Friday, 27 April 2012

Buying a Green Home is Simple, Keeping it Green is the Real Challenge

This article first appeared in the Toronto Sun Homes-Extra, April 27-29 edition.

Whether or not your newly constructed home has a formal “green” designation, you should consider it a “green home.” The by-product of continually updated building codes & strict manufacturing laws is a new home that is more energy efficient than one built even as recently as 5 years ago. Understanding how installed products function individually and together will enable you to keep your home running at optimal efficiency, reducing your cost of ownership and helping your maintain its market value. Who doesn’t want to own a home that costs less and is worth more?

One of the single greatest advantages of buying a new home is having all new products without the hassle of renovating. Although new products shouldn’t require repair, they do require routine maintenance and proper care to continue running at peak performance - very similar to a car. But how many of us stay on track with oil changes, tire rotations, air filter replacements, tune ups, etc? Whether it’s because of time constraints, not understanding how to do the work or the cost, the reality is most of us don’t do everything that is necessary to keep our cars running in peak condition, even though we would benefit from better fuel efficiency.

The first step in keeping your home running efficiently is understanding the products and systems within it. Most green designations such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Homes and BuiltGreen mandate homeowner training as part of the certification process, but all reputable builders will conduct this type of training regardless. Even if you are an experienced homeowner, ask questions and take notes; this is a great opportunity to learn as much as you can from an expert at no cost.

Ensure you have all of the resources you require to take over operation of your home and keep it running efficiently. Manufacturers create detailed instructions for their products and in most cases they will vary, even if the products are similar. A home has hundreds of products installed from dozens of manufacturers, so ensure your builder provides these documents to you before you take possession of the home. This library of information will serve you well, as it will help to ensure you are maintaining everything as required to keep extended manufacturer warranties intact.

Lastly, set aside time to do scheduled maintenance so it doesn’t pile up. By law, you will be provided with a monthly maintenance schedule by your builder when you take possession, so ensure at a minimum you are completing these tasks. Schedule your maintenance in advance and log completed work; this will not only help you remember what has been done, but it also acts as a service record for future reference.

Taking full advantage of the luxuries afforded by buying a new home doesn’t have to be an onerous task, and like everything in life, you get what you give. By making routine maintenance a habit, you can reap the benefits of owning a green home.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Location..Location..Customer Service?

This article first appeared in the Homes Extra section of the Toronto Sun, April 13-15 edition. View here.

The laws of selling real estate have been the same for generations; location, location, location. A desirable location will dictate a premium price point based on higher demand; conversely a less desirable location will have less demand and therefore be cheaper. But for new homes, should you consider customer service & brand reputation in the same regard as location and price? The answer is yes, and here’s why.

In Ontario, all new homes are built to code, and backed with a mandatory warranty through TARION Warranty Corporation. What is not regulated, however, is the level of service & communication you will receive from your builder. From construction timelines & administrative procedures to occupancy & homeowner maintenance; your builder’s customer care initiatives will have an immense impact on your ownership experience.

For a new home buyer, the real experience starts when you take possession. Keep in mind that any new home or condo will require proper operation & routine maintenance of the home’s components; both of which are mandatory to preserve the warranty & the resale value of the home. Before choosing a builder, be confident they will give you everything you’ll need to take care of it, such as initial training, product operating manuals & maintenance guides and a dedicated resource to answer your questions as they arise.

Conducting simple research will tell you a lot about a builder’s post-occupancy service. Look for things like; does the builder have a “homeowner resource” section on their website? Do they have a referral program? A quick search of the TARION Builder directory will reveal any history of chargeable conciliations, and how many. If possible, speak with current or past homeowners to get a feel for their experience. Most importantly, ask the builder questions & get responses in writing if you are determining your buying decision on the answer.

Your desired location will dictate your options in terms of who you buy from, but ultimately you have the final say in who you choose. Select a builder who focuses on post-occupancy customer service, so you can enjoy your new home for years to come.
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