Did you know that you may be able to get a tax rebate or grant or other incentive for the energy updates your home may need? That’s right! You may be able to get funds to complete updates and renovations your home already needs.
Check out the Database of State Incentive for Renewables and Efficiency at http://www.dsireusa.org/
How do you decide between purchasing your home or building your home? It is up to each family to weigh the factors of each option and decide which will be the best for their situation. This blog has been written to give you a clear understanding of some of the pros and cons of each options, as well as some tips to make either process move smoother.
Buying a Home
- Purchasing a home is quicker. Typically once an offer is accepted by the seller a closing can be scheduled within 2 months.
- You can see and touch the home. Walking through a home is much different than looking at plans.
- Landscaping is mature. The lawn is ready for the swing set. The shrubs along the front of the home or edge of the road are full.
- The bargain. Buyers can usually find a great deal, especially in the current market.
- Sellers don’t always disclose the full reason they are moving, such as the 2 am train knocks the glasses of the shelves or the neighbors throw wild parties with fireworks every weekend.
- Older homes are not as efficient as newer homes. They are not as well insulated and tend to be harder to heat.
- When you buy a 10 year old home, you are also buying 10 year old systems and fixtures. Appliances, boilers, fixtures and some building materials have an expected lifetime. Replacement costs can add up quickly and start much sooner than the homebuyer may anticipate.
- Many of the homes currently on the market are foreclosed properties. These properties are not always properly maintained during and after the foreclosure process. Homes do not withstand neglect well, especially in upper New England. One winters worth of no maintenance, possibly no heat or electricity, is a lot of wear and tear.
Tips for a smoother buying process:
- Higher a reputable home inspector. This person is worth their weight in gold, if they can inform you of issues before the closing.
- Ask your realtor lots of questions about the home you consider. Age of appliances, systems & fixtures. How long has the home been empty if it is a foreclosed property.
- Require that all systems be operating during the home inspection.
Building a Home
- It’s your home. Your plan, your design choices.
- All systems, fixtures, materials & appliances are new. They meet all current safety and energy standards, and should carry the full warranty.
- Lower energy and maintenance cost. Even if you aren’t building a home specifically designed for high energy efficiency, new homes continue to become more and more efficient as new products and materials become available.
- The majority of new homes are being built in developments, this means you may be building with a community of new homes. Many developments have strict guidelines about the types of homes allowed and what maintenance is expected. This ensures the homes around you will be of similar value and well maintained helping to keep home values steady.
- Not being able to see and touch the home during the sales process can be difficult for some prospective homebuyers.
- Cost overruns. Building material prices fluctuate, this can cause the cost of your home to rise during the building process. There is also the risk that not all materials are accurately reflected during the sales process. For instance, homebuyers may think they are getting a beautiful dining room light, but the builder put the cost of the dome fixture into the cost.
- Delays. The building process spans over several months with multiple contractors involved. Without a clear plan, delays are inevitable.
Tips for a smoother building process:
- Higher a reputable general contractor to oversee the entire building process. Having one company responsible for all aspects of the construction from excavation to interior paint, will make the process smoother and eliminate stress on the homeowner.
- Ask questions during the sales process! Visit construction sites, talk with previous customers.
- Always get written quotes, never agree to build anything based on an estimate. Discuss with potential builders what their policy is on cost overruns and construction delays. Without a clear policy, the cost and completion date of the project will never be met
- Read the building contract. The contract should clearly define who is responsible for all aspects of the building process.
Hopefully this information will help you make the right decision for your family. For more information check out these links:
Buying vs. Building by AskMen
The Financial Considerations of Building vs. Buying by Investopedia
Building a Home vs. Buying a Pre-Existing Home by GoBankingRates.com
As a final thought, I will leave you with this: Everyone has heard the old adage “Live and Learn” meaning as you live your life, you learn from your experiences… Now let’s briefly consider homeownership options. Approximately twice as many first homebuyers buy their home as those that build. However, with each change in homeownership this ratio decreases with more homeowners choosing to build their second or third homes… Retirees are now one of the largest demographic building their homes. Food for thought.
At this point, I think everyone understands the advantages of solar power. We all know that over time, a home powered by solar energy will cost a homeowner less in energy costs than its grid powered counterpart. However, the cost of the solar energy system has made it cost prohibited for most homeowners. Is this trend starting to change?
A recent article published by Energy Circle indicates that the cost associated with solar energy is decreasing. With the lower cost of the photovoltaic units and the tax rebates in effect until 2016, now is a great time to start researching a solar energy system for your home.
Start your research here: Solar PV Now Cheaper than Grid Electricity
For many of us, winter is an endured evil we wait out so we can enjoy the beauty of spring, summer and autumn. Winter is spent rushing from warm vehicles to warm homes wishing for the warmth of spring to invite us back outdoors. Then we spend spring and summer in a flurry of landscaping projects, gardening and manicuring our outdoor space. Well, the winter months don’t need to be wasted. Spend this time planning your spring and summer projects.
After spending about 15 minutes researching landscaping programs on the internet, I found the Realtime Landscaping Plus 5 program. The reviews on this program are great. “Easy to use, great images & details.” The detail that caught my eye was that a user can use Google 3D Warehouse to download images for Free to use in your projects. This is of particular interest to me because in the past I’ve notice that programs don’t have a good selection of plants that grow in our colder climate & shorter growing season. With this program you have a virtually unlimited selection of plants, décor, furniture, etc.
There are many landscaping programs available starting around $12.00. Realtime Landscaping Plus 5 is on the higher end of the scale at approximately $80. Start planning now and by spring, you will have your shopping list ready and know what your “After” photo will look like!
As much as some of us would like to deny it; Winter is upon us. Whether or not we will have a snowy winter is still to be decided, but snow or not, cold temps are guaranteed. We have all put away the shorts and pulled out the sweaters, but have you prepared your home for colder weather? Here is a checklist of Winter Prep tasks:
- Have your boiler/furnace serviced. A tune up of your heating system by a licensed HVAC technician can help increase efficiency and decrease the chance of an emergency repair call.
- Remove or insulate any air conditioners. Insulate pull-down attic stairs.
- Check weather-stripping on doors and windows, replace any that is worn. Don’t forget the attic door if you have a full attic stairway.
- Check insulation on any exposed pipes in crawl spaces/unheated basements. Check the heat tape, if you have one.
- Drain and shut off outdoor faucets.
- Clean out your gutters. For more information about preventing ice dams, read this article: Preventing Ice Dams on http://www.thisoldhouse.com/
- Check your foundation. Seal cracks to prevent water/ice damage and pest access (mice can fit through a crack a thin as a dime!). Check out this article on http://www.thisoldhouse.com/ to Learn How to Keep Furry Invaders Out.
- Prepare your power equipment for freezing temps by draining the gas from any equipment you won’t be using (don’t forget the trimmer). If applicable:
- Take your snow blower in for a pre-season tune up.
- Run your generator for 15 minutes, consider a tune up.
- Prepare a basic emergency kit. Don’t forget about your pets needs, as well. Read this article on http://www.about.com/ to learn How to Make a Weather Safety Kit.
- Place your stock of ice melt/sand/kitty litter as well as your shovel in a practical location (not in the shed 30’ from the house
How much time do you spend on your landscaping each year? How much time do you want to spend? Between mowing, weeding, planting, watering and maintenance care, the typically homeowner spends hundreds of hours doing yard work. While the creative side of landscaping ie: planting, can be relaxing and enjoyable; most of us find the aspect of maintenance tedious, and by the end of the season dread the chore. Here are some basic tips to create low maintenance landscaping:
- Plan ahead. If you are just starting your yard, don’t just go out and by plants and seed; plan your yard. Have a soil test done, not from one sample, but throughout your yard. Group plants by their growing needs, soil type and sun exposure.
- Avoid sharp angles in your mowing area. Use curved edges for flower beds and planting boxes for a more natural look and ease of mowing.
- Mulch, Mulch, Mulch… it is a wonderful, versatile landscaping product. Use it! A thick layer of mulch will help hold weeds at bay, and protects soil from the drying rays of the sun; which means less watering.
- Ornamental grasses and perennials tend to need less maintenance care than annuals. Use annuals as colorful highlights and in pots, hangers and flowerboxes.
- Use a grass seed that has a high content of clover seed. Clover is more resilient than many grass varieties. It requires less water, and is more drought resistant. Clover is short, which means less mowing. It attracts beneficial insect and does not suffer from “dog spots.” On top of this, clover is extremely soft.
Here are some links to articles with Low Maintenance Landscaping ideas:
Top 10 Tips for Low Maintenance Landscaping. from About.com
What is the most low-maintenance way to landscape? from HowStuffWorks.com
11 Ways to Save Water, Time and Money on Your Landscaping. from ThisOldHouse.com
Lawn-Less Yard Solutions. from ThisOldHouse.com