The rise in building material prices, shortages in labor and rise in home sales prices are leading some builders to pivot from pre-sales and/or custom builds to a speculative building business model. Maximizing the interest in a spec home or condo to appeal to today’s buyers — and managing build costs to be able to offer a target price point — are critical to successfully building and selling spec homes.
Industry research has consistently shown high consumer interest in and willingness to pay for energy efficiency, smart home tech and healthy homes — a trend that has continued upward during the coronavirus pandemic.
One builder who has test-driven these concepts on a spec home is former NAHB Chairman Randy Noel of Reve, Inc. A custom builder for more than 30 years, he decided to build a speculative home for the Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans’ Parade of Homes around the pillars of efficiency, resiliency, health and smart home tech, as well as pilot the Wellness Within Your Walls (WWYW) healthy home certification.
Healthy home features include:
- Maximizing natural light,
- Detaching the garage from the home and connecting it via a breezeway,
- Installing locking cabinets for pharmaceuticals and garden chemicals,
- Controlling humidity for the outside fresh air being brought into the home and reducing stress on the heat pump,
- Removing contaminants from the incoming utility water through reverse osmosis water filters,
- Installing automatic faucets to reduce touch points,
- Incorporating an electromagnetic field (EMF) control cabinet — the interior of which is painted with a special electromagnetic wave-blocking paint — for electronics charging,
- Integrating automatic vents in the bathroom to exhaust damp air from the home,
- Installing a non-combustible, electric fireplace and induction cooktop, and
- Incorporating a kitchen herb wall.
“You can, with a great deal of confidence, build a healthier home for your customers going forward,” Noel stated following the WWYW certification process.
To track costs, Noel created a product list at the onset of design and discovered that, for many items, simply specifying one product over another produced a minimal to no cost differential. The EMF control cabinet had to be tested for the certification; an inexpensive, off-the-shelf meter provided the required information.
Noel estimates that he spent an additional $10,000 for the healthy home, resiliency, energy and smart home tech features on this 2,800-square-foot home, which had an asking price of $375,000. At that price point and current interest rates, that equates to a mortgage payment increase of about $50 per month, which can be recouped by the home owner through the anticipated energy savings.
The home, located in Ashton Plantation in Luling, La., received a 2020 Best in American Living Gold Award for Healthy Home and was a finalist for the 2020 NAHB Global Innovation Award International Home the Year. The 2021 awards programs are open until Sept. 10.