People have been debating the pros and cons of buying a newly constructed home over buying an older home for many years. There have been many obvious drawbacks to older houses that are the same today, like too few and too small closets and the absence of grounded electrical wiring. The modern family, with a home office, computer lines, faxes, copier/printers, home entertainment systems, gaming platforms, and smart phone rechargers can feel challenged, even frustrated, in a home with outdated wiring.
Unlined chimneys in older homes can pose a fire threat. Galvanized plumbing can rust and fail, leading to costly repairs. Drafty, single-glazed windows are not energy efficient. Kitchens are often small, with not enough storage space.
In older houses, families cannot enjoy the freedom of an open floorplan, where kitchen, dining, and living areas mesh together, creating a more satisfying family experience. There may be little connection to the outdoors in older homes; windows are smaller and amenities, like French doors opening onto a patio, are rare. Many older homes also lack an abundance of natural daylight due to fewer or smaller windows. The possibility of taking out walls or adding a set of French doors to an older home can be daunting, especially if the home is located in an historic district, where renovations are strictly monitored and controlled.
Planning the Home of Your Dreams
The distinct advantage of buying a new home is that you can design the house the way you want it. You’ll create a space that fits your needs and have the open floorplan you desire. You’ll have the large, organized walk-in closets your wardrobe calls for. A large master suite with a modern bathroom that features a spa tub and dual shower is a wonderful feature. You can install beautiful travertine tile in your home, or some other durable yet stylish material that wasn’t available when an older home was built. Your home will have a perfect family room as well as a formal living room, if you desire. You can even install an indoor pool or a gym.
You can also have a home that features the latest technological advancements in building techniques — a new and compelling reason for buying new. Your home can be built to withstand the forces of nature like earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes. Your home can also be green and take advantage of the many new ways to incorporate sustainable materials into the structure.
“A green building, also known as a sustainable building, is a structure that is designed [and] built … in an ecological and resource-efficient manner.”* The “Green Revolution” has grown rapidly and in just a few years, the word “green” has become ubiquitous. There is now a National Green Building Standard (NGBS) that has resulted in a much greater use of recycled materials, a higher quality indoor environment, and water and energy conservation in new construction.
There are good reasons to consider investing in a green home. Green buildings have much thicker insulation, better performing windows and doors, high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, and lower air leakage. These buildings are sited to make maximum use of the sun for passive solar heating, as well as for solar power (photovoltaic) and solar domestic hot water applications.
Buildings are also assembled using zero to low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) materials, which do not give off gases such as formaldehyde, which has been linked to cancer. Zero VOC paints do not outgas hazardous toxins like benzene, mercury, and toluene, which may cause severe allergic reactions, especially in children.
Green builders also use renewable flooring materials like bamboo and cork. Insulation is made from glass wool, cellulose (recycled newspaper), and recycled cotton. There are roofing shingles made from recycled rubber and plastic; these look like slate and are extremely durable and long lasting. Kitchen countertops can be made using concrete, a renewable resource, and there are new materials such as paperstone, a recycled paper mixed with benign resins, is as durable as steel and does not burn. When hardwood products are used, they come from companies that harvest the wood responsibly.
New home builders are also utilizing the ENERGY STAR® Program. The program is run by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) and is intended to improve energy efficiency in buildings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Products that receive an ENERGY STAR® label have met verified energy efficiency standards and include certified windows, doors, skylights, insulation products, clothes washers, dishwashers, refrigerators, hot water heaters, furnaces, heat pumps, roofing systems, and solar systems.
Home buyers who purchase a new home with ENERGY STAR® products will not only be helping the environment, they will save money and conserve water year after year. New home builders can be certified by the program as well. Once rated by the agency, the builder can affix an ENERGY STAR® label to the home’s circuit breaker box, certifying that the home is 20% to 30% more efficient than the standard home.
Another compelling reason to purchase a newly built home is the warranty that comes with it. The warranty is backed by the builder, and covers any defects in workmanship, materials, and components, such as appliances, heating and cooling systems, and windows and doors. The duration of the warranty may vary; check with your builder.
The trend in new home construction is definitely toward energy-efficient, green building, and prospective home buyers are aware of these trends. When they purchase a new home, they want to make sure it not only has an ENERGY STAR® label, but also comes with a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certificate. The certificate ensures that the structure has amassed enough points on a checklist that measures site sustainability, water usage, energy efficiency, use of recycled materials, and indoor air quality.
All in all, the positive case for purchasing a newly built home is undeniable. Not only will it be comfortable, environmentally friendly, healthy, and exactly what you have always wanted, it will have a greater resale value should the time come when you want to sell it.
*The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, www.calrecycle.ca.gov/