REwatch: The eye of the beholder

2014-02-16T09:15:00Z REwatch: The eye of the beholderMichelle Krueger Times Columnist nwitimes.com
February 16, 2014 9:15 am  • 

When it comes to choosing a mate, car or home, different people have different ideas about what suits them – and there are always many factors to consider beyond outward appearance.

We all understand the importance of interacting systems when it comes to our bodies and our cars – if one component fails, it can affect the performance of the entire system. Yet many of us are not necessarily aware of how this principle works in our homes.

Just as skin provides a protective barrier for the more delicate underlying parts of the human body - bones, ligaments and internal organs - so do the body of a car and the structure of a home. Like doctors recommend annual physicals and mechanics suggest routine maintenance checks, it’s important to give your home a physical – check under the hood so to speak – on a regular basis.

Take the recent ups and (extreme) downs in temperatures this winter as an example. In order to remain comfortable in our homes as air temperatures and wind chills repeatedly reached well below zero, NIPSCO reported that as a whole, their customers used more energy to heat their homes this January when temperatures averaged 17 degrees compared to last January when temperatures averaged 28 degrees.

If you find yourself adjusting the thermostat more often than usual lately, only to still be uncomfortable with higher energy bills, it’s likely you also have condensation on your windows, mold in the basement and/or dampness in your attic. Like coughing, sniffling and sneezing or the glare of a malfunction indicator light, these “symptoms” can lead to even greater problems – left unchecked, a cold can develop into more serious health issues, and, if ignored too long, a minor car repair could require significantly more work.

When you find solutions to improve the performance of your home, you will most likely reduce the cost of maintenance and operation while increasing its value with better health and safety, greater comfort and reduced energy use.

The first step is to understand how your home works as a system so you can identify the root cause of any problems such as high energy bills, uneven temperatures from room-to-room, drafts, moisture, mold, mildew, poor indoor air quality, ice dams, pest infestations, seemingly uncontrollable humidity levels and even premature deterioration of building materials which can all be the result of a breakdown in the relationship between the systems in your house.

Based on advances in building science, “home performance” addresses the whole house as a system, rather than focusing on one system, to get the best results. Starting with the building envelope or “the shell,” these systems include insulation, and sealing, windows and doors, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, water heating, lighting and other appliances.

Professionals who perform comprehensive whole-home assessments can help you prioritize projects as well as complete those that require specialized knowledge. Follow up test results will show the function and safety of any improvements, and provide valuable documentation when you are ready to sell.

With the younger generation becoming an increasingly important part of the housing market - a 2013 National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) study looked at generational housing trends, Millennials (or Generation Y), those born between 1980 and 2000, are the second biggest segment of the buyer market, behind only Generation X, which covers those born between 1965 and 1979 – it’s important to consider their wants and needs when making any improvements to your home.

Whether they prefer a turnkey home that requires little work to move in and get settled, or they’re looking forward to investing a little sweat equity and money to make a home their own and add value for the future, younger buyers have many of the same “must-have” features, according to the NAR survey.

Updated kitchens and bathrooms are important since these are typically the most expensive parts of a home to update. They’re also looking for large kitchens and open spaces that essentially take the place of formal living and dining rooms for entertaining, and they want a dedicated home office. Technology is key, and they often ask about Internet and cell service.

Like the generations before them, younger buyers want the right location for their lifestyle, plus they want low maintenance with hassle-free upkeep. They understand the importance of energy efficiency, and intend to make improvements if necessary.

Finally, there’s the importance of a quality online listing. According to the most recent analysis from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), 90 percent of buyers use the Internet to search for homes. From there, 76 percent said they at least drove by the home because of an online ad, and 62 percent of buyers said they walked through a home after viewing the listing online.

That’s where real estate agents, the second most common resource for finding a home with 87 percent of buyers citing an agent's help as a key factor, come into play. Along with assisting buyers with their search, they help sellers create the compelling online listings that catch the attention of buyers with great photos that highlight the features they want most.

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