The housing market may have had a rough time of late, but there are still plenty of us looking to buy a new home.
Whether it is a first time or a seasoned home-buyer, it is worth remembering that purchasing a house is one of the biggest decisions one can make.
It is not just the financial aspect but also the location, size and style of the house that matter.
It can have a huge impact on the running cost and the ecological footprint of the house.
Factors that should influence a home buyer’s decision:
Location is an important factor. Consider the commuting distances and proximity of local facilities. With the rising fuel costs, it is always worth paying a little extra to live in a location where the grocery store and some of the other basic amenities are at walkable distance.
Amenities such as swimming pool, gymnasium, jogging track, club house, steam and sauna, spa, games room, movie hall and even a golf course are just some of the value-additions that the developers offer.
What constitutes a good home in the long term is a building that ensures comfort, health, well-being, convenience, resilience, safety, durability, and environmental sustainability. It should be easy on the pockets when it comes to maintenance, energy bills and costs/hassles associated with water. The additional amenities will not serve the purpose if they are not well-maintained. These also require well-paid, and trained personnel to ensure safe use.
Check if the windows are single or double-paned and the doors to feel a draft coming through around the edges. Never buy houses that are not fully day-lit or have too much direct sunlight coming into the home (in warm climates). Insist on energy efficiency measures like appropriate shading, cool roofs, high performance glazing, efficient lighting, controls etc.
The smaller your living space, less energy is needed to cool and light it. With some thoughtful, careful interior design, one can create beautiful living environments out of some surprisingly small spaces.
Smaller homes are likely to be better maintained and hence, command a higher resale value per square foot compared to large homes.
Never invest in a project that does not have a proper water management plan and seems unlikely to be prepared for drought situations.
Check if the project is harvesting the maximum rainwater possible and is treating all its waste water on-site to be reused for landscaping, flushing and external uses. Install water efficient low flow fixtures in bathrooms and kitchen. Water and energy are intrinsically linked. So, saving water saves energy as well.
A good structure should have cross ventilation and should have enough fresh air inside. Insist on fully operable windows and check if the window area is 13 per cent to 15 per cent of the floor area. Look for exhaust systems in bathrooms and kitchen. Get a list of all the paints, varnishes and adhesives to be used at home and ensure that these are free of toxic Volatile Organic Compounds.
Any residential development must allow and encourage its residents to segregate domestic wastes and turn it into a resource.
Look for projects that have separate storage area with different bins for recyclables and a separate facility for composting organic waste to create manure or biogas. The recyclables can be sold off and the organic manure can be used in the garden.
Look for a landscape plan that is natural to the surroundings, is maintainable, improves bio-diversity and cuts down on non-functional bits. Trees are good for a lot more reasons.
Space constraints should never be an excuse as there are many green roof and living wall technologies available that can help green urban buildings.
A new house should have an owner's manual to explain in plain English issues such as how to operate and maintain heating and cooling equipment, the importance of cleaning out gutters, what homeowners need to know about the various comfort features of a home, the names of products and materials used in constructing the house, and how to inspect for termites or other problems.
Any project must enable and encourage its residents to live in an environmentally responsible manner.
It is the duty of the home buyers to buy responsibly, put in a little extra effort gathering project information and demand highest performance achievable within a budget.
YUSUF TURAB (Managing Director, YT Enterprises, Coimbatore)