Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Getting off on the Right Foot(ing)

Even though the homeowner is most concerned about how a new house looks and whether it will function in a practical way, the most important part of the building process happens below ground level. Right after the excavation, the footings are put in place. It's crucial that the footings are poured properly because the entire structure of the house will rest upon these concrete structures. The foundation walls themselves will sit on the footings so if something is out of line, the whole project is in jeopardy.
The footings must be able to withstand the forces of nature including temperature changes, water, and the sheer weight of the house. Get off to the right start (on the right footing) and you're more likely to have a successful building project.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Tax Time Alert for Homeowners

As you prepare to do your tax work for 2009, you need to think back about what you've recently done as far as home improvement. Federal tax credits are in place for energy-saving improvements. The following list shows what you can claim for 2009. Remember, credits on your federal income tax increase your refund or reduce the amount you owe in taxes. It's well worth your time and energy to dig out receipts and refer to manufacturer's tax credit certification to see if you qualify. Other good sources of information include IRS Publication 553 and IRS Form 5695.
You can claim:

Exterior doors, windows, and skylights
Metal or asphalt roofs with qualified coatings
Insulation material or system to reduce heat loss
Energy-efficient building property
Natural gas, propane, oil furnace or hot water boiler
Air circulating fans used in natural gas, propane, oil furnace
Solar water heating costs
Solar electric costs
Fuel cell property costs
Small wind energy property costs
Geothermal heat pump property costs

You CANNOT claim energy-saving light bulbs, Energy Star appliances, low-flow showerheads, or low-flush toilets.

Many of these energy-saving improvement credits remain in place for 2010 so do the research to see what gives you the best return on your remodeling dollars.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Trends in New Home Building for 2010 and Beyond

As we move into 2010, I've been reading predictions and forecasts about where the homebuilding industry is heading. It didn't take me long to realize that there's no real consensus. We are still in uncharted waters, and no one seems to agree on when the economy will rebound and when the existing home inventory will be reduced to typical levels. Nevertheless, it's worthwhile to consider some of the top trends predicted for the coming decade as described on the Fine Homebuilding website.
1. New home construction will shift from the job site to the factory. I find this interesting because our Swedish friends have been telling us about this for years. Many new homes in Sweden have pre-assembled walls and roofs, and the exterior shell can be constructed in a day or so. I'm sure we'll start to see more of this process in the U.S. as the number of skilled carpenters seems to decline each year.
2. Granite countertops are on the way out. I believe this one. Granite carries a high price and requires high maintenance. There are many other products, both natural and synthetic, that give a similar appearance at a lower cost...and with little or no maintenance.
3. Weatherization and small remodeling projects will be the lifeblood of homebuilders for a while. I agree. Most builders have been surviving on smaller projects for the last year or so...and until existing inventory gets back to normal levels, new homes may be on the back burner for many people. Yet, homes always need upgrading---both for aesthetic purposes and for energy-efficiency.
4. Insulation will continue to be big. Government incentives and tax credits are in place that make adding insulation a wise decision both for cost savings and for comfort.
5. Water conservation will gain in importance. This trend is evident in the Western United States where water rationing, irrigation, and water conservation are frequently in the news. Not that it's right or wrong, but in the Midwest, I think this is still a few years away from becoming a hot topic.
Whatever the next year has in store, it's fun to try to foresee where things are headed. With new homes, it's fun to imagine your dream home. We hope, however, that you realize that a home is more than a dream house...It's what you put in it (and I don't mean "things") that makes it truly a home.
Happy New Year!