Six Insider House-Hunting Tips

You've been doing your research as you get ready to buy a new home, but there's a good chance you're overlooking some little-known checks that reveal if a house really makes the grade. “You’ll probably have several homes to choose from that are the right size and in the right location, but you want to differentiate between good, better and best,” says Cliff Stahl, National Vice President of Sales for Meritage Homes. “Easy physical tests can disclose many things about how a house was made.” Meritage Homes calls this the Smart-Buy Challenge. 

Read on for simple tests you can do yourself, and bookmark this page for your next home tour.

  • More SavingsCheck

    Smart-Buy Tip 1

    Check the temperature.

    If it changes when you’re wandering around the house — like in many older homes — the house isn’t well insulated, Stahl says. Plus, you could be spending about 50% more on heating and cooling. If the temperature is the same in all directions and between floors, it will be more comfortable year-round. “A better-insulated home will also be more durable because it brings in less humidity that can degrade the structure of the house,” Stahl says.

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    Seven Insider House Hunter Tips
  • Better HealthTouch

    Smart-Buy Tip 2

    Touch the windows.

    Put your hand against the sunniest one in the house. A cool window indicates that it’s higher quality, so it won’t let in heat or furniture-fading UV rays. “There are two main elements to a window: the U-factor, which measures heat transfer, and reflectance, which determines the amount of UV rays a window lets in,” Stahl explains. “A cool window is superior in both of these elements. If the window feels hot, it’s the opposite.”

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    Seven Insider House Hunter Tips
  • Seven Insider House-Hunting TipsListen

    Smart-Buy Tip 3

    Listen for outside noise.

    If it’s quiet outside, blast music on your phone, leave it outside and then close the door. Evaluate how much noise you can hear. This isn’t just a noise test; it also reveals how air moves in and out of the house. Noise, after all, is transported through the air.

    “If the sound doesn’t change much, run out of the house,” Stahl says. “Air can leak in and out easily, bringing with it pollen, dust, humidity, bugs.” But if it feels like you’re in a sound studio, the home has quality framing, insulation and windows — and is a healthier home in general. Especially for those who have allergies.

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    Seven Insider House Hunter Tips
  • Better HealthFind

    Step 5

    Find the air conditioning unit.

    Notice the size, because there's often a direct correlation: the bigger the air conditioner, the worse the interior insulation tends to be. “If there are big – or multiple – boxes, the house was poorly built, so big AC units were needed to compensate,” Stahl says.

    Additionally, you should ask whether the unit is single-speed or multispeed. A multispeed HVAC system like Meritage installs in every new home is designed to automatically shift gears to run at the right speed to maintain a comfy temperature and save you on energy costs.

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    Seven Insider House-Hunting Tips
  • Real ComfortStudy

    Step 6

    Study the HVAC return.

    If allergies are a concern, locate the HVAC return to check the home's air filtration equipment. A high-quality air filter, like the MERV 13 that comes standard in all Meritage homes, is critical for reducing bacteria, pet dander, dust, and even some viral particles in the home’s air.

    Don’t stop there, though — there might be more filtration equipment in place. Unlike some other homes, Meritage homes have a fresh air management filtration system, which is separate from the furnace filter, and they’re sealed to keep pollen and pollutants out while allowing fresh air in.

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    Seven Insider House Hunter Tips
  • Seven Insider House-Hunting TipsAsk

    Step 7

    Ask unconventional questions.

    The first is, “What did you do beyond the building code to make this home healthy?” You want to hear that the builder used materials that are low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Next, ask for an estimated energy bill so you can see the financial impact. You can also inquire about the builder’s awards and certifications.

    “Find out if they’re recognized by third-party building science organizations,” Stahl says, such as the National Association of Home Builders. “And they should exceed ENERGY STAR®’s National Version 3 standards. A good builder will brag about it, and a not-so-good one will hope you don’t ask.” See Why It Matters
    Seven Insider House Hunter Tips

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