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WHAT EVERY NEW HOME MUST HAVE

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WHAT EVERY NEW HOME MUST HAVE

“He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.”  –  Chinese Proverb

Are you thinking of building your home? There is something you are going to need whether you realize it or not, because every new home has to have one – a building plan. Did you know that you can pick and choose your own set of plans, quickly and easily, using the Internet?

Building plans are typically found in home magazines, but now you can go to a new site, Allplans.com, and find the largest database of home plans in the country. Boasting over 15,000 building plans, with over 24,000 more plans to be added over the next six months, Allplans offers home plans directly from the nation’s top home designers, the same designers and plans that the custom and volume builders use.

Picking your own plans assures that you and your builder will build the home you really want. If a builder buys a set of plans, he or she can use the same set of plans to build the same home dozens of times. The advantage for the builder to use the same plans over and over is that he or she can estimate and control costs more easily and repeat the best ways to finish out the plan’s idiosyncratic details. The advantage of using the builder’s plans is not as good for the home buyer.

When you choose from among your builder’s inventory of plans, you have less inventory from which to choose. You may also see your home again and again in the same subdivision or town. That could spoil the fun in owning a custom-built home, or a customized volume-builder home.

Using your own set of plans won’t cost you any more money as far as the builder is concerned, so there’s no reason not to pick out your own plans. “About 80 percent of home plans sold are to individuals,” says Ron Lester, marketing director for Allplans. “and 80 percent of those plans are sold to women. Women control the pocketbooks and they are also typically the design person of the family.”

Allplans.com is the brainchild of Bob Chatham, owner of Chatham Home planning in Mobile, Alabama. He and his staff realized over two years ago that there was a growing shift of buyers seeking information about new homes toward the Web. The company digitized the plans they already had on hand, and promoted the idea to other designers. The site has a partnership with the American Institute of Building Design’s (AIBD.) and offers home plan digitalization services to the organization’s 1,400 members. Allplans.com is now the go-to site for independent access to the top home designers in the country, which number approximately 6,000 nationwide.

Home plans are easy to search at Allplans.com. The inventory is not organized by designer but by the type of home, such as Colonial, Contemporary, Traditional, or Tudor; square footage; number of stories, and; number of bedrooms and bathrooms. The site guides you to homes of your interest level, and then if you find the plan of your dreams, you can buy it online. The plans are overnighted for next business day delivery.

Note: Before you buy home plans, be sure to show the plan you have in mind to your builder online, so you both can make sure that the plan suits your building site as well as the building specifications of the division or neighborhood where you will be living.

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WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM YOUR NEW HOME WALK THROUGH

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WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM YOUR NEW HOME WALK THROUGH

“Change your thoughts and you change your world. “ – Norman Vincent Peale

Boxes are packed; utilities are all arranged, and the moving van will pull up in a few days to transport your worldly belongings to your brand new home. There are a number of formalities to deal with, however, and once they’re out-of-the-way, you’re “home free”, so to speak. After all, you have watched this home go up stick by stick, delighted in that special warm beige Berber carpeting being installed, and have a tough time sleeping these past few nights because of the intense anticipation of the move.

Aside from the escrow appointment to take in the remainder of your down payment and record title, making it “official”, you are about to participate in the walk-through, or new home orientation, as many builders now refer to it. The builder may have given you literature explaining how long it takes, its purpose, and how they return afterwards to make touch-ups and corrections. What they may fail to hit home with, however, is the immense importance of this tour as a learning tool for you as you spend the next odd number of years of your life there. Getting the most from your new home orientation can take some planning and research; viewing it as a mere formality may see you regretting taking it so lightly someday. This is usually your last opportunity to have uncompromised time with the builder itself, whether dealing with the superintendent in charge of having your home-built, or a customer service quality-control representative. And since there is such a large investment at stake, why not look upon it as important as most other major events in life that prepare you for the future?

View this event as more than a hunt for hairline cracks in drywall, unpainted trim and crooked moldings. It’s important to remember that a new home is a handmade product, touched by literally dozens of individuals before its completion, making it an inexact science. As they say, nothing is perfect in our physical world.

First, see if it is possible to get a copy of the builder’s warranty book ahead of time. This is not a common request with many builders, so it may take some prodding through the builder’s salesperson. Telling them that you want to study it so that you are prepared for the orientation may make them less defensive.  Then, peruse it for a while, noting what items are included in the builder’s structural claims, and what warranties expire well before the ten years or so the builder is “on the hook”, so to speak, for the big stuff.

On the day of the orientation, take a clipboard and even a video camera if you must, to document and to learn about the care and maintenance of your new home, and use the manual to give you insight into what to ask about during the orientation. For instance, what does the builder say about the windows that have been installed? Dual-paned windows are oftentimes replaceable indefinitely through the manufacturer if the gas seal is compromised between the panes and moisture gets in. Other products in the new home have stated one-year warranties through their manufacturers. It’s important to note that many products that are installed within your new home carry individual warranties that are passed on to you when you close escrow. Failing to fill out and send in applicable warranty cards, as tedious and unpleasant as it may be, may cause you heartache in the future if something goes haywire. (Check to see if many of these manufacturers have on-line warranty registrations now, as this process may not be as unpleasant as filling out cards.)

There may be a list of items that the builder will be returning for over the period of the next few weeks or so. Most builders want to get this part over with, so they will schedule the work to be done as quickly as possible. If you miss an appointment to be on hand for a repair, it will be your loss if the builder’s schedule is now booked up for weeks to come for a return visit. Instructions regarding maintenance are among the most important parts of this meeting. Care of floor surfaces, how often to change heating and air conditioning filters, how to keep standing water away from the foundation of your home and maintain the builder’s original grade, the importance of sealing grout in tile areas, and warnings about disturbing insulation in crawl spaces; all these and more prepare you for the future, helping to keep your home “new”, preserving its value. Using your thermostat setbacks for efficient energy savings is important to your pocketbook, no doubt, and the care and use of your fireplace may help it serve you better for many years to come.

Common sense definitely comes into play here; builders are oftentimes called on to the scene to unclog toilets only to find foreign objects have been stuffed down them. After your own orientation, it may be advisable to conduct your own “kid” orientation, instructing your children on what constitutes “abuse” of your new home and how to respect it as well. Apart from the warnings about appropriate toilet functions, giving an elementary course on how to properly use systems and items installed in your new home may go a long way in eliminating future warranty and expensive repairs calls.

In the longer scheme of things, buy a special “house” calendar and folder, and mark down important dates for warranty follow-ups and regularly scheduled maintenance. If your builder has given you paper work to be filled out quarterly for the first year, mark down when it needs to be faxed or mailed by. Write down workmen’s appointments, and keep copies of warranty follow-up paper work with the calendar, noting the work that was done, assurances made, and items still on order for replacement. Note when manufacturer’s warranties were sent in and take copies if you can.

Take this appointment to learn about your new home as seriously as you would learn from a physical examination. Get a relative to watch the kids, tell friends and family members that they are welcome to visit at another time, and take more than the customary amount of time off work for it.

It’s safe to say that you will get from your new home orientation what you are willing to put into it. Seeing yourself and the builder of your new home as “partners” in this process will help eliminate finger-pointing when emotions are high before, during, and after the move.

SITE SELECTION IS AN IMPORTANT CONSIDERATION

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SITE SELECTION IS AN IMPORTANT CONSIDERATION

“Be not afraid of life. Believe that life IS worth living and your belief will help create the fact.” –  James Truslow Adams

Standing in the model home sales office, leaning on the padded edges of the builder’s “topo” board, you stare at the little shapes, numbers and street names as the builder’s sales consultant explains their new home neighborhood layout. You’ve chosen the floor plan that flipped your switch, and now it’s time to select a home site for it. Although you’ve driven around the community’s empty streets and half-built rows of homes, you’re having a tough time making a decision between lots # 47, 49, or 52.

There is only so much selection and so much assistance production homebuilder personnel can give you when choosing a home site. Faced with the prospect of making a decision from among the available lots it’s ultimately up to you. You must study each of the home sites’ liabilities and opportunities for the home you have chosen. Identifying the site characteristics that both please you and disappoint you before any structure has even been started takes some time and forethought. To do this, you may want to ask the following questions and see what answers both you and your sales consultant find in the process:

1. What direction does the house face? Study the home’s floor plan and where the sun rises and sets in relation to the rooms. Is direct sun shining on the front of the house in the mornings or afternoons? How will either orientation affect life in that area of the home at different times of the day? If you’re planning a pool in the back yard, how long will the sun linger there? Will the home’s energy efficiency be affected by its orientation?

2. What will your windows overlook? If you are buying in a production home neighborhood, will you be privy to activities through a neighbor’s bedroom windows, or will they be able to see into yours? (Decide just how much of the “American Beauty” lifestyle you can take.)

3. Does anything have the potential to block views you consider worthwhile keeping? What are the builder’s plans for homes around you? What may be planned by the city for the area around this new home area that can eventually be visible from the home site?

4. Is the home site in a low-lying area? If so, what is the potential for flooding from higher grounds and homes above?

5. Is the home site level, gradually sloped, or dramatically sloped? How steep will your driveway be, and how can that affect you, your family, your visitors, and your vehicles? If you are working with an architect and considering choosing a home site for a custom home, get him involved in the selection process to answer these questions.

6. How is the lot shaped, and how will the home you choose fit on it? Have the agent, consultant, architect, or homebuilder plot the house’s “footprint” onto a mini-map for you, giving you backyard, front yard and side yard distances from the house to the property lines. These will dictate how much room you have for recreation, boat or RV parking, courtyards and patios and privacy from neighbors. Also ask about the approved setbacks for that area.

7. If the property has a slope to be retained, how will it be treated? Redwood? Concrete blocks? Railroad ties? How high will retaining walls be and what is required by the city? As the agent or builder to explain slope ratios to you and also explain how much usable yard space may be robbed by retaining walls.

8. How will the site drain? If you are in an elevated area, you can be held liable if your lot’s grading causes low-lying homes to flood in heavy rains. Find out where the water goes and how the swails are arranged to avoid this phenomenon.

9. Where does traffic go when it passes the home site? If you have small children, corner lots can be desirable size-wise, but offer little protection from cars whipping around curves. If the home site is at the entry to a community, you can count on a busy home front at certain times of the day. Homes located at the back of a subdivision get the least amount of traffic when the neighborhood is an enclave.

10. Ask the agent to fully explain easements for access, utilities and any other purposes that created their existence. Generally speaking, you are not allowed to build any structure over an easement, so make sure this is not space your would plan for pools, outbuildings, or eventual add-ons.

Getting as much information as early as possible is the key to making a wise choice in the location of your home. If you can’t get immediate answers to your questions, it may be wise to wait until they are answered to make a final decision. The choice you make may make a huge difference in your own family’s comfort and well-being and affect your future property value as well.

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