Builder Blog from Integrity Windows and Doors

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Hot Home Trends

July 1st, 2015 by Berit Griffin

Homebuyer’s preferences are always changing – a fact that can be particularly challenging for builders looking to meet buyers needs. In order to stay ahead of the game, executive director of KTGY, Nick Lehnert, believes that builders should treat housing trends as somewhat of a checklist when designing new homes, reports ConstructionDIVE.

A typical challenge for builders is incorporating relevant trending items, which are easily applied to the luxury home market, and modifying them for generally more affordable homes.

Eight of the top new home design trends for 2015 from KTGY, and as reported by ConstructionDIVE:

  1. Personalization/”Idea spaces”
  2. Super kitchens
  3. Pet amenities
  4. Spa-like master baths
  5. Larger media areas
  6. Smaller homes
  7. Better indoor/outdoor connectivity
  8. Larger garages

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New-Home Sales on the Rise

June 26th, 2015 by Integrity Windows

The new-construction market continues to gain ground this year, and new home sales have to risen to the highest rate since February 2008. In fact, according to a report from the Commerce Department, and as reported by Realtor Mag, sales of newly built single-family homes increased 2.2 percent, reaching a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 546,000 units.

Sales are nearly 20 percent higher than the pace in May 2014. New-home inventories remain tight at 206,000, a 4.5-month supply at the current sales pace. That’s pushed the average sales price of a new home sold in May to $337,000, states Realtor Mag.

A release of new home sales further demonstrates that sales pace has been generally picking up since last July, with dips in November 2014 and March 2015.

 

New home sales numbers (annualized, seasonally adjusted), as reported by Forbes:

May 2015: 546,000

April 2015: 534,000

March 2015: 494,000

February 2015: 545,000

January 2015: 521,000

December 2014: 495,000

November 2014: 449,000

October 2014: 472,000

September 2014: 459,000

August 2014: 454,000

July 2014: 403,000

June 2014: 408,000

May 2014: 457,000

 

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Baby Boomers Looking to Downsize

June 24th, 2015 by Integrity Windows

Although millenials are currently leading the multifamily housing, baby boomers looking to downsize are expected to drive apartment growth in the forthcoming years, according to a study by the Kansas City Federal Reserve, and as reported by Realtor Mag. In fact, the downsizing to apartments is an ever-increasing trend with older Americans.

Realtor Mag also states that downsizing activity generally occurs around the age of 70 and is becoming increasingly prominent by age 75. Looking at Census Bureau numbers, Americans aged 70 and older will increase by more than 20 million in the next 15 years – which, if downsizing remains a trend, will undoubtedly lead to a need for additional multi-family housing.

In a report from Kansas City Fed senior economist, Jordan Rappaport, he states that builders will need to adapt to the changing trends because while millenials are fine living in compact city spaces, older buyers tend to want more space and amenities – even when downsizing.

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Integrity Windows and Doors has teamed up with building industry thought leader, Matt Risinger, president of Austin, Texas-based Risinger Homes, to provide insights and best practices to fellow professionals across the country. This is the first in a six-part series. 


The Texas Sun is blazing where I build in and around Austin. Let me give you three tips for building an efficient home that will stay cool even during the hottest summer.

#1. Focus on the Lid
The roof on your house is the first line of defense against the summer sun’s rays. Think of your roof like a giant sun hat for your house. I always like to see two-foot overhangs on a house, and windows with direct South & West sun can really benefit from an awning, which will protect the window from direct sunlight (and water). Most roofs on American homes are dark-colored composition shingles. Those dark roofs soak up the heat and as a result most attics in the summer are 20-40 degrees hotter than ambient air temps. I’m a big fan of light colored roofs. A 24- or 26-gallon silver metal roof is a terrific choice for both efficiency and durability. The light colored metal will act as a radiant barrier to reject the sun’s UV rays and keep the attic cooler.

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#2. Build Tight
Hot air leaking into your air-conditioned building is a major energy drain for your house. Take measures during a remodel or new build to tighten the envelope of your house as well as your ductwork. Seal all penetrations through your walls with canned spray foam on the inside, and tape on the outside. Don’t rely on caulking your siding to air seal because studies have shown exterior sealing of your cladding to be ineffective. I also recommend a blower door & duct blast test prior to hanging sheetrock so you can verify your house meets current code airtightness standards — or better!

 

#3 Choose Windows and Doors Wisely
In the South, I want the lowest SHGC (Solar Heat Gain Coefficient) I can find. No matter where in the US you build also look for a low U-Factor. U is the opposite of R-value. Lower U-Factors mean better insulating windows. Integrity’s fiberglass frames are inherently better insulators than Aluminum and are far more durable & stronger than vinyl. A major source of leaks I’ve found in houses is lumberyard doors. Exterior doors from Integrity are far tighter with respect to air leakage. Likewise, Integrity windows seal tightly and keep your cold air in, and the hot air out. Talk to your Integrity dealer about glass specifications that will help with cooling in your climate too.

For more building tips, be sure to check out Matt Risinger’s YouTube channel



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A Balanced Housing Market

June 19th, 2015 by Integrity Windows

Ten years ago the housing market was hot. Four years ago it was too cold. Now, according to The New York Times, the yo-yoing insanity seems to have come to an end. By a wide range of measures, nationwide home prices are balanced when compared with incomes, rents and other fundamentals. Buyers are comfortable spending what they can afford given their income and savings.

“The market is coming back, but we’re not having astronomical growth,” said Thomas O’Bryant Jr., the chief executive of the Greater Tampa Association of Realtors. “We’re having the kind of growth that is going to be sustainable, and any time you have steady growth it’s much better than having bubble growth.”

Of course, each local market has its own dynamics. Analysis by Fitch, which examines home price growth movement across the country on a quarterly basis through its U.S. sustainable home price model, suggests that there are signs of excessive home process in the Bay Area and other coastal markets, reports The Times. Underpricing continues in parts of New England and the Industrial Midwest.

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Rich Headshot

Richard Perrone founded Perrone Construction in 1980 after having worked as a superintendent for a luxury oceanfront builder. Today, Perrone Construction is among the most trusted custom homebuilders in Florida and is often sought after for its waterfront expertise. The company’s project “The Bonaire” in Sarasota earned it a 2014 Red Diamond Achiever Award from Integrity – and we connected with Richard to learn more about his company, its unique expertise and more.


Perrone Construction is often sought out for its waterfront expertise and experience. What are some key factors that you always take into consideration when building for coastal areas?

RP: Yes, we are sought out for our waterfront expertise. The very first home Perrone Construction built was a very nice project on Big Pass [in Sarasota, Fla.] in 1980, and we’ve made it a priority to learn and develop some very nice systems and techniques for building homes that stand up to the harsh waterfront environments we build in.

Some key factors include not using any materials on the exterior of a home that could rot or rust, and here I am not just talking about the things you can see. All the way down to the screws we use to hold the sub fascia on, we are very selective in our materials and of course the process and procedure we use to install them. Very early I learned the extreme importance of waterproofing our homes at the highest levels, and we developed systems and techniques that waterproof them extremely well. I would say that our success building in coastal areas comes from our ability to construct homes that stand up to the harsh waterfront environments. It’s one thing for a builder to construct a home that looks great on day one – but to build a home that looks great five years later takes a builder that really understands the environment he is up against, and that is where we shine. This is what we have been perfecting for 35 years.

In addition to the threat of major storms, what are the greatest challenges you face when building for coastal areas? How do you overcome them?

RP: Yes, of course major storms are always a threat, especially in the summer months. We have processes to minimize these threats during design and construction. We work with some of the best engineers in our area, which is one of the best ways to minimize the threats of a major storm damaging the home. We use tested and proven materials and take the time to study and understand them. Our building envelope [comprising the components that separate conditioned areas from unconditioned ones] is of the utmost importance to us, and there is nothing left to chance when it comes to the very important components that make up that envelope. Windows, doors and roofing are some of the most critical components, and we have had great success in partnering with companies that really get these products right. Marvin and Integrity produce a stellar product that we have used for many years, always affording us peace of mind.

Last year, Peronne Construction received a Red Diamond Achiever Award for work on The Bonaire. What do you believe helped The Bonaire rise above the rest?

RP: Design – we spent a lot of time and effort to make this home special. We studied the architecture of the West Indies, in the West Indies, traveling the islands of the Caribbean to truly understand the architecture we were attempting to replicate. We traveled to three other communities in Florida which had some examples of Dutch West Indies architecture for a sense of what architects were doing with a more contemporary take on this old world style.

During the design phase, we went through several iterations of the plan, tweaking it to get it just right. We went for a very old-world style on the exterior and contrasted that with a very contemporary-yet-warm style on the interior. We brought together a team that had passion for the project, and it really helped to enhance what had already been accomplished on paper.

I believe that when you have passion and enjoy a project, it truly shows in the finished product. With the Bonaire, I believe it’s part of what makes the home so special.

Beside The Bonaire, what are one or two additional accomplishments that you are particularly proud of? Why?

RP: Well before I get away from the Bonaire, I want to mention one more thing about it. The Bonaire was entered in the Sarasota Home of the Year competition and won. One of the things I always tell people when they talk about building a home is: If you’re ever thinking about trimming the budget anywhere, DO NOT do it on design. This was a small but incredibly beautiful home, what we term as “Jewel Box” construction.

One other thing that I am very proud of is that to date we have built the largest LEED-certified home in Sarasota at 8,200 square feet under air. An incredible Italian palazzo home that is 75 percent clad in Syrian Ebla Limestone. You would look at it and think it could never achieve a LEED Silver rating. It’s a huge, beautiful residence sitting on 57 pilings. It’s not your typical LEED home.

When working on a new project, what are some initial areas you tend to look to for inspiration?

RP: We really have a lot of fun in developing the character of the homes we build. It really depends on the style of the home, but we really like to look at the classic masters of any style for inspiration. As I mentioned earlier for the Bonaire, we cruised from island to island taking photos for inspiration of Dutch and British West Indies residences. We read about why certain building techniques were used, and we looked at examples from the old world and how those were adapted to the conditions in the Caribbean.

The Bonaire has true classical architecture with real roots, and each overhang, each scroll cut into each cedar rafter tail, was very carefully considered. We are very detail-oriented. The gable end wall at the front of the home was built three times the thickness of a standard masonry wall because when we were researching the style we found examples where that was done. Now, not a lot of people will notice this outright but I guarantee you if we hadn’t have done that, the home would not read the same and there would be a sense that something was missing. That’s one of the chief differences, among many, between our firm and many other builders.

We pay attention to all of the details, even the tiniest ones. I guess the shorter answer would be that we look to classic examples of the architectural styles we are building for inspiration.

What is the one building trend right now that most excites you?

RP: I’ve seen some really beautiful homes come across my desk in the past year, and we have some really incredible projects coming up that our team and I are really proud to be a part of. These homes incorporate some of the trends in the construction world right now – I see it as evolution and it’s always exciting; our world is always improving.

I’m a little bit old-school in the sense that I don’t really like to get caught up in trends; there is always evolution. We are seeing LED light fixtures now, we are seeing a prevalence of home-automation systems, we are seeing extremely efficient HVAC systems. Our homes are always evolving and getting better, but we are not what you would consider a trendy builder. Our homes for the most part are built to be timeless and we think we do a very good job in achieving this. If I were to pick out a trend that would excite me it would be what I perceive as a general willingness once again to invest in quality architecture.

Why do you choose to use Integrity products?

RP: We have used Marvin products for many years and have always received great support and superb products. The Integrity product is no different in that sense, and we always feel very well-taken-care-of, and the product truly provides us with peace of mind. In addition to that, there are plenty of really great design options with the Integrity product, and anything that isn’t available in Integrity can be purchased in the more custom Marvin product. The value of the product design choices, the support and the peace of mind are the key reasons we use Marvin and Integrity repeatedly.

How important is the placement of windows in the design of a home in coastal areas?  

RP: We really let view and architecture take the lead on this. Since each and every one of our homes is custom and each site we build on is unique, we evaluate the positives and negative attributes each property has in our view studies, maximizing the good while minimizing/eliminating the bad.

Architectural aesthetics are of equal importance. The shape and scale of each window is carefully considered. Occasionally we even put a window or two where they may not be needed for light or view but where they are important for aesthetic continuity on the exterior.

What three words would you use to describe your expectations for the summer building season? 

RP: Fast-paced. Busy. Enjoyable.

 



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Windows That Wow on the Luxury Home Tour

June 17th, 2015 by Integrity Windows
The stunning stairwell in St. Paul that showcases Integrity Windows.

The stunning stairwell in St. Paul that showcases Integrity Windows.

We’ve spent a great deal of time paying close attention to the latest trends in high-end home design. With the start of this year’s Luxury and Artisan Home Tours in the Twin Cities, we thought it would be the perfect time to get out in the field and see firsthand how builders in the Minnesota are integrating the latest building and design trends into their current projects.

For this week’s post, we are going to focus on the Luxury Home Tour. This tour, which runs weekends in June (so yes, it is going on now!), is a great way to have access to some of the most breathtaking, multi-million dollar homes in the metro. And this year, to our delight, many of these homes feature either Marvin or Integrity windows! For this year’s tour, we went out and visited two very different homes that used Integrity windows in their designs, and we were beyond impressed. Here are some key highlights and takeaways from our visit:

The first stop on our tour was a home in the Crocus Hills neighborhood of St. Paul (700 Osceola Ave. St. Paul). Built by Detail Design + Build and Architect Charlie Simmons of Charlie and Co Design, this home is a great example of how, by paying attention to every detail, they were able to create a home that is more traditional on the outside and yet has a contemporary or modern feel on the inside. You can even see how the home was constructed on the Charlie and Co Design site. From the street, this new home fits in so well with the character of the other homes on the block, you would think that it has been there forever. Designated as a national historic district, this Tudor sits on a tree-lined cobblestone street and has a very classic exterior. But step inside and you can see a more contemporary influence coming through loud and clear, starting with the windows.

All of the windows in this home are Integrity windows (mostly casements) with a black interior and ebony exterior, which gives them a more industrial, or “steel,” look and feel. The windows in this home play a major role in the overall aesthetic, and truly are one of the key design features of the home. From the powder room that includes a glass feature wall that extends behind the vanity, to a four-story stair tower full of windows that bring in an unbelievable amount of natural light, the home feels very open and bright throughout. Step further into the home and again, you can see how Integrity’s windows play a starring role in the main entertaining areas of the home. Starting with the breakfast nook that is surrounded by large casement and awning windows that wrap around the corners of the room, to the extra large sliding patio door that leads to the outdoor patio, the space feels very open and inviting. We loved how the dark finish of the windows were complimented by white oak floors and steel elements throughout, creating a style that, in the word of the builder, “blends old world with modern amenities and style.”

The second home that we visited on the tour is a luxurious 6,700-square-foot home that sits high upon 2.5 acres of hillside just east of St. Paul in Afton, MN. Built by Highmark Builders, this is a more traditional style home, yet, like its counterpart in Crocus Hill, also features Integrity windows with an ebony exterior and black interior. In this application, the dark finishes of the windows works to compliment or accentuate the wood detailing that is used throughout the house, giving it a comfortable, yet elegant feel. This home was built to take advantage of the views and includes an amazing 3-season porch with large windows off the main family room to look out on the St. Croix Valley below. Even though this was a more traditional-style home, we did see hints of contemporary or modern design elements throughout that added to the beauty and detail of the home’s finishes. Complimenting the timber beams and stone fireplaces, we did find gold fixtures in the powder room and on some of the interior doors of the home. We also saw a powder room that was painted in a dark, almost black paint color, which is a hot new design trend. Like the Crocus Hill home, this house also featured awning windows above the vanity in the master bathroom as a unique design element and a way to bring more natural daylight into the space. This treatment of bathroom windows is definitely a trend that we are loving in all styles of homes these days!

The Luxury Home Tour wraps up this weekend, so if you are in the metro area and have the chance, we suggest you get out and get inspired. In the meantime, here are a few cell-phone photos from the two homes we visited (we’re planning to have a professional photo shoot soon). Enjoy!

Captions for photos at right:

The house overlooking the St. Croix in Afton, MN.

The house overlooking the St. Croix in Afton, MN.

The windows of this home in St. Paul's Crocus Hill neighborhood have a sleek, modern feel.

The windows of this home in St. Paul’s Crocus Hill neighborhood have a sleek, modern feel.

The living room windows invite the outdoors inside the Crocus Hill house.

The living room windows invite the outdoors inside the Crocus Hill house.

Crocus Hill bath

 

Windows behind a bathroom vanity are a red-hot trend in 2015, and the Crocus Hill home features a breathtaking example.

Windows behind a bathroom vanity are a red-hot trend in 2015, and the Crocus Hill home features a breathtaking example.



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Are All Home Buyers Looking to Go Bigger?

June 12th, 2015 by Integrity Windows

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We recently reported on the Builder Blog that homeowners are expecting home prices to climb – but what key features are buyers looking for as they survey the housing market?

Newly released data from the Commerce Department shines a spotlight on the latest trends and what prospective buyers desire most. According to the Wall Street Journal, which reported on the latest data, industry experts expect smaller homes to make a comeback in the coming years as more entry-level buyers return to the market.

But the new data also confirmed that the shift toward larger new homes in recent years has been “remarkable,” according to the WSJ. There was unprecedented demand in 2014 for homes with:

  • Four or more bedrooms
  • Three or more bathrooms
  • Three-car garages

 

Another trend that gained traction last year: Patios. Homes built with patios rather than porches or decks reportedly increased to 20 percent of new construction in 2014, up from 17 percent the prior year, reflecting a broad preference for patios that serve as outdoor kitchens, accessible through large sliding doors.

The data seems to support the idea that the McMansion has been making a comeback, but experts say the mix of homes built is shifting. Dale Francescon, co-chief executive of Denver-based Century Communities, told the WSJ that he hasn’t seen a decline in demand for larger homes – but he has seen increased demand for smaller homes at a lower price point.



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Home Prices Expected to Climb, But Some Pessimism Persists

June 10th, 2015 by Integrity Windows

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What’s in store for home prices? According to a couple of new studies: renters, homeowners and realtors alike expect prices to rise in the coming year.

The New York Federal Reserve Bank recently conducted a consumer survey, in which they asked respondents how they expect the home prices within their zip code to change in the next 12 months. Both homeowners and renters said they expect higher prices – although the expected increase for homeowners was about one percentage point lower than that of renters. Homeowners, on average, expect home prices to climb by 4.1 percent, while renters are forecasting a 5.2 percent increase.

What other affect does that confidence have on the economy? As prices grow, consumers’ attitudes toward housing as a financial investment remain positive. In fact, more than six in 10 homeowners and renters believe that buying a property within their area is a good investment, according the recent study. Meanwhile, a separate survey found that realtors are also growing more upbeat about pricing: Those surveyed expect the median price growth in the next 12 months to be 3.9 percent nationwide.

While people are expecting home prices to climb, however, shifting demographics continue to affect the market. For example, analysts at the Urban Institute are predicting that the homeownership rate will continue to decline in the coming years. They predicted that, by 2030, the U.S. homeownership rate will fall to 61.2 percent – the lowest since the rate was first recorded in 1965.

What’s more, while many Americans are predicting an uptick in home prices, some also remain scarred from the recession, and in many cases, pessimistic about the housing market. Case in point: more than 40 percent of Americans surveyed in a recent study believe that the country is still in the middle of the housing crisis, according to this recent Wall Street Journal story.



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Preferred Energy Sources

June 3rd, 2015 by Berit Griffin

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There’s no doubt that today’s homeowners have clean energy on the mind. In fact, according to a jointly sponsored survey conducted by SolarCity, a solar installer, and Clean Edge, a marketing research firm, solar and wind energy are preferred energy sources for the future of U.S. homes, reports Realtor Mag. Results were derived from a pool of 1,400 randomly selected homeowners that were polled about renewable energy, energy efficiency, conventional energy, transportation, and various like topics.

According to Green Building Advisor, Half of all those surveyed identified solar energy as the most important energy source for the nation’s future, and it didn’t seem to matter where they lived or how they identified themselves politically. Wind was second with 42 percent of all homeowners, followed by natural gas (33 percent), energy efficiency (25 percent), oil (17 percent), hydro (17 percent) and nuclear power (14 percent). Power sources with the least public support were geothermal (10 percent), coal (8 percent) and biofuel/biomass (7 percent).

About 87 percent of respondents surveyed said that renewable sources are important to the nation’s energy future. However, respondents said that “saving money,” not “reducing my environmental impact,” serves as the most important factor in deciding to purchase clean energy products and services. In fact, 82 percent of homeowners surveyed cited saving money as the most important factor, while reducing the environmental impact was cited by 34 percent, reports Realtor Mag.

Additional key findings as reported by Green Building Advisor:

  • Saving money is the biggest motivator for people, but 65 percent of the respondents said they “consider or investigate” the environmental impact of their major buying decisions at least some of the time, and 75 percent said they were taking some steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Most Democrats (82 percent) and two-thirds of all Republican respondents (67 percent) said that they support federal incentives for wind and solar energy purchases. The number of Independent voters supporting incentives was 72 percent.
  • When asked whether they agreed with efforts by electric utilities to charge fees for the installation of grid-connected PV, 61 percent said no (and 43 percent strongly opposed). Opposition was stronger among Republicans (66 percent) than Democrats (53 percent).
  • Green building remains popular. The number of buildings winning LEED certification hit 5,800 in 2013, a compounded annual growth rate of 56 percent over 11 years. The number of Energy Star homes built in 2013 reached 77,000, a market share of 13 percent.

 



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