Is now a good time to build?

Now’s the right time to build for homebuyers looking to cut costs both during and after construction, according to Paul Yorkis of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors.

“You can build a home that may be larger than your current home and be more functional than your current home and be more cost effective in terms of its cost of operation,” he said.

One area to consider is the home’s energy efficiency.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Strict building codes make it more difficult to build in some Massachusetts communities, Yorkis said, but can reduce energy consumption down the road. The Stretch Energy Code, for example, increases the efficiency requirements on new residential and commercial construction. This optional code was adopted in 122 municipalities across the state by Oct. 18.

Boston, Newton, Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, and several other towns in the Greater Boston area have adopted the code.

“A smart buyer now ought to be identifying builders they’re comfortable with and locations they’re comfortable with,” Yorkis said. “Depending on the towns they’re interested in, there’s an opportunity for reasonable buyers and good builders to work together to do a product that’s truly a custom product, but it’s a cost-effective custom product.”

If a person is buying an Energy Star home, most if not all of the lightbulbs will be compact fluorescent lamp or LED bulbs, Yorkis said. Homebuyers with access to natural gas can use a tankless hot water heater or Rinnai-type hot water heater to reduce their natural gas costs. The advantage of Rinnai heaters, Yorkis said, is that they do not store or heat water for bathing or washing your hands.

Homebuyers looking for passive solar heating should talk with their builder about facing the house in a particular direction and developing an appropriate landscaping plan. There are several ways a buyer can orient the house so that it gets more sunlight, Yorkis said.

He added that anxious buyers need not worry about the approaching winter.

“Within the next two weeks, I will be installing a foundation,” he said. “We can still excavate and still have foundations poured. If we have a mild winter, builders will continue to build.”

Depending on the size of the house, its foundation and frame should be finished by springtime. Landscaping can pick up from there.

If there is 10 inches of snow on the ground and it’s very cold, it would not be the best time to build, Yorkis said. Instead, that’s a good time to take an existing home and bring it up to current energy standards. Buyers should consult with a contractor about updating windows, increasing insulation, improving the efficiency of the boiler, changing lightbulbs, or updating the appliances.

Stabilizing lumber, flooring, and roofing prices can make the process more affordable for buyers looking to upgrade or build new, Yorkis said.

“There are all types of opportunities for people who want to build and there are builders who are smart builders in that they are learning to build a better product in a more cost-effective way,” he said.