Illinois-Brick

Building Codes: What You Should Know

Building Codes: What You Should Know

Written by the National Association of Home Builders

If you are shopping for a new home, how can you be sure that it was built so that it does not cause health or safety problems for the members of your household?

The answer can be given in two words: building codes.

A building code sets forth requirements to protect public health, safety and general welfare as they relate to construction and the occupancy of a building. These codes include specific requirements for building materials, fire protection, structural design, light and ventilation, heating and cooling, sanitary facilities and energy conservation.

There is no national building code enforced by the federal government. Different areas of the country have different construction methods; the techniques used to build houses in a cold climate will be different than those used in a warm climate. Most construction in the United States is regulated at the local level. Only a few municipalities (mostly major cities) write and revise their own codes. Some states have mandatory statewide building codes.

Building homes is a complicated process, so building codes are often long and complicated. To prevent each local jurisdiction from having to develop its own complicated codes from scratch, there are several major model code organizations that draft codes that local areas can adopt.

The local area has total authority for adoption and enforcement. It may adopt a model code as is, adopt only specific portions, or add some of its own changes.

Code writing is a dynamic process, involving constant interaction between the public and private sectors of the construction industry. Federal, state and local governments and individuals involved in code writing and revision represent the views of labor, management, manufacturers and trade associations, contributing much time and technical expertise to the process.

Building codes do not deal with issues such as the quality of the workmanship and materials. Consumers are protected in these areas through their warranties.

For instance, if a building code inspector is examining a home and sees a gouge in a kitchen floor or countertop, that would not be an item affecting health or safety, and as such would not be covered by a building code. However, it would be covered in the warranty on workmanship and materials.

 

Illinois-Brick

Before You Move In: The New Home Walk-Through

Before You Move In: The New Home Walk-Through

Written by National Association of Home Builders

Before you go to settlement on your purchase of a newly constructed home, you and your builder will do a walk-through to conduct a final inspection.

This walk-through provides an opportunity to spot items which may need to be corrected or adjusted, learn about the way your new home works and ask questions about anything you don’t understand.

Often, a builder will use the walk-through to educate buyers about:

  • The operation of the house’s components.
  • The buyer’s responsibilities for maintenance and upkeep.
  • Warranty coverage and procedures.
  • The larger community in which the home is located.

Operation of Home Components

When you buy a new appliance or piece of equipment, such as a printer or a washing machine, you usually have to read the instructions before you understand how to use all of the features. With a new house, you will receive a stack of instruction booklets all at once. It helps if someone takes the time to show you how to operate all of the kitchen appliances, heating and cooling systems, water heater and other features. Such an orientation is particularly useful because people often are so busy during a move that they have trouble finding time to carefully read instruction booklets.

Maintenance Responsibilities

Part of your walk-through will be learning about maintenance and upkeep responsibilities. Most new homes come with a one-year warranty on workmanship and materials. However, such warranties do not cover problems that develop because of failure to perform required maintenance. Many builders provide a booklet explaining common upkeep responsibilities of new home owners and how to perform them.

Should a warranted problem arise after you move in, the builder is likely to have a set of warranty service procedures to follow. Except in emergencies, requests for service should be in writing. This helps to ensure that everyone clearly understands the service to be performed.

Builder Visits During the Year

Many builders schedule two visits during the first year — one near the beginning and the other near the end — to make necessary adjustments and to perform work of a non-emergency nature. Don’t expect a builder to rush out immediately for a problem such as a nail pop in your drywall. Such problems occur because of the natural settling of the house and are best addressed in one visit near the end of the first year.

Your Inspection Checklist

Create a checklist when inspecting the house. The list should include everything that needs attention, and you and your builder should agree to a timetable for repairs. Builders prefer to remedy problems before you move in because it is easier to work in an empty house. Some items may have to be corrected after move-in. For instance, if your walk-through is in the winter, your builder may have to delay landscaping adjustments until spring.

It is important that you be thorough and observant during the walk-through. Examine all surfaces of counters, fixtures, floors and walls for possible damage carefully. Sometimes disputes arise because a buyer may discover a gouge in a counter top after move-in, and there is no way to prove whether it was caused by the builder’s workers or the buyer’s movers. Many builders ask their buyers to sign a form at the walk-through stating that all surfaces have been inspected and that there is no damage other than what has been noted on the walk-through checklist.

Ask a lot of questions during the walk-through and take notes on the answers. Don’t worry about asking too many questions. That is how you learn. It is important to view the walk-through as a positive learning experience that will enhance the enjoyment of your new home.

 

 

 

Illinois-Brick

Advice on Financing Your First Home

Advice on Financing Your First Home

Written by NAHB

Buying your first house is very exciting. But financing your home purchase can be a daunting experience. In both cases, do your research and shop carefully to ensure you find exactly what you want and need.

Deciding how much to spend on your home and which type of mortgage will work best for you — as well as understanding the settlement process — can be confusing. However, there are many sources that can help you get prepared well before you step foot into a sales office, model home or open house.

  • Get familiar with the lingo. NAHB’s Home Buyer’s Dictionary can help you.
  • Figure out what you can actually afford to pay on a monthly basis. Remember that, in addition to the monthly principal and interest, you will also pay into escrows for property taxes, hazard insurance and possibly a home owners’ or condominium association assessment. You have more knowledge about your living expenses than a lender. Hold firm with that number and don’t be tempted to agree to an amount higher than what you are comfortable spending. Mortgage calculators are a great way to figure out what your monthly payments would be based on interest rates and down payment amounts. Calculators can be found on most real-estate-focused websites.
  • Pay down your debts. Credit card debt limits what you qualify for from a lender. Lenders want to see a total debt service ratio that is less than 40% of your monthly income.
  • Attend a first-time home buying seminar or talk to a credit counselor who does not work for a lender. You can research your options without being influenced by someone who has a financial interest in the home or loan you choose. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers free housing counseling and seminars.
  • Check out government resources. HUD also has a helpful web page, Common Questions from First-time Homebuyers, which provides additional resources for first-time buyers, including special financing options and HUD programs.
  • Select your lender and get pre-approved. When you have done your research and are ready to move on to the next step, visit a lender, understand the loan choices that would be available to you, and, once you’ve determined the most suitable loan, get pre-approved for that loan. Since you will already know how much money you can borrow, you will know what price range you should look at and can move quickly if you are bidding on a house that has several interested buyers. A lender’s pre-approval would still be subject to a final verification of your credit and a satisfactory appraisal, but it’s a big step toward becoming a home owner.