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Sacrifice-Free Affordability

Builders, do you want to increase the number of potential buyers for your homes?

Buyers, would you like a more affordable home?

Since June is the Department of Housing and Urban Development's National Homeownership Month, PATH is highlighting resources that can make homes more affordable by lowering up-front costs and decreasing operating costs. Whether you are a builder or a prospective buyer, you won't have to make sacrifices while building a home for a smaller budget.

Frost Protected Shallow Foundations. Frost protected shallow foundations (FPSF) are ideal for homes in northern climates with deep frost lines. Pioneered in Scandinavia, a FPSF uses insulation below the foundation to limit its depth, which significantly lowers material and excavation costs. By incorporating FPSFs, Bill Eich Construction, of Spirit Lake, Iowa, has saved more than $4,000 on a typical slab-on-grade home versus the conventional crawlspace.

Optimized HVAC. Many installed heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) units are too large for their houses. This increases initial costs, as well as operating costs due to inefficient performance. Instead of using an inaccurate rule of thumb, prospective owners can optimize the HVAC system by asking their builder to perform a Manual J and Manual D load calculation to determine the proper sized equipment and ductwork. Homeowners will benefit from more durable equipment, lower utility bills, and a more comfortable home. In addition to properly sizing the HVAC, builders can also install ducts in conditioned space for even greater energy efficiency and performance.

Insulation, Insulation, Insulation. To lower heating and cooling loads further, increasing insulation and applying a premium air sealing package will reduce energy bills and allow for even smaller HVAC equipment, while still keeping the home comfortable in all seasons.

Advanced Framing Techniques. Numerous framing techniques can reduce the amount of lumber used. Also known as optimum value engineering, these methods lower material and labor costs, while also providing more space for insulation.

Open Floor Plans. These designs save on framing costs by reducing the partition walls. Although open floor plans can demand longer spans, they usually result in significant savings in small or narrow homes. Because of the increased light in rooms, it is possible to reduce cost by including fewer windows and/or light fixtures.

Manufactured/Modular Housing. Manufactured and factory-built housing is indistinguishable from stick-built homes. And since these homes are about half the price of conventional homes, and are on average 25% more energy-efficient, they are perfect for homebuyers on a budget. Builders are turning more to manufactured housing because much of the home is built in a controlled environment, which allows for better labor management, reduces waste, and prevents wet lumber that results in mold and decreased quality.

Operating Costs. Prospective owners need to consider more than just initial costs. They also need to think about a home's operating costs and equipment durability. Homeownership costs include mortgage, utilities, maintenance and insurance. Ask your builder to choose products that minimize all of these expenses.

Added Motivation. For builders, these changes can dramatically increase the market for your homes. As a rule of thumb, every 20% drop in price doubles the number of buyers who can afford that home.

Additional Sources of Information

A Builder's Guide to Marketable, Affordable, and Durable Entry-Level Homes (MADE) To Last

PATH Tools for Affordability

Content updated on 8/4/2006

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