On the long list of things homebuyers have to consider, right alongside location, schools, taxes, shopping, and other amenities, choosing whether to buy an older home versus a new build can often be a tough choice. While purchasing a resale home may save you money up front, there are long-term financial advantages to purchasing a newer home, along with other perks you may not have considered.
From energy efficiency improvements and safety upgrades, these reasons may have you thinking twice about going the resale route.
Air Conditioning: One of the biggest recent changes required of newer homes is the requirement that air conditioners meet a higher energy efficiency standard. Prior to 2006, the minimum was 10 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) and increased in 2015 to 14 SEER, which resulted in about a 40 percent increase in efficiency; in other words, it should cost about 40 percent less to cool your home with a newer system. Now more than ever, there are a variety of choices for energy efficient HVAC systems, including higher SEER ratings and high-efficiency heating systems, that can save up to 15 percent or more on gas use. Additional financial incentives to select higher efficiency cooling and heating units include a federal tax credit and frequent rebates from the HVAC manufacturers and local utility companies.
Insulation: Recently approved Georgia energy codes now require better insulation, particularly in the northern areas of Atlanta and in north Georgia. Insulation materials such as cellulose (recycled newsprint) and spray foam materials have grown in popularity and are a great option for both savings and reduced installation costs.
Air Leakage: More recent state energy code requirements include stricter standards pertaining to air infiltration sealants. These sealants are now installed at the framing stage of construction to fully seal smaller openings in the exterior walls between studs and floors, and at wall penetrations. This change helps to eliminate energy loss at multiple locations around the home that accounted for up to 30 percent energy loss in older homes.
Blower Door Tests: Georgia now requires the builder to pass a test that measures the amount of air leakage in exterior walls to confirm exterior walls were properly sealed during the framing stage of construction. Because air leakage can account for up to a 20-30 percent increase in cooling and heating costs, this newer requirement is important in measuring a home’s efficiency.
Better Windows: Newer standards on window performance have made a big difference in maintaining an energy-efficient home. In 2003, building codes began requiring the use of Low-E glass, which was a big improvement in reducing heat gain through the window glass which helps to reduce air conditioning loads.
Spray Foam Insulation: Many new home builders are changing to spray foam insulation instead of traditional insulation materials such as fiberglass or cellulose. Spray foam insulation makes it easier to fill wall and ceiling cavities, creating a tighter barrier to air leakage, and ultimately better energy efficiency for the home or building.
Tankless Water Heaters: Because water heating accounts for about 20 percent of your home’s energy bill, tankless water heaters can be a good way to save energy and make your home more energy efficient. Natural gas is expected to surpass electric costs in the future, making this type of water heating more desirable.
Radiant Roof Decking: A growing trend in new construction is to use a foil-based, radiant barrier roof decking (such as LP TechShield) instead of regular oriented strand board (OSB) or plywood. Radiant barrier roofs contain a foil covering on the interior side of the roof that can reduce the attic heat by over 30-40 degrees; this type of roof construction can make the attic significantly cooler and the entire home more energy efficient. This is particularly beneficial when the attic contains HVAC equipment and ducting or storage areas that adjoin the attic.
Electrical Outlets: Tamper resistant outlets have been required since 2008 for newer homes or ones that have been remodeled. This important child safety feature prevents children from getting shocked if a foreign object is inserted into the electrical outlet.
Carbon Monoxide Detectors: In Georgia, carbon monoxide detectors have been required in newer homes or additions since 2009. This important device has been credited with saving lives and should be installed inside every home, regardless of age.
AFCI Protection: Arc Fault Circuit Interrupt (AFCI) protection at the panel box is now required for additional fire safety. AFCI breakers protect the home from arc faults, which can cause an electrical fire. Required for bedrooms beginning in 2001, these breakers are now required for multiple circuits throughout the home, giving newer homes another layer of fire safety.
GFCI Protection: Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt outlets and circuit breakers protect home occupants from shock and possible electrocution in wet areas of the home such as sinks, tubs, and the exterior. GFCI protection has been required, in various forms, since the 1970's, but many older homes do not meet the minimum safety standard for GFCI protection at these “wet” locations. Newer construction homes now have many more locations that require protection including combination GFCI/AFCI for specific circuits in the home for an even greater level of safety.
Fire Safety: The newest requirement for hard wired smoke detectors are for additional detectors to be located within bedrooms. In addition, fire retardants are now used in carpeting, insulation and other materials to create a more fire-safe home.
Green Building: Newer homes often employ “green” building practices and materials, such as using sustainable materials for siding, decking, floor covering and interior finishes. Higher efficiency appliances and low VOC paints and sealants also help make the home more environmentally friendly.
Smart Home Applications: Many new homes have newer technologies, including smart home applications and smart thermostats. These new features give the homeowner on-demand access to various systems throughout the home, including climate control, home security, lighting and more.
Warranties: Most new homes come with a builder’s warranty that takes care of issues concerning the construction of the home. Builder warranties are most often for a one year period, with many builders offering a longer warranty period for the structure.
Customization: Many builders offer the buyer a chance at some level of customization, including design options and other changes.
Buyer’s Incentives: Builders often have incentives such as special financing, free appliances, or other incentives to generate interest and sales. These can total several thousands of dollars in savings for the buyer.
Frank Cooper, the general manager of Atlanta Property Inspections, has been consulting with Atlanta area home buyers for over 25 years, and has conducted over 18,000 Certified Home Inspections in Metro Atlanta. Cooper has been a professional member of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) since 1995, and has served on the ASHI Georgia board of directors for over six years. Mr. Cooper also served as President of ASHI Georgia from 2008 – 2010.