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Invest in Your Home Part 2: Daily Savings + Aging in Place

Invest in Your Home Part 2: Daily Savings + Aging in Place

Your home is a great source of joy. It brings you warmth + safety and allows for self-expression. For many of us,  it is also one of our most significant investments and ongoing costs in our lifetime.

By paying close attention to short-term maintenance costs and planning for the long-term potential to remain in your home, you will reap the benefits of your home even more.

Here are a few tips for how to save money every day, safeguard your home’s value, and prepare to age in place.

Do It Right: The Cost to Maintain

Most people have a mortgage, but there are also other ongoing costs associated with owning your home that you may not think about as much as your mortgage payment. These costs include such things as insurance, utility costs, and maintenance. By reducing these costs, it will save you money every month and be just as beneficial as refinancing that mortgage at a lower interest rate.

  • Schedule an energy audit: Investing in an energy audit can save you money. Many fixes can pay off in as little as two years.  Some other repairs will take longer but once the investment is paid off, it is money in the bank every month thereafter.
  • Purchase higher quality fixtures and appliances: If you have heard the expression “builder grade”,  it simply means the lowest cost option. Builders are motivated to use builder-grade fixtures and appliances because it lowers the cost per square foot of a home. Price per square foot is the primary measure that most homebuyers use to evaluate a home purchase. This might be the worst way to calculate the value of a home. To get the cost per square foot down, the quality is typically compromised. 
  • Consider your climate: The approach to home building should be largely dictated by the environment your in.  There have been many costly mistakes made by well-meaning builders who applied building techniques meant for a cold, dry climate to a hot, humid climate.  As an example, here in College Station & Bryan we avoid using wood on the exterior of our homes. It just does not endure well, nor does it hold paint well. Luckily, there are great alternatives such as fiber content that work very well for our climate.

Make It Last: Aging in Place

Seniors are staying in their homes longer, otherwise known as aging in place. The longer a person can stay out of assisted living, the better their quality of life and the more savings they will retain either for unexpected expenses. 

Staying at home allows seniors a higher level of independence, while also reducing the stress of having to relocate. As you can imagine, a sense of connection to personal space becomes heightened as we all age. Here are a few aspects of aging in place to consider in a new home or a home remolding project:

  • Remove stairs and steps: One of the first things that we notice as we age is how much more difficult stairs become.  If you can find a single-story home with very few or no steps, you will be better prepared to age in place.
  • Create the framework for an accessible bathroom: Having difficulty bathing often necessitate a move to assisted living.  Even if a person is not in a wheelchair, a roll-in shower without a curb is much easier to navigate. Also, placing blocks in the walls of showers and baths can make the installation of grab bars easier. With a little planning, using the facilities as we age can be made much safer. 
  • Prepare to install wider doors: Narrow doors, especially in bathrooms, are a barrier to wheelchairs + walkers and an impediment to aging in place.  If possible, request framing for large doors, even if a smaller door is preferred. The small door can be removed later and with a slight modification, a larger door can be installed.
  • Improve the lighting: Unfortunately, our vision degrades as we age.  Luckily, there is a lot that we can do with light to improve our ability to age in place.  Light is a very important factor in aging. When remodeling, request a lighting study for each room. Contrast is also a big factor in assisting aging vision and is particularly important in kitchen remodels. When countertops are of a hue that contrasts with the flooring, orientation, and vision are greatly aided.

Your home is more than just where you eat and sleep. It is also a significant investment. With just a little care, that investment can be wisely managed + maximized and bring you joy for a lifetime.

Invest in Your Home    Part 1: Protecting + Growing Your Asset

Invest in Your Home Part 1: Protecting + Growing Your Asset

For many people, buying a home is the biggest investment in their lifetime. Although, very few people think of their home that way, which can be a costly mistake.

A home is an investment as well as many other things, including a sanctuary and an expression of who you are.  We encourage you to keep those priorities front and center as they bring meaning and happiness to your life.

Luckily, these purposes are not mutually exclusive. You can have a home that is a safe + comfortable refuge, an expression of your unique identity, and a well-maintained investment.

While tending to the investment variable in this value equation involves some straightforward strategies. To do so, it is first helpful to separate the investment in your home into three broad categories.

See below for tips on how to keep your home as a viable asset.

Fix-It First: Protecting Your Home Asset

Your home is like your car and many other physical assets; the more you care for it, the better it will care for you.  To take the best care of your home, it will require planning, diligence, and for most of us, outside help. Here are some suggestions for healthy home care:

  • Regularly scheduled mechanical maintenance: Having your air conditioning and heater serviced twice a year will reduce utility bills, increase the life of your equipment, and avoid the frustration unexpected failures. It is also important to change your filters.
  • Fixing things in a timely manner: Letting problems linger can lead to further damage.  
  • Check the envelope(outside surfaces) of your house twice a year:  This is where unattended repairs can lead to LARGE costs. 

Don’t wait until…

  • You are getting water in your home to fix your roof.
  • Rot has reached the frame of your house to have the wood replaced.
  • The paint has peeled to paint your home. 

Make It Work: Home Remodeling

Home remodeling returns an increasing value with age.  Here is a good resource for the return on investment for home remodeling projects. Here are some guidelines to help get the most out of your remodeling investments:

  •  Pay attention to design: A poorly designed addition that looks like an add-on rather than an integrated part of the home could devalue a home asset.  Make sure that the new space is wisely configured to complement the existing floorplan, creating flow and continuity.
  •  Mind your budget: If your budget is too tight to get what you want, consider waiting until you can afford to do it right. Cutting corners to fit a budget is the best way to create long-lasting regrets. This does not mean that you need to get every desire in your remodel or that you should be overly extravagant.  Instead, make sure that you don’t have to make too many sacrifices, which could result in you being unhappy with the finished product.
  •  Avoid trendy design: This is harder to do than it sounds.  Home design tends to be very trendy. Colors, countertops, and floor coverings are fashion elements that change with each season. Imagine walking into your remodeled home 10 years from now. Will it seem classic or dated?  To keep your home classic, consider reflecting today’s trends in easily changed elements, such as paint colors. Try to use natural materials whenever possible: carpet fashion changes over time but hardwood stays stylish. Artificial countertop materials have come and gone but granite has remained a solid choice.
  • Hire quality professionals: Quality remodeling professionals will be able to help you articulate and achieve your goals.  You don’t want to go with the lowest bid because most of the savings will come at the cost of quality and durability, both of which will diminish your home investment.

Take preventative measures to protect your assets and get a remodeling job done by professionals. It may feel difficult at the time, but you will reap the benefits of your decisions for years to come.

COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS: VALUE IN NEW HOMES

COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS: VALUE IN NEW HOMES

For many years, new home buyers and builders have operated on the equation of price per square foot, which assumes that the lower the price per square foot =  higher the value.

We’re here to say that this could not be further from the truth. 

Although the price per square foot can be useful in learning about the general value of real estate in a particular area, it is a less than desirable ACTUAL indicator of a home’s actual value.

Unfortunately, this equation has led to builders delivering on-demand, which results in low- grade homes. Products that are essentially substandard are being used during the buildout- including windows, doors, siding, cabinets, and flooring.

As you can imagine, these problems are incredibly frustrating for homeowners and result in an increased cost across the board. 

  • Utilities
  • Maintenance
  • Replacements 

Did you know that there are 2,500+ UNIQUE ITEMS that make up an average home?

When these items are engineered to create the “builder grade” standard, they are intended to keep the price per square foot as low as possible. Therefore, the quality is substandard. Typically, these materials last about the same amount of time as a builder’s warranty.

Many builders hire the most cost-efficient contract labor & pressure them to complete and finish in the shortest time possible in order to achieve the lowest price per square foot. Simultaneously, the contractor cuts as many corners as possible. 

On that note, the most detrimental place to reduce the cost per square foot is in design.

Intentionally, the first place one would notice this is in the size of the house. One way to reduce the price per square foot is through the economy of scale, which means adding more square feet.

A well-designed home can reduce as much as 20% of the square footage and still fulfill the desired space.

Typically, a new home buyer will have many choices when choosing a floor plan and they typically pick their favorite one. This approach disregards orientation + site conditions, which invariably leads to added utility costs, loss of aesthetics and sometimes drainage issues that can lead to expensive repairs down the line.

Choosing a stock floor plan means that a family will be adapting to a plan rather than adapting a plan to the family. 

Predictably, a complete custom home will add cost in some areas but it will also create an advantageous opportunity to reduce costs in other areas. This will not fit every budget but it is less expensive in the long run.

Now, for some good news!  — Give us a call, our expert team will help you design and build the perfect house for YOU!

Green Building: Exploring the Timeline

Green Building: Exploring the Timeline

As we all know, green building has really taken shape and increased in popularity in the last few decades. Many choose to build green as a quality of life choice: to ultimately preserve our earth’s natural resources while reducing negative impacts on our environment. 

But WHEN did green building begin? While there are numerous definitions and concepts of green building these days, it’s interesting to examine when this design and idea originated in history.

The earliest recorded relationship between habitat and human health traces back to the Middle Pleistocene, which was around 126,000 years ago. There is evidence of microcharcoal and soot from indoor cave smoke which implies that humans were impacted by control of fire in the indoor environment and the environment generally. These are some of the earliest known examples of the unanticipated and sometimes ill-favored consequences of altering our environment, including the built environment.

Of course, these challenges continued to grow as our human population increased, thus resulting in more energy and resources required for sustenance and economic activity. 

The modern era of green building began in the 1960’s shortly after we began pumping conditioned air into our homes. Perhaps, the advent of air conditioning is what allowed us to separate architectural thoughts from those of the environment.

When I was 16, I took a short course at Northern Arizona University on sustainable building. These were the early days before the term “Green Building” was essentially born. Most of the energy-saving concepts required abandoning modern conveniences. At this point in time, green building was not quite ready for public consumption. 

Three years later, I helped build a house in Travis County that employed 6” exterior walls for increased insulation and had manufactured solar hot water. This is when I truly started to see the new ideas of sustainable building reveal and show up in the residential housing market.  Finally, in 1993, the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) was formed. A year later they came out with their first version of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system came into existence.

Green building focuses on five key areas:

  • Sustainable site development
  • Water savings
  • Energy efficiency
  • Materials selection
  • Indoor environmental quality

Throughout the years, the ideas and techniques +  materials of green building have slowly made their way into the mainstream of homebuilding. Despite an increase in size, the average new American home consumes more than 30% less energy than it did in 1980!

Ten years ago, a home that was considered green, wouldn’t even pass code inspection today. Universally, the overall education + advancement of green building has significantly increased and continues to advance in leaps and bounds.  

Stearns Design Build built the first net-metered solar home in Brazos County in 2007.

Did you know that all of our remodeling projects start with an energy assessment?

Not only do we want to ensure that our company is a leader in the best practices of green building, but also we want to increase the return on investment of your home. Not to mention we’re aiding in conserving our earth’s natural resources. 

Part of our mission is to improve the quality of building stock in Bryan and College Station.  This primarily involves improving energy efficiency and indoor air quality. This includes things such as high-grade materials that are more durable and reducing air leaks. In addition, we use low toxicity materials well suited for our environment and we are strategic about the placement of windows for energy efficiency.

The Guide to Kitchen Lighting

The Guide to Kitchen Lighting

Many say that the kitchen is the heart of the home. Not only is it space where meals are created- it’s where friends, families and loved ones meet to nourish their bodies and discuss their days.

Now, imagine the value of the kitchen if you were to remodel it. Whether your budget range is small or large, or you’re replacing the backsplash or gutting the whole kitchen; these immediate changes can make a dynamic impact.

Let’s chat about the subject of lighting. As the kitchen is the hub of the home, it’s surprising that lighting becomes such an afterthought when remodeling the space. We’ve found that lighting is one of the most frequently ignored design features! In actuality, lighting should be an integral and focused design piece. Lighting is an essential part of the remodeling process, as it adds layers, depth, and function to a kitchen. 

Join us as we take an ILLUMINATED journey through the layers of lighting possibilities for your kitchen. 

For now, let’s take into three primary types of lighting: 

  • Ambient
  • Task
  • Accent

Good lighting design is a dance between science, engineering, and art.  While there is no right way to light a kitchen, there are many ineffective ways to go about it.  There is an interplay between light and finishes that sets an ambiance that is as unique as each individual person.

Ambient Lighting – Base Lighting

As indicated by the name, this is the general lighting in a room. 

Ambient lighting fixtures include:

  • Chandeliers
  • Track Lighting
  • Pendant Lights 
  • Ceiling Lights

Many kitchens and most other rooms are often designed with only ambient light.  When one relies only on ambient light, sometimes space can appear dull or dark. Think of ambient lighting as the base lighting of your home.

Task Lighting – The 2nd Layer

Task lighting is for….You guessed it, specific tasks. When your using a sharp knife in the kitchen, added light is needed so you can avoid accidents.  

Task lighting fixtures include:

  • Under the countertop lights
  • Vent hood lighting 
  • Ceiling light over a sink

Most vent hoods will provide task lighting for the cooktop. Careful placement of ceiling lights can provide task lighting in their immediate downcast. 

Note: A common mistake is to place lights too far back from the work area causing a shadow.

Lighting placed under the upper cabinets can contribute to task lighting on the countertop.  You will like your kitchen much more if you can see what you are doing as you cook and clean.  It is important to know that we need a great deal more light as we age. It is estimated that a 60-year-old needs three times more light than a 20-year-old does.

Accent Lighting – 3rd Layer

Get CREATIVE! Accent lighting sets the atmosphere and mood in a room.  It can also highlight certain features in your kitchen or conceal unpleasant design elements. 

Accent lighting fixtures include:

  • Wall sconces
  • Can lights & uplights
  • Ceiling lights
  • Inside cabinet lights

Accent lighting can be provided by placing lights above, in, or under cabinets. It can be lighting directed onto a piece of artwork.

Natural Lighting

Of course, the ideal light is natural.  It requires its own considerations such as direction and shading. An unobstructed eastern or western window can cause unwanted glare in the morning or afternoon respectively. Here in the Brazos Valley, that can lead to excessive heat gain.

People love skylights and solar tubes, however, they can provide excessive heat gain. While placing them on north sloping roofs will help some, the reduction of heat is not great.

 Remodeling is a great time to consider enlarging or adding well-placed windows in the kitchen. This often means eliminating some upper cabinets. While getting rid of cabinet space is never a desired outcome the reward can be worth it. Upper cabinets are shallow and don’t provide a great deal of storage so that lost storage can often be picked up elsewhere.  Large windows that connect the kitchen to the great outdoors can make the space much more cheerful.

 Now that you have enlarged or added a window, you want to be mindful of what you place outside that window.  Let your windows frame a beautiful setting. A bird feeder can provide wonder to the drudgery of washing the dishes. A flowering bush can perfume the air that comes in through that window when opened.

Lastly, don’t let the final decisions and the multitude of options overwhelm you! Your way is the best way and we’d love to offer our guidance + expertise to help you along the way.  Take a look at one of our recent kitchen remodels.

 If you’re ready to dive in now, schedule a meeting with us today! We’d love to help you begin the process of upgrading your kitchen-  the sacred and most lived-in space of your home. Thanks for reading!