The 2017 RGVBA Parade of Homes is Coming! May 20-21 & 27-28

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So what is the RGVBA Parade of Homes you may ask? Well… it is not only one of the most attended yearly events here at the Rio Grande Valley, but it is also an incredible opportunity for New Home Shoppers to visit 25 beautifully-built new homes by some of the finest RGV builders. The Rio Grande Valley Builders Association has been organizing this event since 1983 and it’s only grown bigger and better since then.

This is a family event for all ages and the best part is that it’s completely FREE. Yes FREE!  Attendees may start their tour at any home and then go from there. And, guess what? Now you can plan your own route (at your own pace and convenience) by using the “RGVBA Parade” app which will be available for download on May 1st, 2017.

Can’t wait to visit all these gorgeous, jaw-dropping, dream homes?? Neither can we! So allow us to give you a sneak peek at what you can expect to see in a couple of months.

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Remember to look for the official Parade Signs in front of the Parade Homes to find your way into the official homes! Also, the more Parade houses you visit, the higher your chances to win a 55″ TV!

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And finally, don’t forget to download the Parade App available on May 1st, 2017!
Mark your calendars! We hope to see you soon!

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© RGV New Homes Guide & Across Media Marketing, LLC, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to RGV New Homes Guide with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Quality Built Homes

WHAT IS A QUALITY-BUILT HOME? AND HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOURS IS ONE?

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Once new homes are completed and are open for showing, it may be too late to know for sure if they are quality-built homes. Yes, you will be able to see the finishes of the home, and you will be able to see differences from home to home in details like enhanced materials, and luxury touches like granite countertops, designer ceilings, and showcase light fixtures. But the measure of real quality is what’s behind the walls. Here’s what you should ask about.

The Foundation Stage
The foundation is the most critical part of your home because any mistakes made at this point will only get worse as construction progresses. Adding more rebar to the slab may be worth the extra cost because if the foundation fails, it will be costly to repair. Make sure that the proper time was given to let the cement cure and that it wasn’t cut short to accelerate the production schedule. It would be good to ask if a qualified engineer certified the cement mixture and foundation pouring.

The Framing Stage
This stage is when you begin to see the shell or the skeleton of the home, including walls and roof. There are some areas of the home that require treated wood according to code. Pressure treated wood should be used all the way around the exterior walls where wood rests on the foundation. The reason is that cement absorbs water and over time, if not treated, the wood will absorb that water, creating mold and other water damage issues. Some builders ignore using treated wood where it rests on the foundation in interior walls to save money even though the same principle of water moisture applies.

If plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) sheeting is applied to the exterior walls of the home, look to see if it rests on the foundation where water can accumulate after a rain. It shouldn’t because it will soak up water like a sponge. What about the roof decking? Did your builder use radiant barrier decking which reduces attic temperatures by about 30% and costs only a couple of dollars more per sheet—paying for itself in less than one year with utility savings?

Find out if your home is in an area in Texas that requires windstorm inspections. If it is, the framing stage will have to follow more stringent requirements. The purpose of a windstorm inspection is to determine if the home’s construction can withstand strong winds, such as those present in a hurricane.

Rough Plumbing and Electrical
After the framing and roofing is complete, plumbers and electricians come in to put in pipes and wires. Many holes will be drilled into the studs. In a home that will be completely insulated with spray foam, filling those holes with a can of spray foam is not that important here, but if your builder is using batt or other fiberglass insulating material, it is critical that those holes be covered up. The same goes for receptacles for outlets, light fixtures, and switches. All those small holes and cracks add up to huge costs in energy bills and add to the discomfort of your home.

Heating & Cooling Systems and Ductwork
Your air conditioning system should be sized correctly for the size of your home (see page 28). It should be customized for the square footage, the number of rooms, the number of windows, and so on. This is a mathematical problem that requires figuring out what the load calculations are and then deciding what unit is the right size and type for your home. The ductwork should also be designed and tested to make sure it supplies the right pressures to ensure room-to-room comfort throughout the home. Sounds logical, right? You would be surprised how many contractors oversize the AC unit using the “bigger is better” concept.

Insulation Installation
The type of insulation used in your new home is not as important as whether or not it was installed properly. The most expensive insulation is spray foam, but it is one of the best along with Insulated Concrete Forms. Spray foam is also more forgiving in its installation since it covers even the smallest holes. Batt and other fiberglass insulation is less expensive but it requires more work—like splitting the insulation to put part of it on the back side of the electrical wire along a wall and the other in front, or cutting it to fit around electrical receptacles. That way, the insulation retains its shape—and its R-value. It’s sad, but not everyone installs insulation that way because it takes too long to do it right.

So How Do You Know If Your Home Was Quality Built?
If you were not present when the above phases of construction were performed to see for yourself, you have two choices: (1) take the builder’s word for it, or (2) look for the BUILT TO SAVE™ certification. A home with a BUILT TO SAVE™ certification has been inspected (during construction) and tested (after completion) by a third-party home energy rater licensed by the Residential Energy Services Network. You can be sure that your home was not only quality built, but you will also be sure that it will outperform a similar home built to code by providing more energy efficiency, more comfort, better durability, tighter construction, cleaner indoor air, and a better resale value. You’ll have a BUILT TO SAVE™ certificate in your hands to prove it.


© RGV New Homes Guide & Across Media Marketing, LLC, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to RGV New Homes Guide with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Overlooked “Must Haves”

There are some things missing from your new home shopping list of “must haves.” And they should be deal breakers.

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When it comes to choosing a new home, we are all different. We have different ideas and individual preferences about size, floor plan design, interior colors and textures, and the ideal home exterior.  We carry this mental list of “must have” items as we shop for a home, but almost everyone forgets to include two items that are more important than all the other “must-have items” put together. Not only that, these two items should be—without exception—important to everyone. So what are they?

Can you guess what these two things are? No, they have nothing to do with where the home is located, or if the community is gated, or if the rooms are spacious. The two items also have nothing to do with the luxurious granite countertops or designer ceilings and all the other “lipstick” touches in the home that homebuyers tend to focus on. Here’s a hint: while most of the items on a homebuyer’s wish list are visible, the two most important ones are not. Here’s another hint: most homebuyers assume the two things are a “given,” in other words, that they are already included in the home.

Give up? Okay—the two items most homebuyers assume they are getting when they are buying a new home are—comfort and energy efficiency.  Think about it. The single most important quality of your new home—its comfort—is not even discussed before you buy a home! And you won’t find out how energy efficient your new home is until you move in and get your first bill. How ridiculous is that?

It is very possible that home comfort and energy efficiency are not on a homebuyer’s wish list, and perhaps, home shoppers don’t ask builders about them because, let’s be honest—no builder would answer those questions with, “No, my homes aren’t comfortable or energy efficient.” The problem is, and this is very important–if you don’t have interior comfort and energy efficiency, you don’t have quality construction. And if you don’t have quality construction, aside from a sticky, humid interior, your home will have a shorter lifespan, require more repairs, and may end up in a poor condition with a lower resale value.

So how can you be sure that your new home will be comfortable and energy efficient? First, don’t take anyone’s word for it. Get a written guarantee from a third party—preferably from a RESNET certified home energy rater who has a provider overseeing his work. Otherwise, your inspector has no supervision, and that’s not always good. The best recommendation is to look for a home with a BUILT TO SAVE™ certification. Builders who certify homes in the BUILT TO SAVE™ program have their homes inspected by a RESNET certified home energy rater before the sheetrock goes on and tested once the home is complete using specialized equipment and software to accurately predict a home’s energy efficiency.

What about the home’s comfort, you ask? Well, as part of the BUILT TO SAVE™ requirements, the heating and cooling load calculations are matched to the exact specifications of the home: orientation, size, number of rooms, number of occupants, plus more, to make sure the AC system is sized right for a comfortable room-to-room interior (See page 28) for the importance of a properly-sized cooling system.

A home that is certified in the BUILT TO SAVE™ program is awarded a certificate signed by the home energy inspector. The builder gives the certificate to the homebuyer as proof that the home will be more comfortable, and more energy efficient, than a similar home built to code. Other benefits include better indoor air quality, better durability, and traditionally better resale value. The BUILT TO SAVE™ certificate becomes invaluable years later when it is possible that no one may be around to vouch for the home’s superior construction.

There’s actually a third item hardly anyone talks about, and it could be a huge legal issue in the future. That third, little-talked-about item is whether or not the home was built to the current code requirements. Since not all municipalities have the same requirements, it is sometimes difficult to know what is required for code compliance. What makes it even more complicated is that Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law HB 1736 requiring the adoption of the 2015 International Residential Code (IRC) Chapter 11 (with some modifications). All local jurisdictions have been obligated to comply with the new code laws beginning September 1, 2016. This is where it gets tricky. Just because a city code official is not enforcing the law—namely, 2015 IRC as required by Texas HB 1736, that doesn’t mean that the builder is not responsible for complying with the law. As a home buyer, you should be aware that homes with permits after September 1, 2016, require a blower door test and a duct leakage test unless the entire A/C system is in conditioned space as outlined in the 2015 code. Just because a city is not requiring these tests from the builder, doesn’t mean it is okay to not do them. The tests are designed to predict a home’s energy efficiency and air tightness.

Keep in mind that we are talking about minimum code laws—that is, laws that have only “minimum” standards as their goals for compliance. If you are interested in homes with superior construction that are built to “above code,” visit http://www.builttosave.org or see the inside cover for more information on the BUILT TO SAVE™ program.


© RGV New Homes Guide & Across Media Marketing, LLC, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to RGV New Homes Guide with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What’s Your Score?

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If you are looking to buy a new home, it’s important that you learn how to see yourself through the eyes of a mortgage lender. And one of the first things a mortgage lender will look at is your credit score. That’s because your credit score is a good indicator of your financial responsibility—the higher the score, the better you’ll look to your mortgage lender. The more you know about your credit score and how to boost it—especially if you want to qualify for the lowest interest rates–the closer you’ll be to moving into a new home. Here’s what you need to know.

First, let’s go through the basics—what exactly is a credit score? And why can it work for or against a new home buyer? The credit scores use a three-digit number and range from 300 to 850. Technically, 850 is the highest score you can get; however, the auto-lending industry uses a score that goes to 920 and there are others that go to 950. The “official” name for your credit score is your FICO Score, which is short for Fair Isaac Corp—the creators of the scoring system. Lenders, such as mortgage companies, use it to come up with your interest rate. The lower the score, the more you’ll pay in interest. Any score above 800 makes you look very creditworthy, which means you’ll get the lowest interest rate, and a lower interest rate can lower your monthly mortgage payments considerably and also lower your insurance costs. A score below 600 is generally considered as poor. Your FICO score opens or closes the door to other things too: whether or not your credit application is approved, whether or not your credit limit is increased, or how you are treated when you make a late payment.

Lenders use credit scores to identify your credit as bad, poor, fair, good, or excellent. But lenders all have their own definitions of what is a good credit score, and the type of loan you are getting also determines a qualifying score.

Credit agencies like Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax keep track of your credit history. To find out what your credit report says about you, keep in mind that you can order one free copy per year from each agency. Call 1-877-322-8228, or visit http://www.annualcreditreport.com. When you get your credit reports, look them over carefully. Report any errors or mistakes immediately. If there’s accurate—but negative—information on your report, you might want to try calling the creditors and ask if they’ll remove the negative comments. A creditor may be willing to do this if you have a single late payment in an otherwise perfect record.

If your credit report doesn’t make you look so good, don’t give up. You can start turning it around by doing the right—and smart—things. Pay your bills on time. Payment history is the first thing that sends up a red flag to a lender. Any bill overdue 30 days or more shows up on your credit report. If a lender sees a pattern of this, your interest rate may be raised.

Reduce your credit card balances
Maxing out your credit card does not improve your credit score. In fact, the closer you are to your credit limit, the worse your score. Try to keep your balances below 30% of your available credit.

Limit your credit applications
When you apply for credit, it flags a lender to check your credit report. And you should be aware that too many applications–and credit checks—can lower your score.

What if you don’t have a credit history at all?
This can sometimes be the case for recent graduates. If this is your situation, it’s time to start building a track record. Get a single credit card or gasoline company card before applying for a car loan or mortgage, and try to pay off your balance in full each month.

The more consumers increase their awareness and understanding of the importance and impact of their credit scores, the better and easier buying a new home can be. So make it a point to take a self-taught course in “Credit Scoring 101.” More information can be found on the websites of the three credit reporting agencies mentioned in this article. Read the information carefully and do everything to improve your own credit score. You won’t regret it—especially when you move into your new home and it’s time to make that “low” monthly mortgage payment you earned!


© RGV New Homes Guide & Across Media Marketing, LLC, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to RGV New Homes Guide with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Bigger is not Better… It can actually be worse when it’s an air conditioning unit.

 

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Making sure that the cooling (and heating) system in your new home is sized correctly is most important in humid climates such as in the Rio Grande Valley.  The size of the cooling system has a direct effect on the efficiency and comfort of a home.  Much like the way a car in stop-and-go traffic gets inefficient mileage and suffers more wear on its components, an oversized cooling system will cycle on and off, causing poor humidity control, a shorter life span of the unit, and increased costs in utility bills and maintenance. Aside from higher utility bills and reduced comfort in the home, an oversized unit will also have a higher initial price tag.

Unfortunately, in a large-scale survey, almost 40% of contractors revealed that they purposefully oversize the equipment. One reason these respondents gave is that “customers demanded it.”  The myth that “bigger is better” prevails because it seems like it would make sense. But it does not, if one understands how building science works.  A cooling system that is not sized correctly will “short cycle.” What that means is that because the home cools quickly, the compressor will not run long enough to remove the humidity in the home, resulting in uncomfortable, humid, and sticky air in
the home.

How can you be sure that the unit in your home is sized correctly? The best solution is not to take anyone’s word for it. Look for a BUILT TO SAVE™ certified home. Homes that receive BUILT TO SAVE™ certification have been inspected and tested by a third-party home energy rater who reviews the home’s floor plans and the documents (Manuals J and S) that determine the actual load calculations and the correct size of the system required for the space. The entire HVAC system, including ducts, are inspected and tested for compliance. The home energy rater provides a written guarantee that your BUILT TO SAVE™ home will be more energy efficient and more comfortable than a similar home built to minimum code. Plus, the rater will make sure that the HVAC system that goes into your new home is sized right and will not be bigger than you need, and will certainly be better!


© RGV New Homes Guide & Across Media Marketing, LLC, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to RGV New Homes Guide with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

VILLANUEVA CONSTRUCTION

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Tailored for You: Exceptionally Detailed Homes of Superior Value

It’s not very common to see affordable homes in the $120’s to the $200’s with stylish exteriors and richly textured interiors.  That is unless you’re touring Villanueva Construction’s homes in the Rio Grande Valley.  This family-owned company founded by Martin Villanueva in 1985 has built its success by constructing beautiful, affordably priced homes that stand above others in even the smallest of details.

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The first impression as you enter a Villanueva home will be “wow.”  The company has perfected the skill of designing uniquely beautiful interiors by using an array of building materials and textures, such as exotic granite countertops, elegant tile work, eye-catching ceiling designs, and designer light fixtures to name a few—all included at no additional cost. Aside from not increasing the price of the home, the best part of these “extras” is that homebuyers are given the opportunity to make choices on colors and materials. “Everyone has different tastes, so the freedom to choose what each homebuyer prefers is key to personalizing the homebuilding process and making it an enjoyable experience from start to finish,” said Interior Design Coordinator, Stephanie Villanueva Benitez.  “And because we offer so many materials and colors to choose from, we are able to accommodate everyone’s individual tastes,” she adScreen Shot 2017-02-09 at 12.34.45 PM.pngded.

Villanueva Construction makes it a priority to keep customers informed and involved in the entire home buying and home building process.  “It’s important, especially with first-time buyers, to invest the time and effort to educate them,” stated Sales Manager, Rosendo Benitez Jr. “Whether it’s having our customers sit down with our in-house architect who is designing their floor plan, helping them with selections of colors and materials, or guiding them through the financing process, we are there for them every step of the way—that’s our promise.”

One area that homebuyers love about Villanueva Construction is their ability to find financing for them, thanks to an array of preferred lenders. Low credit scores are not deal breakers, and homebuyers can get huge savings on closing costs.

A talented and experienced construction team shares the company’s commitment to building high quality, energy efficient homes.  “An on-site construction foreman is responsible for insuring that every phase screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-12-35-08-pmof the construction process follows and meets its building schedule for the efficient and timely delivery of a customer’s dream home,” said Builder, Martin Villanueva. “It is very rewarding for us to do a final walk-through with the new homeowner and see their excitement and joy.  It’s a great feeling for our entire team.” Contact Villanueva Construction for a happy home building experience to remember.


Visit www.VillanuevaHomes.com or go to Facebook.com/VillanuevaConstruction for a complete list of available homes and home sites.

8 Steps To Reach Your New Year/ New Home Resolution.

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A Checklist for Choosing a Home That Lasts.

The New Year is a great time to set goals for improving your life.  Whether the goal is to lose weight, to stop smoking, or to start a new career, it’s the season to set positive intentions and turn last year’s “would have, should have, could have” to “Yes! This year, I am going to!”

So, what’s on your New Year’s agenda?  Do you have a New Year’s resolution to buy a place to call your own, that dream home you have always wanted?  Well, the year 2017 is a great time to consider building or buying a custom new home that meets your needs…and dreams.  If your goal for 2017 is to become the proud owner of a new home, we’ve got the checklist to help you invest wisely.

1) Get Pre-Approved for a Loan First
Before you start looking at floor plans or speaking with contractors, you need to know your buying power. This means going through a financial review and getting approval from a lender for a specific amount. This will save you the disappointment of looking at homes outside of your price range. It also shows you’re serious about making a purchase.

2) Research Financial Assistance Programs
There are many programs available that help you become a homeowner faster. Each program has different qualifications you need to meet, so do your homework. You might be surprised to learn you could qualify. As a Texas resident, consider looking at TxHomePrograms.org as one potential option.

3) Be Realistic About What You Can Afford
In addition to the amount the bank approves, you need to factor in how much you can spend on a monthly mortgage payment. This means thinking about other expenses, such as how much money you need to live on each week for things like groceries, entertainment, and other necessities.

4) Know When to Splurge and When to Save
One thing to watch is the upgrade costs as you build your home. Be sure to ask about the base price and how much additional features will add to your total price. You want to weigh the value of upgraded fixtures and flooring options to how long they will last. In other words, will the extra money you spend save you down the road from having to replace, say, a carpet or floor that wears faster, but costs less initially.

5) Don’t Just Go for Code – Go for Better Than Code
Just because a house is built to code doesn’t mean it will perform well. Homes built using basic building codes are often less efficient to operate and more costly to maintain. In addition, shoddy quality could invite issues like dust and mold that will make you sick. So work with a BUILT TO SAVE™ (BTS) or ENERGY STAR® builder. These contractors will build above code, ensuring your home will save you significant money in energy costs. For example, a BTS builder will consider cooling options that work in the Rio Grande Valley. This includes having a right-sized air conditioning system, windows, and exteriors that protect against heat gain, and so on.

6) Estimate Resale Value
Take a look not only at the value of your home as you purchase it, but at what comparable homes by this contractor are selling for on the resale market. If possible, visit a house built by a company you are interested in that’s up for sale to get an idea of how well the workmanship holds up after the home has been lived in for a while. Remember that homes with energy certifications like BUILT TO SAVE™ generally provide a higher resale value.

7) Choose the Right Community
In addition to building a home to meet your needs, how do you choose a community in which you want build? There are many points to consider:

Lot Size:  Are the yards big enough?
What’s Nearby: How close is this location to your workplace? How good are the schools? Can you get to shopping districts, hospitals, and other places easily?
What Does the Community Offer: Is there a community center or pool? How about parks and recreational activities?
Homeowner Association Costs: How much are the fees for being a member of the community? What do they cover? Will this fit into your budget?

Check out our new comprehensive New Home Communities Guide where we break down all of these factors and more to help you quickly identify the right development for your new home. See pages 33-36.

8) Have Your Home Inspected by a Professional
Hiring an independent, professional home inspector has saved many people from moving into a home that has substandard workmanship. It is much better to have someone who advocates for your best interests to evaluate your home carefully and point out features that need to be fixed before you close the contract. Once you’ve signed, any existing issues will become your problems to fix.

Hopefully, the checklist here will make it easy for you to realize your new home in the New Year.  Use it to ready yourself for finally making the dream of a brand new home a reality.  Because, “Yes, this year, 2017, you are going to buy a home!”