If you own a television, you've likely come across the myriad of home improvement shows on the HGTV Network. House Hunters, Flip or Flop, Love It or List It, Property Brothers, and Rehab Addict are a few examples of the network's current lineup. This lineup is a mix of reality- based real estate and renovation programming with a dash of drama. Despite the number of different programs, the scenarios all seem to follow a similar formula. What at times can be missing in this formula is solid insight on what to look out for when considering the purchase of a new home or the undertaking of a major renovation.
If you are in the market to purchase a home or about to undergo a remodel, here are some helpful tips to avoid any drama:
If you are comparing multiple homes prior to purchase, it is wise to inquire with your realtor if the home has had an energy audit or a HERS Index Score. An energy audit or HERS Index score will inform the buyer on the energy efficiency and performance of the home. If neither test has been done we encourage that buyers consider making an investment in one. An energy audit will determine the amount of air leakage in the home, the effectiveness of insulation inside walls and ceilings, and a cost/benefit analysis for improvements and expected return on investment. The cost of an audit will run approximately the same as a standard home inspection. For the energy conscious home buyer, one could request that a HERS Index Score be a condition of the contract with the seller similar to a home inspection. For more information on the HERS Index, we encourage you to read our blog post: A Home is Where the HERS is.
When purchasing an existing home, make sure to look for the inspection stickers on the electrical panel, hot water heater, and HVAC equipment. These inspection stickers will tell you the dates the equipment was installed and serviced, identify how new or old the equipment is, and give you the name and contact info of the companies that serviced or installed the equipment.
Windows are an important component to a home’s aesthetic and performance. It’s often difficult to know how old existing windows are but is an important factor as replacing them can be a significant investment. One helpful tip to understand when the windows were installed and manufactured is to look for the clue when doing a walk-through with your realtor. That clue is the imprint that can be found on the perimeter of the window where the glass is installed. It’s not always easy to read or find but it’s there. The imprint will have a date - normally the last two digits of the year - stamped into it telling you when the windows were manufactured and installed.
If you are considering doing a remodel to an existing home, it’s very important to know the homes zoning information. The zoning information consists of the buildings setback requirements, lot area requirements, maximum building coverage, and maximum building height to name a few. This type of analysis is typically beyond the scope of an average homeowner but is a pre-design service that Studio St.Germain provides. This type of analysis will inform the buyer or homeowner if their addition renovation ideas would be within the zoning requirements where the home is located, if a variance is required for any addition renovation work, or if the home itself is located on a non-conforming lot. A thorough understanding of a buildings zoning requirements can better prepare the homeowner on the feasibility to undertake a major addition renovation.
One thing to watch out for on HGTV’s shows is that many of their budgets and time frames are often unrealistic. Their design and construction budgets typically do not include labor costs for the designers or construction crews. Labor costs are a significant factor when it comes to determining the actual cost of a renovation or remodel. The time frames for the completion of many projects seen on HGTV are often very short. Much of the work that you will see is done far beyond normal working hours and with large labor crews, often made up of volunteers. In reality, very short construction time frames add an extraordinary amount of money to any budget and often sacrifice quality and attention to detail.
In nearly all residential real estate transactions, a home inspection is required. We believe that relying on a home inspection alone is not enough. Licensed home inspectors are knowledgeable about many things but often aren’t experts in any one category. We encourage that potential buyers get separate inspections by a licensed electrician, plumber, and HVAC contractor. These licensed professionals are experts in their own trade categories and will inspect these systems more thoroughly than a home inspector will. An electrical, plumbing, and HVAC inspection in conjunction with a standard home inspection will arm the buyer with detailed information critical during negotiations.