Thursday, February 28, 2013

If I Were Building A Home Today...


By Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, February 28, 2013

Disclaimer:  I have been a real estate broker since 1982, first licensed in 1980.  I am familiar with real estate and more specifically residential homes.  So with that said…..

If I were building a home today, I would look to both the present and the future.  One never knows nor can one be certain just what tomorrow will bring.

Safe Room:  I would definitely build what is referred to as a “safe room” somewhere towards the middle of the home.  If you are in a tornado prone area, that safe room should definitely be on the ground floor or below the ground floor level.  The safe room should be big enough to accommodate the entire family and be equipped to serve your needs for up to several hours.  This room is not necessarily intended to be a safe haven from criminal activity as depicted in the movies but rather as a safe haven from severe weather alerts.  Personally I would consider some form of sliding door as compared to one on hinges as opening and closing a door on hinges could be extremely difficult during period of high winds.   The room should be equipped with storeage areas for food, water, emergency radio with extra batteries.

Built-in Safe:  If you ever had to evacuate your home you know that there are very important papers that you need and should take with you.  But what do you do if you have to evacuate in just a few minutes or seconds as in the case of a fire.  Are you prepared to grab hold of a container with those papers already in it?  You should be.  Another alternative would be to install a safe in your new home where you can store valuable papers and personal items you do not want to lose or have stolen.  The safe should be water-tight and fire resistant for obvious reasons.  The cost of such a safe would be a very small price to pay given its potential long-term benefits.

Emergency Wiring:  As long as the home is going to be wired anyway, why not ask the electrician to create a separate wiring for essential appliances and lights throughout the home that you can wire directly to an external emergency generator.  Items such as a refrigerator, freezer, specific lights throughout the home and even a place to install a window air conditioner in one or more rooms.  If you live in hot and arid areas of the country you know just how valuable having a room to cool off in is to you and your family.  It is not necessary to install a permanently installed emergency generator but it certainly wouldn’t hurt. 

External Electrical Outlets:  In standard home construction, there are never enough exterior electrical outlets.  Plan ahead for yard maintenance and/or special external lighting you may anticipate including patio areas, roofs, etc.

Solar Attic Fans:  I have one and it takes no electrical current to operate.  The price difference is negligible.  This should not be an option.  Just do it.

Exterior Water Faucets:  Again, there are rarely enough or they are not located where you need them the most.  Plan ahead.  Account for fences where you may be near a faucet but not have direct access to it.  I know this because…..

Low Voltage Garden Lighting:  Again, work with your electrician and plan head.  This is both from a beautification project as well as from a safety issue.  It is difficult for burglars to linger around your home when there is sufficient lighting around the base of your home.

Installed Lawn Sprinklers:  Consider it rather than waiting until you have everything in place to decide that you want to have sprinklers installed for your lawn and garden areas.  Much easier to install upfront rather than later on.

Whole House Surge Protection:  Often overlooked.  Plan ahead.  Have a whole-house surge protection system installed on your electrical service to help prevent damage from electrical spikes in the system.  Inexpensive but worth its weight in gold.

Home Security System:  This too is worth its weight in gold.  Such a system should include alarms on all exterior doors, motion detectors within the home, alarms on all ground floor windows if not all windows.  You might also want to consider a Panic Button located in your master bedroom and other ideal locations throughout the home.  The button should activate an exterior light on the street side of the home to alert emergency responders that it is your home where there is an issue.  Guns within the home are fine but nothing can take the place of an extremely loud interior and exterior siren to alert the neighbors and first responders that there is an issue.  No burglar or home intruder is going to want to stay around with a siren blaring in his or her ear.  Monitoring the system is not absolutely necessary but why wouldn’t you have it monitored.  The cost if very reasonable.

Doors:  You never know when you or someone you care about will need a wheelchair or scooter to move about your home.  Again, the key words are “plan ahead.”  Give serious thought to installing nothing but 36” wide doors that can accommodate such mobilization devices. 

Bathroom Vanities:  If you have never used a wheelchair or know of anyone who has you are probably not aware how difficult it is for someone bound to a wheelchair to gain access to bathroom vanities because the section directly beneath the sink is usually blocked by drain pipes and water connection.  There are vanities that take this into consideration where the center section can actually be removed without creating an eye soar where someone in a wheelchair can put their chair directly up to the sink to use it.  Give this some thought.
Walk-in Showers/Tubs:  There are now numerous bath tub/shower installations that enable someone with difficulties to use these facilities and not be hampered by the old style showers and tubs.  You may want to consider outfitting at least one bathroom in your new home with such modern and convenient features.

Shower/Bath Grab Handles:  Much easier to install such handles during construction rather than after construction.  You don’t have to have a physical problem for these to be very valuable to you or anyone using your shower/tub.

Emergency Shut Off For Gas Service:  If you have natural gas to your new home, you may want to consider having a very obvious emergency gas shut off located in a convenient spot outside your home but not so convenient where vandals could wreck havoc on it.

BBQ Gas Line To Patio:  It costs money to install and bury gas lines after the fact so again, plan ahead to determine (1) if you will be using a gas fed BBQ and (2) where will the BBQ be located.  Then have your contractor install the gas line BEFORE any concrete work is completed over the same ground.

Light Switches:  There was a builder who placed light switches through the homes he built that were easily 12 to 16 inches lower than where you would expect them to be.  His logic was that when you enter a room, at what level are your hands.  He placed the switches about belt level.  His thinking?  That is where you are hands typically are PLUS that is a height that both children and people in wheelchairs could easily use the switch.  Food for thought.


Rising Sun/Setting Sun:  Before you place your home on your building lot, determine where the sun will predominately rise and set to determine the best location for your home.  Do you want the sun to awake you?  Do you want to watch the sun set in the evening from your patio?  Once determined you also need to consider the best window coverings to either take advantage of the sun rays or to protect your home and furnishings from the sun rays.

ROOF EXIT:  After I had written and posted this Nugget, I had need to go onto the roof to retrieve a toy that somehow suddenly appeared on the roof.  For what it’s worth, I hate putting a ladder up to my roof and climbing up the ladder and then straddling the latter to get onto the roof.  Going up always seemed much easier than going down; at least for me.  If I were building a home today, I would have a door of sorts included in the roof design where I can easily gain access to my roof through the attic.  It would be much safer.  In the area I am from, Southeast Louisiana, you never know when flooding may cause you to exit your home through your roof as was evidenced during Hurricane Katrina.  Just a suggestion.

Hopefully these items will provide you with food for thought BEFORE you get to the point when you find out it is too late to include such items without incurring a heavy cost to do so.

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