The Benefits of a New Construction Condo

After choosing a neighborhood to focus your search for a new condo, one of the other key decisions that you will face is whether to purchase a resale or new construction condo.Many buyers are attracted to new construction condos and there are a wide variety of reasons why. On a subliminal basis, we have been trained by Madison Avenue to yearn for the biggest, fastest, latest and newest products. It is pretty easy to go out and buy a new iPod, while it is not so easy to upgrade your condo decision.

With new construction condos, you can elect to have the unit finished exactly how you want it, purple glass tile in the shower….not a problem! We all want to feel a connection to our surroundings and customizing the finishes in your condo are a great way to achieve this connection.

New construction means that all your neighbors are going to be new as well. As you are all in the same boat, it should definitely be easier to meet friends and not have to break into established social circles. You will also have a clean slate with regards to your condo association. A new development will not have major systems facing obsolescence that require expensive assessments. Also your individual unit will come with a warranty, giving you peace of mind regarding unbudgeted repair expenses.

Modern condo designs offer more interesting interior spaces than what had been available in the past. The explosion of loft-designed condos has made cookie cutter boxy interiors feel very dated. Open kitchens and living areas, coupled with high ceilings and over-sized windows are all staples of high-end new construction condos. As more work is shifted to the home, these open spaces with plenty of light are very desirable. When it comes time to sell, a fresh modern design is sure to attract a premium at the closing table vs. an outdated condo design.

When you start your search for a new construction condo, it is especially helpful to work with an independent buyers agent. The buyers’ agent can assist when you visit a new community so that you are not dependent on the builders’ sales representative. Having this resource on your side of the negotiating table will prove helpful throughout the purchase process.

Mark Washburn is a real estate agent serving the urban Washington, DC condo market. Mark and his team can assist clients in their search for a DC new construction condo, loft or town home in neighborhoods throughout the District including Adams Morgan, Capitol Hill, Columbia Heights, Dupont Circle, Foggy Bottom, Georgetown, Logan Circle, Mount Vernon Triangle, Penn Quarter, Shaw, U Street Corridor and the West End.

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New Construction Incorporates Green Methods

Since the financial crash of 2008 one of the major changes that has taken place on the home building industry has been the rise of the green building in new construction. In 2011 the green segment of the market accounted for 17% of all construction projects with an economic impact of $17,000,000,000. In 2013 this rose to $87,000,000,000. Green buildings, also known as sustainable buildings, are designed to incorporate building processes and materials that are resource and energy efficient. Because of the long history of standard house design and construction methods, the new goal of going green requires the cooperation and feedback from not only the architects and engineers but also the end user at all stages of the building process.

The goals of more efficiency that are being demanded by consumers are being helped by the development of new technologies that complement current practices. Some of the new practices that are being implemented are more efficient use of water, energy and other resources. Other items of concern for builders are homeowner health and the reduction of waste and pollution in the building process.

One method that is being put into practice to achieve this is new construction using natural materials. One of the materials of choice that is being widely used is the straw bale. Straw is a material that is widely available and modestly priced. If you use straw bales as the material of choice in your home, after they are placed they can be sealed with plaster or adobe to help increase the bales structural integrity. Another common design is the Earth Ship. This housing unit uses discarded automobile and truck tires that are packed with earth. After they are packed the tires are then formed into the house shell, which can then be covered with adobe or plaster for additional structural integrity. Many of these Earth Ship homes also use plain dirt and grass for the roof structures. This type of structures emphasizes the green goal of using sustainable resources and reducing the environmental impact of standard construction techniques.

Although these types of structure can seem extreme to some, it is a viable subset of this whole movement. This movement has also had an impact on standard construction practices. New construction techniques may not embrace these types of materials but they have embraced and are utilizing more energy efficient electrical appliances, water and heating systems. One of the big shifts in this area is the use of appliances such as stoves, refrigerators, and HVAC systems that are Energy Star rated. Energy Star is a government organization and an Energy Star rating will give prospective buyers an insight into how the new construction ranks in terms of overall energy efficiency.

This concept of sustainable development and efficiency can be traced back to not only the financial crisis of 2008 but also the explosion of energy prices worldwide. Green building today incorporates many different practices, techniques, and innovations that are designed to achieve its goals. These innovations can include passive and active solar systems for energy production and heat to the use of low impact building materials in the construction process. Even though going green is still in its infancy it holds out great promise.

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New Construction Progress Inspections

Having a new customized home built can be an exciting experience. Getting through the process however can be a long and at times difficult ordeal. People having a new home built often rely solely on their builder to help guide them through the construction. Unfortunately he may not be the best person to advise them on their project.

Consider the following:

Home builders and many contractors involved in home construction are not licensed professionals
No license means no mandated formal training or apprenticeship, no continuing education, and minimal accountability

City building inspectors check for code compliance, not quality

Codes do not cover all aspects of the building process

These are facts that the majority of people building new homes or for that matter having work done on their existing home, do not know. But who can a new construction home buyer find who will objectively and competently oversee an entire building project and provide knowledgeable, unbiased information on construction techniques and materials? An independent, licensed, professional home inspector.

Most often home inspectors are called in after the new home owner has been experiencing problems with the house, often for many months or even years after it was built. What new construction home buyers almost never consider is hiring the inspector while the house is being built.

When problems do occur and the homeowner is asked about new construction inspections some reasons heard for not enlisting the help of an independent home inspector are:

The local building official is inspecting the home

As previously stated these inspectors look for code compliance, not quality. They are in the home only briefly during different phases of the construction. Do they miss things? Yes they do and no they are not usually held accountable for their mistakes. Also they are municipal employees and are not directly responsible to the persons buying the home. In other words they won’t contact the buyer if there are problems. They simply instruct the builder to correct the issues and move on to the next home.

Cost

It’s always about the money and for good reason. Costs can escalate quickly when building a new home. Buyers often want upgrades and these push up costs. So hiring an independent inspector can be an expense that is hard to justify. After all they believe the city building official is inspecting the home.

The builder has a good reputation

He may, but how do you know. Many people do not research the builder before signing on with them to build their home. This may be even truer when purchasing the home through a third party such as Realtor. Get references and check them before signing a contract.

It is also important to understand specifically what the builders’ job is. He generally is the person who manages the entire construction process. He must hire and coordinate many sub-contractors to install the vast amount of components that make up a house. This can be an overwhelming task for just one home, but if he is building several homes at once it can be nearly impossible to effectively manage.

It’s a new house; there should be nothing wrong (Very likely the biggest misconception related to new homes)

If you have ever bought an item, taken it home and it broke the first time you used it then the absurdness of this statement should be glaringly apparent. But never the less many people who have a home built believe because it is new and there is a one year builders warranty there will be no problems.

A house is a complex structure containing many different systems that must all function correctly and in harmony. It is built over the course of several months by many different people. Assuredly there are going to be problems and most often they are minor or cosmetic. But there are those occasional big problems that can make the home barely habitable or in extreme cases uninhabitable.

Was not aware that an outside inspector could be hired

When paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to have a home built, you are certainly entitled to have whom every you choose oversee the process. If you meet resistance to bringing in an outside inspector, this should be a red flag that something could potentially be wrong.

But why is it important to hire an independent inspector to look after the project?

Very simply quality control. If the construction company in charge of building your home knows that the customer has hired an independent, knowledgeable inspector to oversee the build, they are very likely to be more diligent in their quality of work. The psychological effect can be just as influential as the actual physical inspections.

Home inspectors and home builders encompass similar knowledge of home construction. However home inspectors are formally trained individuals who are licensed and consequently must also attend a specific amount of continuing education for license renewal. Home builders are not licensed, only registered, and therefore are not required to be formally trained or attend continuing education. They must only pay a yearly fee to remain registered and in business.

This is also true of the majority of contractors who perform work on a new or existing home. The term Home Improvement Contractor is a catch all category for companies that do any type of improvement work on homes. For example carpenters who frame the home fall into this category, as do roofers, foundation contractors, sheet rockers, flooring installers and many other individual companies that are part of putting a house together.

Another important aspect of the home inspectors experience is they view all types and ages of homes. They see the results of poor construction practices and understand better than anyone the consequences of inferior workmanship. It’s an important and unique perspective that no other profession can claim.

Finally a hired independent home inspector works for and reports directly to you. He is your advocate and can be an invaluable asset during the building of your new home.

Before you buy a new home consumer groups advise protecting your rights by taking these steps:
Research your builder thoroughly before signing any agreements.

Consider hiring a real estate lawyer to negotiate your contract. There is no better time to negotiate than before you buy.

To protect your right to sue, strike any requirement that disputes will go to binding arbitration.

Ask for the names of subcontractors building your home. Investigate their work before you buy.

Hire a professional inspector to examine your home during construction. Point out flaws that can be fixed before you move in.

Discuss your warranty thoroughly with the builder. Put everything in writing.

Leave a paper trail. Send all correspondence to the builder by certified mail, return receipt requested.

James Quarello, the founder of JRV Home Inspection Services, brings to the company an over 20 year background in industrial equipment installation engineering and home remodeling. Mr. Quarello is a graduate of The Home Inspection Institute of Americas’ intensive Connecticut certified HI-100 Home Inspector training program. He is also a graduate of Inspection Training Associates (ITA) New Construction inspection program and has passed the National Home Inspectors Exam (NHIE).

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