What's your preference?

2013-05-11T00:15:00Z What's your preference?Michelle Krueger Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
May 11, 2013 12:15 am  • 

Builders are building again, and many have available homes ready right now.

So, what’s right for you? Buy new, buy existing or stay put and remodel? It’s a question that homebuyers have faced for decades, and the answer really comes down to preference.

Whatever choice you ultimately make, monthly costs and home appreciation will most likely factor into the decision-making process. Along those same lines, you’ll also want to consider that the most marketable homes today and especially looking toward the future offer greater sustainability – energy efficiency, water efficiency, indoor air quality and durability.

According to a Yahoo! Real Estate survey of current and aspiring homeowners, the 21st century American dream home is now ‘green or energy-efficient’.

From the appliances to thermal envelopes to the HVAC system, new home construction offers significantly more energy efficiency than even just a few years ago. As builders continue to incorporate new and more efficient technology, they lower energy consumption for their homeowners, saving them a considerable amount of money on utility bills and benefiting the environment at the same time.

Since a green home saves money on energy bills, reduces your carbon footprint and also puts you in a more attractive selling position down the road, it’s an important consideration for every homeowner.

With home value now often tied to energy performance, it’s important to have documentation. While new construction is built to meet or exceed the latest energy standards, existing homeowners need to keep detailed records whenever improvements are made. Utility bills only tell part of the story. The draftiest old home may appear to have low utility bills if the owner only uses a room or two and even the most energy efficient home could have higher bills if the occupants are wasteful.

ENERGY STAR estimates that the average home (typically older than 5-10 years) can save up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs (the equivalent of up to 10 percent of their total annual energy bill) by sealing and insulating. So, if you’re looking at existing homes, you may want to consider the added cost of sealing air leaks throughout the home to stop drafts, adding insulation to block heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer as well as replacing doors and windows as necessary.

From there, find out the age of the HVAC system, water heater and appliances. Depending on their age, replacing these with brand new ENERGY STAR options will also make an existing home more efficient.

While these upgrades may seem pricey, they will help you make a more realistic comparison with new construction. Even if you plan to make changes gradually down the road, it’s worth the exercise to compare the price of new construction with today’s low interest rates before making a final decision.

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