangible. If you are old enough to have bought a new car in the 90’s you will remember that for people who drove a lot the trade in mark was close to 50,000 miles. The Japanese automakers started to build better cars and the life expectancy standard was raised. Yes cars made it to 100,000 miles but the needed a lot of replacement parts starting around 50,000. Today, most of the manufactures offer 100,000 mile warranties on the power and drive train because they know they will last that long. Why? because the are building them better with better materials.
So while you can get more house “used” then “new” it is a bit like buying and older car. There are things that are ready to go and will need your attention. ($$$$) Additionally the government has raise the efficiency standards so that new cars will cost less to own.
The single biggest change in the housing code has been the focus on efficiency. Specifically how we achieve it. The old standard was focused sole on R-Value, the more R-Value we added the better it was. However, that failed the test of time. The efficiency rating was not getting better despite cramming more and more insulation in. Essentially what we found was that if you made the house loaded with insulation but left the window open you were still losing a ton of heat. Similar to having a 800 gram micro fiber coat on in -20 degree weather if you left it unzipped. So the new code requires us to seal the house without the expense of all that extra insulation it was still much more efficient. Add in increase standards in efficiency of heating systems and you have a totally different house. 5 years ago we were installing 85% efficient heating units. Simply stated that means that 85% of the fuel you burned was converted into heat. Today most houses are getting 95%. Given the cost of heating fuel doesn’t it make sense to get as much heat out of it as you can?
Modular homes lead the construction industry in Seal. There is a test that is done (called a blower door test) that measure the rate of re-infiltration of air after all the air is vacuumed out and while site builders are struggling to meet the new standards modular homes done the right way exceed this standard by a large margin.
Then there are the little things. Look at any house 10 years old that does not have a storm door and I promise you the bottom of the sames have started to rot. Today they are all Fiberglass.
Floors are all glued down to prevent squeaking. Windows have a film on them to allow light Heat in without letting it back out and the two pains are Argon filled, in a fiberglass jam that does not rot. Vinyl siding is no longer put on a house that has wood soffits and fascia that need paint to be kept up. Basements are poured concrete walls because to many block foundations failed. We have better damp proofing on basement walls and have perfected the art of foundation drainage to keep water out. Shingles have a 10 year greater life expectancy and we put this stuff called ice and water shield under them to protect the roof from back up damage in cold climates. The lumber that we attached the house to the foundation with is treated to prevent rot and termites and we create a termite barrier. Septic systems are built with bigger tanks and better pipe to improve their usable life. Plumbing is done with plastic pipe (pex) that is more freeze resistant, lower cost to repair and oh yes, this like all of the items I mentioned here come at lower cost. Wiring in new homes is designed to accommodate the power demands of today’s home owners with Arch fault breakers to protect your children from sticking a fork in them and getting shocked. We create and barrier between the house and the garage to increase the fire break between them and we wire every house so that if one smoke detector or CO2 alarm goes off the whole house does.
These are not sexy things like Granite counter tops and hard wood floors but the dramatically improve the home owners living experience and the long term cost of home ownership.
So yes like a “Used” car where you can buy a Mercedes with 100,000 miles on it for less money then you can buy a new Toyota, you can get more “Used” house for less money up front. But I am pretty sure the cost of ownership over the next 100,000 miles will be considerably less with a new Toyota.