Major changes coming to new home building methods

Major changes coming to new home building methodsAcross Canada, home builders are adopting new approaches to construction to create greener homes with better resale value. One major change that’s tackling energy consumption and rising fuel costs is the use of an air-tight, solid concrete system to replace inefficient wood-framing. Insulated concrete forms (ICFs) erect a building with an interlocking system, similar to Lego.

“It’s a switch for builders, but those who have switched over tell us it’s quite easy to build with ICFs,” says Natalie Rodgers of Nudura, a leading name in the field. “Customer demand has driven this change and builders are now seeing how green construction options can have a positive impact on their business.”

The ICF system is now the number one choice of wall-building methods for “net-zero” construction projects south of the border. The term net-zero applies to buildings that are so energy efficient, they don’t tap into any public utility fuel supplies. The goal is for as many homes, schools and public buildings as possible to be designed to be net-zero. Here are some advantages of net-zero construction using ICF.

Building guide. Underscoring these proactive measures, the non-profit organization, LEED also reminds us that constructing a green home leaves a much smaller carbon footprint due to less demand on natural resources. It will create less waste and be healthier and more comfortable for the occupants.

Fuel savings. Walls built with ICFs are proven to reduce energy bills up to 60 per cent; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and reduce or eliminate exposure to mould, mildew and other indoor toxins. The net cost over time is comparable to owning a conventional home and the resale return is generally assured.

Durability. Concrete is strong. Due to high-impact resistance, these concrete walls assure maximum safety in high wind areas. Fire resistance is also reported to be maximized at four hours.

Comfort. Unlike in conventional wooded frames, air gaps are eliminated in ICF, minimizing the potential for mould growth and draft. The end result is an airtight structure enabling the mechanical systems to heat, cool and ventilate the structure more efficiently, creating a healthier living and working environment.

Responsibility. The materials are recyclable and the system is designed to create less landfill waste during the construction process. Combined with other eco-construction methods, this concrete system will significantly reduce carbon emissions by lowering the amount of fossil fuels needed for heating and cooling.

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How mortgages have changed

How mortgages have changedIf you’re like millions of Canadians, you’re busy paying down your mortgage. It could take 25 years or so, but it can be a great way to accumulate personal wealth, especially if house prices rise. However, with changes to mortgages in recent years, it’s important to understand just how they are different if you want to fully benefit from your home’s potential to build your personal wealth over the long term, rather than your debt.

Today, to finance your house most banks will offer you a readvanceable mortgage if you have a down payment of 20 per cent or more. It combines a traditional mortgage with a home equity line of credit (HELOC). There’s a big difference between these two forms of debt.

First, your mortgage debt only goes one way — down — because you must make regular payments against both the interest and the principal borrowed. This increases the equity you have in your home, meaning the difference between what you still owe and the value of your home.

But as you pay down your mortgage, a HELOC lets you borrow against your growing equity as part of your mortgage. Unlike your mortgage, you only have to make regular payments against the interest. You can ignore the principal until you sell the house. This short-term credit advantage can mean a long-term debt problem.

With flexible repayment terms, low interest rates and a credit limit that rises with your equity, a HELOC can be used to pay off other, higher-interest debt or home renovations.

But would a HELOC tempt you to use your home like an ATM? Mounting HELOC debt could put you at increased risk if you lose your job, get sick or injured, interest rates go up or your home decreases in value. If it consumes too much of your equity, you might end up owing more than your home is worth, lose your home or have to sell it to pay down your debt.

To use this borrowing tool wisely, stick to a plan to pay it off fully and avoid continually borrowing against your home equity.

Learn more online at canada.ca/it-pays-to-know.

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Buying or Selling a home? Now is a good time for both.

Buying or selling a home? Now is a good time for bothThe second busiest season for buying and selling homes is upon us, but what is it about autumn that causes an upswing in real estate activity?

According to Patricia Verge, president of the Ontario Real Estate Association, a variety of factors may be responsible for the increase in sales. “Much like spring, fall offers a great climate in which to show your home. Also, many buyers are back from summer holidays and getting back to business.”

Some of the benefits for buying a home in the fall include:

• More choices – There is a wider selection of homes available during this period so that you can visit a wide variety of open houses.

• Good weather – Mild temperatures make moving much easier. Assessing the quality of a home’s exterior is less complicated when it’s not raining or snowing.

• Tax breaks – If you purchase a home before the New Year, you can claim deductions on your 2015 taxes.

Some of the benefits for selling a home in the fall include:

• Climate – Mild temperatures and beautiful fall colours create the perfect setting for showing a home.

• More time – Come fall, people tend to settle back into routines, allowing a better dedication for the home selling process.

• Serious buyers – Most buyers want to be moved in and settled into their new home before the holidays and winter hit, so any interest you receive will generally lead to action.

Even with the increase in activity at this time of year, there really is no wrong time to list your home. According to Verge, “If you price your home appropriately and make every effort to present it in a superior way, chances are you will sell your property in a timely manner regardless of the season.”

More information is available at www.wedothehomework.ca.

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