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Building Big Cheap

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A few years back, before the housing bubble burst, everyone was building bigger and more beautiful homes that had all the bells and whistles they could imagine. These McMansions were all the rage and it seemed that there wasn’t anything that a builder wasn’t able to provide to the new home owners. But as we all know, the bubble did burst, money is short, but people still want their castle on the hill. Home builders have met the challenge with what they are calling value engineering, inexpensive houses that do not appear to be inexpensive and still have most of the extras that have since become necessities for most families.

The designers and builders have achieved this by developing new designs and floor plans that give the perception of spaciousness yet are in fact smaller. By using the latest in finishing materials, where they have the most impact and economizing in other areas, they are able to deliver a compromise that many are willing to accept and invest in.

When the market took its fall and the demand for new homes decreased from its height in 2005 builders knew they had to come up with a strategy to save their industry from stagnation. They tasked the designers and architects with a very difficult mission; they had to cut costs but not a home’s perceived value. They had to keep building homes with all the bells and whistles that home owners had become accustomed to, and cut costs everywhere else possible while still meeting the building codes.

Many new home builders have met this latest challenge and new home sales orders are on the rise for the first time since 2005. All of this has been achieved through the use of innovative designs and materials. Many high-profile materials are still being used such as granite counter tops, high tech IT, security and data systems along with robust modern appliances, but other features have been reinvented. Large over head beams may actually be foam, traditional fireplaces have been replaced with gas burning ones, fancy picture windows that used to open and close may now be a fixed pain. But the homes look good, meet building codes and standards, and list for around $200,000.

A lot of this innovation has been achieved through thorough research and evaluation of what home owners have come to expect. The new designs are tailored to specific regions or cities and meet local needs with a clear-cut mix of cutbacks and extras designed to meet local trends and demand. One approach that has helped builders save thousands of dollars is to only use designs that utilize standard lumber lengths which makes a home easy to build and generates much less waste. Others are not as straight forward.

For people who are shopping for one of these new breed of homes they do need to check everything very carefully. Although a home may meet the local building codes and be up to standard, some of the cost cutting measures may have yielded undesired results.

The Builders Slight Of Hand

The concept of value engineering is hardly a new innovation but in the past form followed function and that is not always the case in today’s modern world. New home owners are very concerned with how their new property is perceived and this is now achieved with “smoke and mirrors”.

Homes are placed on smaller lots to not only save on the purchase of land, but to also save the builders on the costs of infrastructure. By placing a home on a smaller lot, and setting it close to the property line they are able to economize on landscaping, installation of expensive services such as electric and water and sewer and also on the cost of shorter and narrower driveways.

Home designs are becoming a bit more retro or traditional and uniform in shape, and we are seeing many more two-story homes as opposed to the sprawling split level homes of the past couple of decades. The new designs also provide sufficient curb appeal through creative use of paint, false beams and embellishments, along with the latest in facades and finishes. 

If you are thinking of buying one of these new value engineered homes you need to know that although you are saving on the purchase price you may incur some costs later or lack some of the previous comforts you enjoyed. The first important factor to consider is that possibly a smaller lot costs less, but when you go to sell, most likely when the economy has rebounded, will your property be as attractive to buyers as one that is larger. Another consideration is that many of the new building products do not have the same lifespan as the old traditional ones, and some of the down-sizing may also become an issue once your family has moved in.

In This New Age Of Value Engineering Is Less More? Not Always.

One concept that many designers and new home buyers have been embracing to cut costs is open floor plans that have less walls and more fixed pane windows. Another popular substitute as we mention above are gas fireplaces instead of traditional wood ones. All of these concepts save thousands of dollars but they all have some drawback. Fewer walls mean fewer rooms. No longer are we seeing dedicated dining rooms or living rooms. Many kitchens are left open to the living areas and fixed pane windows means more light, but less fresh air. Gas fireplaces are clean, efficient and contribute a lot to the ambiance of a house, but they do not generate heat like the traditional ones of the past. If a homeowner lives in a local with harsh winters they may need to consider the fact that if there furnace goes out they will have no back-up heat source to generate heat and keep the house warm, and possibly prevent the pipes from freezing,too.

The census bureau published a report that shows that between the years 2007 and 2009 the average size of American homes dropped ten percent. Homes no longer have impressive entryways with high ceilings, family media and entertainment rooms, formal dining areas and immense living rooms. Homes have been downsized to meet family budgets but so have the activities and enjoyment that people once got from their homes.

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