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Things To Consider When Building a Home

Getting started

Getting started

Unless you have extensive experience in home building and a lot of cash, you’ll be hiring a builder to construct your new home and you’ll need to obtain a construction loan. Identify a professional contractor and a reputable construction lender, both agreeing to your project details, your time line and all home specifications and you’ll have the home of your dreams.

Formulate a plan and execute it

Formulate a plan and execute it

If you’ve never contracted with a builder before, the prospect of working through the process can be very intimidating. Custom homes require you to work through many details and make many decisions. If you’ve done your homework, building your custom home is very satisfying. From landscaping to rooftop, the work of art and labor of love will be yours.

Pulling your team together

Pulling your team together

Make sure your home builder and lender are reputable. Ask for references, check to make sure they are properly licensed and review their ratings online with sites like the BBB and state division of professional registration. A good rule of thumb is ensuring your builder and lender have been in business for a minimum of 5 years. Better Business Bureau:

Verify proper insurance and bonding

Verify proper insurance and bonding

Make sure your builder has sufficient worker’s compensation and general liability insurance. If not, you may be liable for any construction-related accidents on your premises. Most builders are bonded. Before work commences on your site, verify their coverage, or get permission to obtain verification of coverage directly from the builder’s insurance agent.

Review your contract and warranty and seek advice

Review your contract and warranty and seek advice

Make sure your builder provides a complete and clearly written contract. The contract will benefit both of you. Ask in advance to review your home warranty to verify all warranty coverage you’ll have upon completion. Consider hiring a real estate attorney to review your contract, and an engineer/project manager to oversee your construction project. An experienced representative can spot and deal with problems as the home is built.

Require a final walk-through prior to final disbursement of funds

Schedule a final walk-through before final payment

Make sure your builder and lender agree that the final disbursement to the builder will occur when the home is 100% complete, is move-in ready and you’ve conducted a satisfactory walk-thru. All components of the home must be working correctly. A “punch-list” to correct deficiencies must be in writing. Work should be completed within 30 days of the walk-thru.

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Emerging Products: Solar Roof Tiles from Tesla


Solar Roof Tiles from Tesla Could Make Your Roof the Star of the Neighborhood

by Michele Lerner

Laughter rang out last year when Tesla CEO Elon Musk introduced Tesla Solar Tiles at the press conference by saying, "You’ll want to call your neighbors over and say ‘check out the sweet roof.’ It’s not a phrase you hear often."

It’s true that your roof is pretty much the last thing to generate a lot of excitement, but Tesla has a way of infusing energy and interest in nearly everything the company does. After Tesla shareholders approved the acquisition of SolarCity last year, Musk almost immediately showcased the new solar roof tiles.

What makes these tiles different from other solar products is that they resemble other roof tiles so closely that from the ground, the vantage point from which most people view a roof, the tiles are indistinguishable from standard tiles. Tesla introduced four versions of the tiles: Tuscan Glass Tiles, Slate Glass Tiles, Textured Glass Tiles and Smooth Glass Tiles.

Unlike solar roof panels that are installed on top of your roof, these solar tiles are both the roof and the solar panel. This makes them easier to install when you’re building a new home. If you want to install them on an existing home, you’ll need to remove the current roof entirely before replacing it with Tesla Solar Tiles.

In addition to touting the looks of these new solar tiles, Musk made news by proclaiming that installing a roof made of the solar shingles would actually cost less than installing a traditional tile roof. If true, this would be a huge breakthrough, since price has been a big obstacle for people when it comes to installing a solar tile roof in the past.

Musk’s reasoning is that the textured glass tiles are significantly lighter than other roof tiles and therefore will cost much less to transport. Tesla estimates that the tiles weigh as little as one-fifth as much as traditional tiles and are less likely to break, which saves more money since you need to buy fewer tiles.

Cost Estimates of Tesla Solar Roof

Several green building experts and consumer-oriented sites have attempted to prove or disprove the claim that a Tesla Solar Roof would be less costly than a traditional roof, but because exact pricing has yet to be announced, price comparisons are based on educated guesses. One aspect some critics were quick to point out is that the majority of roofs are made of asphalt shingles, which are about 20 times less costly than a terra cotta or slate tile roof, the materials the Tesla roof imitates. So while a Tesla roof may be less expensive than a real terra cotta or slate roof, it’s not likely to cost less than an asphalt roof.

Consumer Reports estimates that a Tesla Solar Roof would cost between $70,000 and $100,000, based on the price guidelines provided by Tesla. A standard asphalt roof replacement, according to Consumer Reports, costs between $8,000 and $16,000. The range of prices depends on the size of the roof and the location. Labor costs are a big part of the expense, which makes it even harder to estimate the cost of installing a Tesla roof since it’s possible that a specially trained contractor will be required.

An exact delivery date for the solar roof tiles has yet to be announced, but some Tesla-watchers think the earliest possible date would be in mid-2018.

If you want to go green with your roof, an expanding range of products are available, including sustainable roof materials. Consult a roofing expert in your area with experience working with solar and sustainable roofs to determine what would work best for your home and your budget.

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Expert Advice

Building a Home

by Barbara Ballinger & Margaret Crane

Expert Advice

Plan smartly from the ground up

What better way to satisfy the American dream than to build your own home. And in doing so you can meet the criteria for today’s fast-changing lifestyles, new definitions of family that fuel the desire for different floor plans, technological advancements that require special features, and a wish to save the planet by using new, more efficient energy sources and sustainable materials and systems.

Besides picking the best builder, developer, architect, or contractor, take time to be sure you cover these 3 steps that will help guarantee your top-notch results:

#1. Get a detailed contract that is specific to your needs, rather than a boiler-plate document culled from the internet. Many professional groups such as The American Institute of Architects have established contract forms that can be enhanced, says Chicago architect Allan J. Grant.

What belongs in most agreements? Everything (including the kitchen sink) from starting to estimated completion dates, materials, best practices such as daily time of arrival and departure, frequency of trash removal, a method to resolve problems, and payment schedule.

In fact, David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law in New York, says, "One of the most important contract provisions is the one that links your payments to the completion of different stages of the work: demolition; open wall work (plumbing, wiring. etc.); closed wall work (drywall, cabinetry, etc.); and finish work (painting, flooring, etc.)." You may be wise to have an attorney eyeball the contract before you sign.

#2. Learn to read a floor plan. Before the project gets too far underway, learn to read symbols on blueprint and elevation drawings that indicate what will be built. You can also check out a tutorial on YouTube. Many architectural glossaries online will also help you become better educated. "I don't expect clients to know how to read drawings, but it's a bonus if they show interest in learning," Grant says. "It's easier and less expensive to make changes in the drawing stage than during building--or rebuilding."

#3. Familiarize yourself with materials, appliances, and other options. So many choices abound. A builder may favor custom cabinets because of more detailed workmanship and better materials, but stock items may better fit your budget. An appliance salesman may recommend an induction cooktop when you've been happy with gas. And your friends may tell you that granite is so passé, and you must consider quartzite. "What's that?" you wonder. Understand differences in style, price, durability, and greenness. Grant likes to accompany clients to showrooms to weigh choices. "Appliance selections impact the layout; if we go with a 27" or 48" refrigerator, for example," he says.

Building a house means becoming part of a team. Put in your time, due diligence, and you'll reap the best results.

Share your building ideas with us.

Barbara Ballinger

Barbara Ballinger is a professional writer, author, blogger and speaker who has long focused on real estate, design, and personal finance. She has co-authored many books, including Successful Homebuilding and Remodeling, The Kitchen Bible: Designing the perfect culinary space, and The Garden Bible: Designing the perfect outdoor space. She regularly contributes to the National Association of Realtors® Website and magazine.

Margaret Crane

Margaret Crane is a nationally known freelance writer, blogger and journalist who has co-authored with Barbara Ballinger several books and articles on real estate, design and family business. Her byline has appeared in Realtor® magazine. With more than a half-dozen titles to her credit, Margaret’s latest design book is The Kitchen Bible: Designing the perfect culinary space.


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