Buying a Home in the Winter Versus Spring

buying a home in the winter

Just because it’s colder doesn’t mean you should give up on home shopping. Here are a few benefits of buying a home in the winter versus spring.

By Drew Knight

The winter months aren’t a time you usually see flocks of home shoppers hitting the market. However, not many shoppers are aware of the benefits that hide away during the cooler season.

In fact, a recent report from The New York Times says that shoppers might even be able to find better deals in certain markets when buying a home in the winter versus spring.

The report highlighted data from Attom Data Solutions, which found that through the years of 2000 to 2016, the median selling price during February was about $104 per square foot — an average discount of 6 percent over the rest of the year. The study included a sample size of about 50 million homes.

In regard to the rest of the year, the same study showed that the next most affordable months were January, March and April with discounts at just under 6 percent, 4 percent and 2 percent over $110 per square foot, the annualized median price.

Other than a higher possibility of price discounts, buying a home in the winter versus spring also means you get the added benefit of not having to brave the heat to build and shop for a new home. Yet still, the Attom study found that this data trend held true in warmer climates like Florida, likely due to the fact that the early months of the year coincide with the middle of the school year when families aren’t typically considering a move.

“If you’re considering a move for the 2017–18 school year and want to build your personalized home, then now is the time to start seriously thinking about your home purchase,” says Kristina Jones, marketing manager for Texas-based Highland Homes.

Buying a home in the winter means you’d get to lock in on those lower rates, plus it gives you plenty of time to work with your builder to help bring your home to life on time.

“Buyers who begin their home search in the winter sometimes overlook new-construction communities because they assume work won’t start on a home until spring,” says Brian Hoffman, an executive with Illinois homebuilder Red Seal Homes. “What these buyers don’t realize is that regardless of season, we need a certain amount of lead time before construction can begin. As a result, winter can be the ideal time to start the planning, permitting and selection process so that we are ready to break ground as soon as weather permits.”

If you’re planning to buy a home in the winter, here are four key steps you can expect during the process with builders like Red Seal Homes:

1. Choose a homesite and floor plan.

Hoffman says these are usually the two things a buyer must do before a contract can be written for their new home.

“Usually, it takes somewhere from two to four weeks for buyers to lock in these decisions, as they typically make multiple visits to the community and meet with the sales team several times to discuss their options,” he adds.

2. Contract approval from an attorney.

Once the lot and floor plan has been selected, the builder will typically write the contract and send it in for attorney review. Hoffman says attorney approval is typically received about two weeks after the contract is written.

3. Permitting and selections.

After the contract has been finalized, the home is then submitted for permitting, a process that takes about three months. The builder may use that time to take the buyer through the fun part — the features and finishes selection process.

“We go through every detail, from asking the architect to make customizations like switching a loft to a bedroom or designing a finished basement to helping buyers make finish choices for features like cabinetry, flooring, tile and lighting and plumbing fixtures,” says Hoffman.

4. Breaking ground.

Construction begins after permitting has been finalized, starting with breaking ground.

According to Hoffman, the construction process of a Red Seal home usually takes about six months and the total time from homesite and floor plan selection to move-in is usually one year.

“While that one-year time frame holds true in most cases, the initial planning and permitting stages are sometimes expedited during the winter season when there’s less construction activity,” says Hoffman. “The takeaway for buyers is that building a new-construction home is a year-round proposition and there’s no reason they shouldn’t start planning during the cold-weather months.”

For buyers who’d like to bypass the construction time frame, another option is to discuss inventory homes with their local builders, which are usually available at different stages of construction or on a move-in-ready basis.

Drew Knight is a digital content associate for New Home Source.

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Stay Warm, Save Money: How to Cut Heating Costs

heating costs

Want to learn how to cut heating costs and stay warm at the same time? Check out these five tips.

By Drew Knight

Nobody wants to add to the costs of their new home with a giant heating bill. So, before you go upping your thermostat to 80 degrees, listen up.

There are plenty of ways to keep warm this winter while saving both energy and money. That’s right, it really is possible to stay heated without burning a hole in your wallet.

Are you ready to learn how to cut heating costs in your new home? Here are five simple steps:

1. Try a Smart Thermostat

One of the easiest ways to save money on your energy bill is to invest in a smart thermostat.

These programmable devices can automatically turn down the temperature in your home by 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours a day. So, when you’re sleeping or away at work, you’re already saving 10 percent or more on your heating bill.

These smart home technologies have been on the market for a while now, so prices are now cheaper than ever. One of the most popular brands, Nest, comes at a higher price, but it comes with the added ability to learn your habits and automatically program itself.

Claiming that it saves an average of 10 percent to 12 percent on heating costs and 15 percent on cooling, your Nest thermostat could practically pay for itself in just two years — plus it comes in chic designs.

2. Utilize the Sun

Another simple — and totally free — solution is to use the sun to your advantage.

Even though it’s cold outside, that doesn’t mean the sun’s rays aren’t still bringing much-needed heat into your home. So, keeping your curtains and shades open during the day, particularly on the south side of your home, can easily allow heat to enter. Also, be sure to remove shrubbery or decorations that could block sunlight from your windows for added savings.

Then, at night, close your curtains and shades again. They’ll act as barriers from the cool drafts that could sneak in through your windows. Consider using thick curtains or curtains with thermal lining.

While we’re on the topic of windows, you might want to consider Energy Star or other energy-efficient windows. Designed specifically with cost-savings in mind, they can cut both heating and cooling costs by up to 15 percent.

3. Reduce Hot Water Usage

While this step may not make you warmer per se, it will definitely help you save money in the long run.

Work on ways to reduce your hot water usage. For instance, the Consumer Energy Center suggests that adjusting your water heater to the “normal” setting (or 120 degrees) can shave off 7 percent to 11 percent of your heating costs.

As showers typically account for about two-thirds of your water heating costs, another great option is to invest in low-flow showerheads or faucets, which can cut up to 10 percent to 16 percent off your water heating costs. While you’re at it, consider cutting the time you spend in your shower as well; simply reducing your shower times can save hundreds of gallons of hot water in just one month.

And when it comes to clothes washing, opt for cold water when possible. Using this setting can reduce your washer’s energy use by up to 75 percent, according to the Consumer Energy Center.

4. Eliminate Air Loss Through Your Chimney

While your fireplace might keep you pretty warm when in use, it could also be costing you big money when the fire is off by allowing warm air to escape upward.

If your new home has a fireplace, a chimney balloon is your best solution. This device can be inflated and placed in the chimney when not in use to block your warm air from escaping.

5. Remove Drafts Surrounding Electrical Boxes

Not many people know it, but your electrical outlets or light switches on exterior walls could be surrounded by cool, drafty air.

If your outlets are not insulated, you can fix this problem yourself by removing the cover plates and carefully filling the small gaps around the electrical boxes with acrylic caulk. If your gaps are larger, a foam sealant is better. Next, place a foam gasket over the outlet or switch and replace the cover plate.

At about one buck for a two-pack of gaskets, it’s a minimal cost for big savings.

Drew Knight is a digital content associate for New Home Source.

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Win Big with a Space Dedicated to Watching Sports

spaces for watching sports

Primetime features such as a sectional sofa and built-in shelves that can accommodate a big-screen TV make this bonus room from the Villas at Auberge at Del Sure by CalAtlantic Homes game ready. Photo courtesy of CalAtlantic Homes.

By Seve Kale

The Super Bowl is fast approaching and whether you’re more concerned with the best team or the best commercials, the following tips will ensure that you score a prime seat to the action without having to pay super prices for tickets.

The Fundamentals

“Design elements in a ‘man cave’ should make things easier: a secondary game area, a snack area with a refrigerator and storage and ample seating. The idea is the room should have enough to keep the party entertained, as well as contained, in one foolproof space,” says Lana Canova, vice president of DESIGN TEC and Model Home Merchandiser for MBK Homes.

Once you’ve got the basics covered, you can move on to the bells and whistles: “Other popular add-ons are built-ins that accommodate a large television screen, as well as a half bath connected to the space,” says Danielle Tocco, national communications director for CalAtlantic Group, Inc.

Many homeowners choose to incorporate the outdoors — an adjacent patio or yard can provide your party a change of setting during halftime.

No Need for Binoculars

According to Cordova, “Comfortable seating is a top priority in any ‘man cave.’ You’ll want to make sure every fan can see the television.” There’s a reason stadium seating is staggered: everyone has an unobstructed view of the action from their seat. While tiered seating may not be feasible in your home, there are a variety of options that can accommodate everyone, such as sectional sofas.

Time Out!

“One optional feature that homebuyers have gravitated toward is a beverage center, which makes it less essential to have the room located next to the kitchen,” says Tocco. You’ll have easy access to cold drinks without missing a single play.

You and your guests will likely work up an appetite cheering for your team. Why not set up a nacho bar, a taco station or the grill outside to keep the masses well-fed? Additionally, make sure each seat has a place for your guests to put their food and drink — nothing puts a damper on a big play like a big spill!

Come Through in the Clutch

Maybe your family doesn’t need a space that’s dedicated to sports 100 percent of the time — we get it! Jefferey Wedler, home design expert at Vant Wall Panels has some advice for those who need to reconfigure their space in a pinch: “A great way to add a lot of ‘apparent’ seating is to use standing cocktail tables or bar tables — these can be rented inexpensively at a local party rental and placed in the rear of the room.”

Now that you’ve got a game plan, here’s hoping your team wins!

Seve Kale is a contributor to NewHomeSource.

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5 Active Adult Communities Shaping Up on NewHomeSource.com

By Drew Knight

Thinking it’s about time to move on from the typical neighborhood and into one where you’re surrounded by neighbors with similar interests? If you’re nearing that 55+ age, you might want to start considering active adult communities.

Active adult communities are designed for people that are generally 55 years old or older — in fact, most are restricted to that age group — and usually feature many great amenities and programs typically enjoyed by active adults. From pickle ball to water aerobics and well-stocked fitness rooms, an active adult community has you covered.

Luckily, New Home Source knows plenty of active adult builders who list on NewHomeSource.com. Here are just a few of our favorite 55+ communities across the nation:

Sun City Georgetown

Sun City in Georgetown, Texas, features new Del Webb Inspired Home Designs, three championship 18-hole golf courses and more.

1.) Sun City Texas in Georgetown, Texas

Created by one of the most well-known active adult homebuilders in the nation, Sun City Texas by Del Webb can be found just north of Austin in Georgetown, Texas.

This golf cart community features 12 tennis courts, three golf courses, six pickle ball courts, a billiards room, two state-of-the-art fitness centers, a lakeside amphitheater, fishing and many social activities such as the Sun City Line Dancers club and community garden.

At Sun City Texas, Del Webb offers 10 home designs ranging from $209,990 to $562,837.

Heritage Todd Creek

Heritage Todd Creek by Lennar is a great place to kick back and relax or enjoy numerous amenities like its fitness center and both indoor and outdoor swimming pools.

2.) The Legends Collection at Heritage Todd Creek in Thornton, Colo.

Located less than 25 miles from Denver, Heritage Todd Creek offers numerous collections of newly built homes for active adults.

Here, Lennar ushers in a beautiful mix of social, leisure and recreational opportunities. The gated community is surrounded by the beautiful Heritage Todd Creek Golf Club and features an award-winning, 33,000-square-foot clubhouse. Additional amenities include indoor and outdoor swimming pools, lighted tennis courts, a fitness center and a library and craft room.

Newly built homes in The Legends Collection range from $579,900 to $679,900, but don’t forget to check out Lennar’s other beautiful collections.

CantaMia by AV Homes

CantaMia by AV homes is proof that not all 55+ communities are born alike, with more than 500 acres of parks and open space, 72 acres of lake and more than 20 miles of walking trails.

3.) CantaMia in Goodyear, Ariz.

After years of studying the active adult market, AV Homes has carefully developed a special community where residents can relax, learn, grow, steward and truly enjoy retirement.

Enter CantaMia, just 30 miles from downtown Phoenix. This 55+ community is found in the renowned master-planned community of Estrella, which is known for its gorgeous natural amenities.

Perfect for just about any budget, new homes at CantaMia range from $180,900 to $418,604.

Lakes of Mount Dora

Named one of the top communities in the U.S., the Lakes of Mount Dora include amenities like a billiard room, a spacious gathering room and a community library.

4.) Lakes of Mount Dora in Mount Dora, Fla.

Our next community in the list has the honor of being named one of the Top 50 Best Master-Planned Communities in the United States by Where to Retire Magazine.

Combining Southern hospitality with small-town charm, Lakes of Mount Dora was developed with a special vision in mind: to create a unique place where people can live in a central Florida waterfront home with classic Florida architecture near one of the most impressive small towns in the country — Mount Dora.

In this premiere active adult community, Medallion Home plans for 950 single-family homes ranging from $219,400 to $659,990.

Four Seasons at Beaumont

With 14 home designs and spectacular amenities, at K. Hovnanian’s Four Seasons at Beaumont you can enjoy resort-style living year round.

5.) Four Seasons at Beaumont in Beaumont, Calif.

Dreaming of retiring in California? The Four Seasons at Beaumont by K. Hovnanian Homes could help make that dream come true.

With a whopping 14 single-family home designs to choose from, it’s guaranteed that no home will look identical. Plus, K. Hovnanaian offers up plenty of resort-style amenities to help you live the life of luxury without that luxurious price tag.

New Homes at Four Seasons range from $251,990 to $396,390 and 1,483 to 2,700 sq. ft.

Drew Knight is a digital content associate for New Home Source.

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New Year’s Resolutions for the Home

new year's resolutions for the home

Happy New Year! Now it’s time to ensure that your home is at its top form and stays that way all year long.

By Patricia L. Garcia

It’s a new year and a new you, right? What about your home? It deserves to be at its best and organized this year too!

Whether you are moving into a newly built home or it’ll be a little while longer in your older home, here are some New Year’s resolutions for the home that you’ll want to stick to:

Resolution #1: Keep It Safe

This is an easy one to follow: check your smoke alarms monthly! If you don’t have a smoke alarm, get one or two. The U.S. Fire Administration suggests testing smoke detectors at least once a month and replacing batteries at least twice a year. Easy stuff, minimal cost, valuable results. So, what are you waiting for?

In addition to making sure you have a fire alarm, other fire safety tips include having a charged fire extinguisher and an evacuation plan, says Peter Duncanson, director of Systems Development for ServiceMaster Restore, a disaster restoration company.

“Develop and practice an evacuation plan; locate at least two ways out of each room,” he says. “For insurance purposes, take pictures of your home and personal belongings from time to time. If you ever face a fire, you’ll have a clear record of the damage.”

Resolution #2: Put It on a Diet

Lots of folks resolve to diet in the new year, but you can also reduce your home’s intake by de-cluttering your home. Getting rid of clutter is one of the easiest ways to keep your home looking fresh.

“Every home has clutter … but it’s important to get a handle on your mess to not only gain more square footage, but to show off the home’s positive features,” says Tori Toth, a professional home stager who owns Stylish Stagers in Howard Beach, N.Y.

Toth, who wrote Feel at Home: Home Staging Secrets for a Quick and Easy Sell, says these are the most likely culprits to cause clutter in the home – and here are her tips for handling them:

  • Mail and Paperwork: Create a system to contain each item. For instance, deal with mail as soon as you bring it in. Throw out junk mail and have a bin for current bills and a filing system for other important information.
  • Toys: Have a designated area for the toys and only keep the ones out that your kids play with – the others, pack up or get rid of. Be creative with storage solutions by using decorative baskets, boxes or even a trunk.
  • Clothes and Shoes: Get in the habit of taking coats off and hanging them in the closet, rather than throw on a chair back or floor. Corral shoes and have a system in place for dirty clothes. Put clean clothes away immediately.

Resolution #3: Pay It Down

This home-related resolution is also related to your wallet, so, you’re welcome. New or resale, it’s a good idea for you to pay your mortgage down. Ray Rodriguez, regional sales manager at TD Bank in the Greater New York City area, suggests making an extra mortgage payment.

Making an extra payment doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, you can do so with as little as an extra $10 each month.

“There are subtle ways to shave time off of your mortgage. If you divide your monthly mortgage payment by 12 and add that amount to each monthly payment, you’re effectively paying off your home sooner. Another option is to pay half of your payment every two weeks, also known as bi-weekly payments,” Rodriguez says. “These methods effectively force you to make one extra payment each year.”

As you think about what you want to improve about yourself in the new year, don’t forget to factor in some home-related resolutions too. Doing so will mean a less-stressful house – bringing you step closer to making your home the retreat that you’ve always wanted.

This list is not all-inclusive – so what’d we miss? Tell us what you resolve to do for your home in 2017 in the comments section.

Patricia L. Garcia is content manager for NewHomeSource.com.

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Gadget of the Month: FoldiMate Laundry-Folding Machine

FoldiMate

Imagine a gadget that can fold your laundry for you. It’s called FoldiMate and it might be here sooner than you think. (Photo courtesy of FoldiMate)

By Drew Knight

If you could get rid of one household chore in your new home, what would it be?

I know what I would choose — folding clothes. And that’s exactly why we picked FoldiMate, an automatic laundry-folding robot, as our first Gadget of the Month of 2017.

According to the FoldiMate team, the typical person spends 750 days of their life doing laundry, of which 375 days are spent folding. (Any tool that can help give me back an extra year of life certainly has my attention.)

To operate this laundry-folding machine, users can simply feed it their dry items (shirts, pants, dresses, skirts, pillowcases and towels) using its patented Easy Clipping feeder and let FoldiMate do the rest.

FoldiMate can work with a wide variety of fabrics and garments, virtually anything that can fit inside the machine, with the exception of linens, underwear, socks and baby clothes — kids and adult sizes up to XXL are fair game. And depending on garment thickness, FoldiMate can fold between 10 to 30 articles in one load.

The machine is designed to be used in your laundry room and can be placed on top of a washer, dryer or any standard table. It can even fit in a spacious closet or anywhere you’d normally fold you laundry, which is why FoldiMate will also offer a wheeled table if needed.

An added benefit, FoldiMate can also treat your garments to de-wrinkling and even perfume and softening agents via separately sold treatment capsules, all while helping you limit the valuable time you spend on laundry each load.

Curious how much time FoldiMate can really save you? Here are a few estimates from FoldiMate:

  • It takes under five seconds to clip each item into the machine.
  • The automatic folding process takes around 10 seconds per item, depending on if capsule treatment and de-wrinkling are also required.
  • The de-wrinkling will take between 20 and 30 seconds per item.

“I created FoldiMate as my wife claims I am one of the worst laundry folders in the world. She’s right. I hate it,” says CEO Gal Rozov in a news release. “We knew that others suffer from this chore, but we didn’t expect such an incredible response when we released the FoldiMate concept video earlier this year.”

Since viral video fame in 2016, nearly 200,000 customers have registered on the FoldiMate website to become notified when pre-orders are available and thousands have already paid a deposit to reserve their machine once it surpasses the prototype phase. Currently, the first FoldiMate units are planned to be shipped in 2018.

Catch it in action today on display at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (Jan. 5-8, 2017), or visit FoldiMate.com for in-depth information and videos.

Drew Knight is a digital content associate for New Home Source.

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New Construction Solves Holiday Home Shopping Struggles

holiday home shopping

Shopping for a new home during the holidays? Here are a few reasons why a new home is the way to go.

By Drew Knight

According to a recent survey by the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents (NAEBA), homebuyers face a list of unique challenges when shopping for homes during the holiday season.

From reported mishaps like an ancient one-armed Santa figure in the front yard, photos of the current homeowners wearing nothing but their birthday suits and a few Christmas accessories and even passed-out partygoers on the wake of New Year’s Eve, these struggles could definitely turn a buyer away from a prospective home.

The common thread? These mishaps could only really happen when shopping for a used home, as new-construction homes have never been lived in before — and all party people would be locked out.

Below you’ll find a short list of the more common struggles survey respondents reported while shopping for a home during the holidays — and how new-construction homes provide a solution.

Scheduling a Time to Visit a Listing

Many of the participants reported that the biggest challenge of shopping during the holidays was scheduling a time to actually visit the home.

Whether it be working with the homeowner to find a time when they aren’t hosting guests or the house isn’t a mess from the holiday rush, shopping for used homes can certainly pose a problem. On the other hand, new-home builders are already waiting to show you their model properties.

“Our sales managers know that December is a busy month and they are always available if they are not in the model homes,” says Blake Fletcher, a marketing manager with Dallas-based Southgate Homes. “We have sales assistants that cover their days off and vacation days and are trained to be able to help guide shoppers through the process.”

Working with a Realtor? Some homebuilders even provide their trusted agents with a lockbox and key so that they can access their homes with their clients even when no builder rep is on site.

Less Inventory

Other respondents mentioned low inventory as a major struggle for home shopping during the holiday season. Which is understandable, as many homeowners decide to take their homes off the market during this time.

Yet with new homes, a homebuilder always wants to make a sale, so there’s no reason to take a new home off the market.

“Southgate is a big proponent on having inventory at different stages throughout the year,” adds Fletcher. “We typically have six to 10 inventory homes in every community at different stages 12 months out of the year. People get relocated and move at different times, so we definitely understand the need for inventory homes.”

Meeting Deadlines Before Vacation

Another major struggle of shopping for a home during the holidays is meeting deadlines before employees begin vacation, as most financial institutions are closed during the holidays and many industry personnel like loan officers, inspectors and financial advisors take vacation.

When buying a used home through its homeowner, you’re generally on your own. But when working with a homebuilder, they usually have well-seasoned staff to help keep you on track of all of your financial and signing matters.

“Our sales managers are really good at guiding our homebuyers throughout the process,” says Fletcher. “They help our buyers understand that they need to submit their paperwork early before the holidays, how to get preapproved and how to finalize a loan 60 days before closing.”

Other Benefits of Shopping New During the Holidays

Not only does shopping for a new home around the holidays eliminate the struggles caused by used homes, they also pose their own added benefits:

  • Home shoppers who buy during the holiday season are usually ready to move in by end of summer — conveniently right before the beginning of a new school year.
  • Many builders post great end-of-year incentives for their inventory homes.
  • Less inventory for used homes means that if the home shopper is selling old to buy new, they have a high chance of getting their home off the market due to lack of competition.

Not to mention, there will be no tacky holiday décor, no awkward family photos and, of course, no passed out partygoers on the front lawn. It’s 100 percent clean, 100 percent yours.

Still not sold on new homes? Check out our Top 10 Reasons Home Buyers Prefer New Homes vs. Used.

Drew Knight is a digital content associate for New Home Source.

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