Green Building

Buying vs. Building

Buying vs. Building

Posted By on Jun 27, 2013

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


  1. Purchasing a home is quicker.  Typically once an offer is accepted by the seller a closing can be scheduled within 2 months.
  2. You can see and touch the home.  Walking through a home is much different than looking at plans.
  3. 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.
  4. The bargain.  Buyers can usually find a great deal, especially in the current market.


  1. 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.
  2. Older homes are not as efficient as newer homes.  They are not as well insulated and tend to be harder to heat.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1. Higher a reputable home inspector.  This person is worth their weight in gold, if they can inform you of issues before the closing.
  2. 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.
  3. Require that all systems be operating during the home inspection.

Building a Home


  1. It’s your home.  Your plan, your design choices.
  2. All systems, fixtures, materials & appliances are new.  They meet all current safety and energy standards, and should carry the full warranty.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.


  1. Not being able to see and touch the home during the sales process can be difficult for some prospective homebuyers.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Ask questions during the sales process!  Visit construction sites, talk with previous customers.
  3. 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
  4. 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

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.

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Homes for the Millennial Generation

Homes for the Millennial Generation

Posted By on May 20, 2013

Researching for this blog has been a bit more difficult than researching for the previous generations.  The millennial generation were born 1980 to 2000.  This puts the oldest in the generation in their early 30’s and the youngest are just entering their teens.  Many of the older millennials are still either renting of living in their parents home due to the housing bust, high unemployment rates and high college debt.  This is quickly changing as the housing market levels off and employment opportunities increase.  As they do entering the housing market, more information about their expectations, wants and needs are emerging.

  1. While many millennials are do-it-youselfers, they want homes that are move in ready.
  2. While Generation X found smart home technology convenient, millennials find it a necessity.  Being able to connect with and control all aspects of their home from virtually anywhere, may seem over the top to most people, but to the latest homebuying generation it is common sense.
  3. Energy efficiency may not appear on their list of needs/wants, this isn’t because efficiency isn’t important, but rather, efficiency is the norm.  To this generation listing energy efficiency as important would be like listing indoor plumbing as important…
  4. Size does matter!  The millennial generation will NOT pay for a home with extra space they won’t use.  This generation isn’t going to buy a home their family will “grow” into.  Their home will fit their family and lifestyle now, if their family and lifestyle change, their home will change at that time.
  5. Building new is the best option for many people in the millennial generation.  More and more first time homebuyers are immediately entering the homebuilding market to meet their homeownership needs.  This ensures they are getting the most current advancements in energy efficiency, design, and technology.

It will be interesting to see the changes the millennial generation will make to the housing & real estate markets.  One thing is for sure, their expectations are driven by technology, which is ever changing and evolving.

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As previously post in our blog “Home Design Tips for Baby Boomers ~ Interior, Functionality”; the keys to the over all design for a home for Baby Boomers, are very simple.  Functional, Livable, and Longevity.  In this blog, we will discuss what makes a home Livable for the Baby Boomer generation.

In the words of, “We Baby Boomers are conscientious and picky, busy and family-oriented, and we will age in a new way, connected to modernity, with an eye to beauty, high design, easy maintenance and energy efficiency.”  In my words, Baby Boomers know what they like and do not want to settle.  They have on-the-go active lifestyles, visiting family and friends.  They may not be home-bodies, but they want their home to be their sanctuary.  Key areas to focus on when considering how to optimize the livability of a home design are: amenities and efficiency.

Amenities includes furnishings, electronics, fixtures, and appliances.

  • Furnishings:  What furnishings will you be using in your new home.  Are you buying all new, or moving your existing furniture?  If you are buying all new, you can purchase specifically for the design of the home.  If you are moving your existing here are somethings to consider:  Most Baby Boomers are right-sizing their homes.  For a lot of people this means, getting rid of clutter and excess belongs that have accumulated over the years.  Take a look at your current home and decide what you will be taking with you and how these pieces will fit the feel you want your new home to have?   As you design your home, make sure there is room for the furnishing you will be moving into the space.  Any extra belongings can be gifted or sold.
  • Electronics: Let’s face it, electronics are part of life.  Computers, TVs, Radio, etc are all part and parcel to the lives we now lead.  As you design your home, keep in mind where and how you will use the electronics in your new home.  Do you listen to music or watch The Food Network as you cook?  Watch the News, while preparing for your day?  Spend an hour each night “visiting” with grandchildren via webcam?  Designing your home with all of this in mind will help make electronic use seamless.  Designing a computer nook in a centralized location of your home will allow easier access and make your “visits” more enjoyable.   Outlets and cable jacks can be placed in the appropriate areas to allow TVs or radios in kitchens or bathrooms… it is all in how the home is designed and the fore thought that is put into the design of each room.
  • Fixtures:  this category applies specifically to Plumbing and Electrical fixtures.  Why design a huge master bathroom centered around a garden tub, if you never relax in the tub?  They have AMAZING steam showers with multiple jets and different settings that will relax the muscles as well as any spa tub.  And plumbing fixtures are not just found in the bathroom… take a look at the kitchen.  If you share the kitchen while preparing meals, consider placing a prep sink in an island as well as your standard sink.  On the electrical side of things, do you want to have to go to the basement if you trip a breaker while stringing holiday lights?  Why not design the electrical panel into your laundry room?  Lighting is many times an after thought, but considering how each room will be lit, may help you avoid running an extension cord behind the couch to plug in the lamp… Again, it is all in how the home is designed and the fore thought that is put into the design of each room.
  • Appliances: The important factor here is having right size appliances for your life.  You may cook a large family meal several times a year, but day to day only cook for 2… Why heat a standard size oven for a casserole for 2?  Why have a have a dishwasher you only fill twice a year?  Appliance manufacturers now have oven ranges for smaller meals, compact dishwashers that use less water and take less space.  Combination convection and microwave ovens are an appliance that once you have, you will never be without again.  Looking at the overall design of the kitchen is also important.  The standard work triangle that connects the 3 main “appliances” of the kitchen (refrigerator, range and sink) may not work for two cooks.

Efficiency is important to all families.  Designing and building a high efficiency home will lower the cost of home ownership.  The less you spend to run your home, the more funds you have to support your lifestyle.  This is especially important for retirees.  Building a “tight” home will mean less drafts, less heat loss, less heating costs.  Energy Star appliances and fixtures means less power consumption, lower utility bills.  Every aspect of the home’s building specifications effects the efficiency of the home.  From R-values of insulation, the type of flooring installed, type of heating system, proper installation of windows and doors… Talking to your builder about how to increase efficiency is important.

Next in our Home Design Blog Series: Home Design Tips for Baby Boomers ~ Interior, Longevity

Previous Blogs:

Home Design Tips for Baby Boomers ~ Interior, Functionality

Home Design Tips for Baby Boomers ~ Exterior of the Home


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Green Home Appraisals

Green Home Appraisals

Posted By on Jun 4, 2012

I just stumbled across this article, which is a great follow up to my blog from last week.

We have all heard the woes of getting homes appraised.  These difficulties are even higher for new homes, and homes that incorporate green products, concepts and designs face the most hurdles of all.  This is due to the higher cost of green products and systems that are being compared to standard products in a depressed housing market.

This article is written with builders as the target audience.  But it is a great resource for anyone interested in building a green home.

Appraisal Tips: Getting the value of a Green Home

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Building a green home does not have to cost an arm and a leg.  It does not mean your home will look like a high tech hybrid home slash factory.  With a few details considered and worked into the design of your home during the planning phase, your home will be more energy efficient and less impactful on the environment.

1.  As you compare building lots consider the following details:

  • The path of the sun vs. where the home will sit.  Direct sunlight in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun’s power is weaker is ideal.  However, direct sunlight mid morning to mid afternoon at the sun’s peak power will need to be offset by A.C. during the summer months.  Consider how you can shade your home during these mid-day hours prior to building.
  • Look at the lay of the land, and work with it not against it.  Using the natural slope of a building lot will decrease the amount of ground work that needs to be done.  This will lower the impact on the environment.

2. Compare builders:

  • Does your builder promote or consider eco-friendly concepts.

3. As you design and budget your home consider the following items:

  • Revisit the path of the sun concept.  Try to plan for shade for windows that will get direct mid-day.  You can design a covered porch on this side of the home, extend your eaves or install awnings.
  • Look at window placement, try to maximize the benefits of cross wind air flow.
  • Remember: Heat rises.  You can cut heating costs by using this and building a 2 story home.  Prepare for warmer months with fans to draw that warmer air up faster and removing it from the interior.
  • Minimize carpeted space.  Carpets harbor allergens (mold, dust, dander, etc.) and introduces off gases chemicals into the home.
  • Design and build a home that fits your family.  Do you really need a family room, den, office and formal dining.  Remember that every square foot of your home will need to be heated and cooled.  Even those rooms that are only used for an hour each day or only on holidays.

For more information about Building Green, browse thru our Green Building category in our blog.  Check it out HERE

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We can only hypothesize about Team Massachusetts’ decision to “go modular,” as we were not privy to the discussions that were had.  However, by understanding the goal of the Solar Decathlon Competition and the modular process, we can imagine a probable scenario of topics that were discussed to help make this decision.

“The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.” U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon website.  In other words, the goal for each Solar Decathlon team is to build the most affordable, “greenest” home they can design.  Team Massachusetts needed to find a builder that was “green aware,” and had the capacity to build in a very specific timeframe.  Modular construction was a clear choice.

Modular construction is by nature more efficient than site construction:

  1. Materials are shipped to one central location, the modular home plant, versus multiple building sites stretching across several states.
  2. Construction “scraps” can be used throughout several homes.  Example: the scrap of sheetrock left after drywalling the larger rooms in a home can be used in closets in multiple homes.  Short pieces of lumber can be used as blocking.  This material would be tossed into the dumpster at a site construction project because the cost and hassle of storing and transporting to a different site isn’t worth it.
  3. Employees of a modular home manufacturer typically live within a 1/2 hr drive of the plant.  Site construction company employees may live an hour or more from the current building site.  In today’s building market builders may travel hundreds of miles each day to where the work is.
  4. Due to the construction process, the typical modular home proves to be a tighter building envelope allowing less air infiltration when compared to their site built counterpart.
  5. Due to the controlled environment of the building process, products such as Icynene are easily applied at manufacturers that offer such products.
  6. The modular process is extremely time efficient when compared to site construction.  During the construction of a modular home all components of the home come together as as quickly as possible.  As soon as the framing is up, the electrical & plumping can be started.  The exterior sheathing can be installed before, during, or after the drywall is installed.  With a site built home, the entire building envelop should be weather tight before any interior work is even started.

These six examples of the efficiency of the modular home process clearly define why Team Massachusetts chose to build using the modular process.

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