18 Mar 2015

What's it got under the hood?

My Dad used to race street cars growing up in Wichita Falls, Texas in the 1950’s. Of course, he never told me about it until he thought I had outgrown my hot-rod days (guess he hasn’t seen me running late to a meeting!). He tells me that you never knew what a guy had under the hood. His black ’39 Ford looked like a normal off-the-line coupe, until all you saw were his taillights and smoke. What you couldn’t see was the ’48 Mercury V8, with milled heads and the President of the Gear Grinders Club at the wheel. As we all know – looks can be deceiving.

Buying a new or used home presents a similar problem. At first look, you know whether you like the location, architectural style and floorplan. And sure, you can verify the square footage and identify the Viking range, marble countertop and tile selections. But how does the house perform? What’s behind the walls? Is it built to last 75 years (or even outlast its mortgage)? How is its fuel economy? What’s it got under the hood?

Proving Value. One of the challenges for high-quality builders and remodelers (and companies like Davis-Hawn) is effectively communicating the extra value provided to customers. How do you effectively prove that you are better than the low priced competition; that you are really worth it in the long run? We’ve been told that “you get what you pay for”, but most folks these days seems to be suckers for (or at least really tempted by) that low sticker price. Where is the Consumer Reports for builders and remodelers? Is there an objective way to measure and market custom homebuilding quality? Or am I stuck with my neighbor’s or friend’s recommendations and just hope for the best?

Green Building’s Answer. "Building Green" - it's got a great and noble sound to it. Over the last decade, though, it has been a confusing, moving target with multiple standards (LEED, Energy Star, Green Built Texas), point systems, inspections and a vocabulary all its own. Despite the fog, buyers remain drawn to the idea for a number of reasons, like concern, guilt or fear about the environment or climate change, energy efficiency and savings, indoor air quality and health concerns. One clear benefit of the green building movement has been its focus on building science and education, and a return to quality and durability. Sapling found in Weyerehaeuser's sustainability forest

RESNET and HERS. And it may finally be of help in objectively rating the performance of homes (at least with respect to energy efficiency). In 2006, a California organization called Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) created the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index, to act much like a car’s MPG sticker, but for homes. It is now the nationally-recognized industry standard for measuring a home’s energy performance.

Build a Great House? So by determining one number – the HERS Index – a homeowner can now verify a green builder’s bona fides. You’ve heard the ads “Show me the CarFax”, well maybe you should be saying “Show me the HERS Index” when your builder starts talking about energy efficiency. Prove it! A growing number of production home builders like Meritage Homes and Pulte Homes are actively marketing the HERS Indexes of their homes. Here is the cool interactive graphic they use to explain the HERS Index. HERS Index So why wouldn’t a custom homebuilder do the same rating and marketing, to provide an objective selling point to their energy and quality conscious buyers? What a great opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition. Now is your chance to show off what a great performing house you build! Tune in to my next blog as we dive into details of the HERS Index, how it is determined, and how to find a RESNET certified rater for your homes. Until then, cheer on those Baylor Bears in March Madness and join us for BBQ Thursday!

Build to Last,

Dave Reichert and the Davis-Hawn Team


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