The costs of buying a home. Paying a real estate agent. Pitching in for appraisals and inspections. Closing costs. It would seem purchasing a home is a big financial burden. The truth is, buying a house can come with money-saving opportunities. Energy efficiency, proper maintenance, location, and strategies to maximize your investment can make a new home cost more practical and save you money.
Key Areas to Reduce Costs
Aside from saving money, improving the efficiency of a home contributes greater comfort. Before you make improvements or select a home based on energy use, first you need to have a benchmark. Resources from the Building Performance Institute can help here. The Home Energy Score, a national rating system implemented by the U.S. Department of Energy, assesses your home in comparison to similarly sized properties.
Nowadays, there are many ways to improve energy efficiency. You can create an ultra-efficient home by focusing on all aspects of construction. Advanced house framing can save on heating and cooling costs by as much as 5% per year.1 It’s a technique available to new home builders, but you may also invest in cool roofs, which use reflective materials to reduce sunlight absorption and heat gain.
However, more basic energy efficiency/cost savings focal points for your home include:
- Heating and Cooling: On average, heating and cooling account for half of home energy costs, or about $1,000 per year.2 High-efficiency equipment delivers top performance while using less energy than, for example, older heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) systems. You may want to consider whole-house mechanical ventilation with filtration that significantly reduces indoor air pollutants.
A programmable thermostat can save you a lot because it sustains the desired temperature and can be set according to demand. Set it to the highest comfortable level in the summer and the lowest comfortable temperature in winter. The unit also lets you adjust settings for when you are sleeping or nobody’s home.
Also, have your heating and cooling equipment inspected every year, or per manufacturer recommendations. Regular maintenance such as replacing filters, checking for duct leaks, and insulating ducts can yield significant savings. Recent innovations have improved efficiency, so think about replacing HVAC units over 15 years old.
- Water Heating: About 18% of the energy used at home goes into heating the water.3 To save money, new homeowners can reduce hot water use with low-flow fixtures or by properly sizing water heaters before installation. Cost-saving options include tankless, demand-type water heaters. You can also install heat pump, storage, or indirect heaters, while solar units are also cost-efficient options.
- Lighting: Appliances, including light bulbs, consume about 11% of a home’s energy,4 while traditional incandescents give off 90% of energy as heat (lighting accounts for 5% of the average household energy budget).5 Halogen incandescent lights, compact fluorescent lamps, and light-emitting diodes use much less energy. They’re also compatible with timers, photocells, dimmers, and other lighting controls that help manage electricity usage.
- Appliances/Electronics: From kitchen to laundry appliances, to computers and home office equipment, every appliance uses electricity. You can estimate your home electronic energy usage with the Appliance Energy Calculator from Energy.gov, while the EnergyGuide Label highlights the annual energy consumption and operating cost of models, which helps make smart decisions.
- Insulation: Proper insulation and high-performance windows help reduce demand on heating and cooling systems. This can save you 20% annually on utilities.6 Insulating materials can reduce heat flow to the interior or reflect it away; the more effective (or thermal resistant) it is, the higher its R-value.
- Windows/Doors/Skylights: High-efficiency glass, coatings, and sealed frames can boost energy savings, as can caulking and weather-stripping. Doors with high energy performance ratings and polyurethane foam insulation cores provide adequate insulation. Also, consider the design, size, shape, slope, glazing, and use of skylights, all of which impact energy performance.
Investing in maintenance sooner than later can save you thousands of dollars. For example, a new furnace can cost $3,900,7 but regular maintenance can extend the life of your heating and cooling equipment by years. It can also lower your energy bills. To keep track, try to establish a seasonal maintenance schedule so your HVAC system is efficient and reliable. The following homeowner tips and tricks should be followed closely:
- Water Protection: Water-resistant materials, moisture barriers, heavy-duty membranes, and roof/wall/foundation water drainage systems prevent damage. Building materials that resist water infiltration can prevent mold and indoor-air-quality problems while helping avoid the costs of repairs. Fixing simple water leaks will save you much later. Even inspecting the roof is affordable compared to the cost of replacement.
- Gutters and Downspouts: These elements direct water away, but clogs can cause water in the basement and foundation water penetration, wood rot, and infestations by insects, rodents, and other pests. Gutters should be cleaned annually. Trimming nearby foliage can prevent leaves and branches from clogging your drainage system.
- Attic Insulation: At least six inches of insulation should be installed between beams. Any gaps will allow heat to escape or cool air to get in, straining your HVAC system and budget. If you have air sealing as well, adding insulation can save you up to $200 a year.8
- Insulate Water Pipes: Heat escapes from exposed hot water pipes as water travels to a faucet or your shower. Pipe insulation in cold locations such as the basement can prevent this.
- Cover the Water Heater: Throwing a blanket over the water heater provides insulation, so heat stays inside the unit. Cut heating costs by preventing dispersal of hot air into the basement. However, don’t cover the top, bottom, burner compartment, or the thermostat of the heater.
- Correct any Air Seal Leaks: Air leaks can literally suck the energy right out of your home—and money out of your wallet. You may not see all the cracks and seams, but a lit incense stick can reveal where air leak sources are. Sealing, caulking, and weather-stripping can cut HVAC costs by 10%.9
- Replace Air Filters: Furnace and AC filters are usually good for a while, once you begin settling into a new home. Air handling unit and window AC filters can be replaced quickly. The cost is minimal, compared to the negative effects of airflow that dirty/clogged filters have. You improve energy and reduce strain on the system as well.
- Clean the Vents: Clear away any dust near vents, and brush out dust or dirt you can see/reach inside. Air flow will be improved, and less blowing will be needed to achieve the desired comfort.
- Check for Running Toilets/Faucets: Correct any toilets that constantly run and any faucets that drip. Running water and small leaks slowly drain the coffers and increase the chances of mold.
- Mark Basement Wall Cracks: It’s not uncommon for small cracks to form when the foundation and house settle. These shouldn’t grow if things are stable. To be sure, apply masking tape to the ends of cracks; write in the date and check back in a few months. It should be obvious if the crack is growing and repairs are needed.
The neighborhood is a major factor in the value of your home. Geographical considerations such as climate, proximity to family, job opportunities, and average home prices help many homeowners choose where to live. There are many positive signs a neighborhood and its potential home values are on the way up.
Look for upscale retailers, people taking pride in improving their homes (and new home builders active in the area), people in the streets, and children playing outdoors. Low crime and how the area seems at night and on weekends are important considerations. So are walkability, public transportation access, and adequate city services, such as sanitation, police, and fire services.
As far as personal cost savings, look at these possibilities of how a new home can save you money:
- Proximity to work: A short daily commute can improve your quality of life and level of disposable income.
- Quality school district: Your child’s education and safety are affected by the quality of the schools. You’ll also save tens of thousands of dollars in private school costs if the area’s public education system is of high quality.
- Longevity: Moving frequently is a big money drain. The neighborhood should suit you for at least five to seven years, so be sure the home is big enough to support an expanding family and that your job is stable. Selling and moving may not happen as quickly as you may think, especially in seemingly up-and-coming neighborhoods that don’t meet your expectations.
Also, look to buy where homeownership is high. In general, owners tend to stick around longer than renters, and they look out for one another. The stability of the neighborhood can impact your long-term financial health, in terms of being in the home for a while.
Maximizing the Investment Benefits
All these points impact new home cost. If your primary goal is to save money, new home purchases won’t meet your expectations unless you have a plan. Investing is possible even when you are young. While home prices are on the rise, distressed sales can provide you with a bargain that’s affordable now, and will be a worthwhile investment as prices go up again.
Renting out a property can add a valuable source of income. The cash earned can be reinvested in the property. It can also be used to pay bills, reduce debts, and save.
Can’t afford to buy a house now? It’s still possible to consider investment opportunities. A Federal Housing Administration loan can enable you to buy with a down payment below the standard 20%. Such financing may also help if your credit is less than perfect.
Monitor areas where demographics are changing to see where investments may pay off in the future. In many locations, immigrants are purchasing homes, and they are expected to contribute to the nation’s housing growth over the next few years. That can mean opportunities to buy in while the prices are still low. As the demographic shifts materialize, you may find yourself with a more valuable property after just a few years.
Count on Genesis Builders Group for a New Home Purchase
Looking for a new home, to save money and to live comfortably? Genesis Builders Group can ensure you a reasonable new home cost and great location. Our community design is reinforced by the pride we take in new home design and construction, bringing entire communities and neighborhoods to life.
Homeowners across Calgary and Airdrie have successfully worked with us. We can make a difference in your life, as well, so get on the path to living your dreams, settling into a new home with your family, and having a beautiful life, by registering with us online or calling (403) 265-8079 now!