Smart Shopping Tips For Residential Systems

April 20, 2010 by · Leave a Comment  

Home Shopping ListMost homeowners spend more time researching the purchase of a big-screen TV or cell phone than they do replacements for major systems in their home.

APR 20, 2010
Realty Times

The following Five Smart Shopping Tips should help you ace your next major purchase for your home. Our example is windows, but apply the ideas presented here to whatever you’re shopping for. These suggestions frame issues to reveal the types of questions to ask and ask in our “buyer beware” marketplace until answers make a lot of sense.

Tip #1. No short cuts or you’ll be short-changed As we’ve observed before, most real estate owners spend more time researching the purchase of a big-screen TV or cell phone than they do replacements for major systems in their home. Instead of looking for a quick way to buy the right product or jumping at the word “discount,” start by clarifying exactly how much is being replaced and why. This reveals what can be gained at each major price point and where disappointments lie. For instance, for windows there are three basic degrees of change, with costs and complexity increasing as you go down the list: [indent + numbered list begins]

  1. Replacement Windows are pre-fabricated windows, frame and all, which are popped into existing window frames. The double frame is then capped for aesthetics. The interior wall and trim remain untouched. Adding significant insulation is usually not possible. “Quick and easy” is how installers describe it.
  2. “Brick to brick” refers to removing the existing frame and glass to expose the opening in the exterior brick wall of a home. A pre-fabricated window is then fit into the opening. This renovation requires removal and replacement of the interior trim, and may damage surrounding interior walls. Window coverings may need adjustment or replacement.
  3. “Whatever you want” says the contractor and begins cutting the brick on one or more sides of an existing window opening or creating a new hole to accommodate a new and larger window. Corresponding interior wall and trim is removed, too. Then, a pre-fabricated window is fit into the new opening. Repair to the inner wall, new finishing and new window coverings are required.

Tip #2. Don’t just budget for the major purchase, budget for full completion of the entire project. With our window example, that would mean including the cost of interior wall repair, trim replacement and window coverings to determine the exact investment of time and money for the project.

Tip #3. Clarify your goals or you’ll end up with what the supplier wants to sell, or what the contractor knows how to build. When I opted to replace original 20th-Century wood windows, my prime goal was having as much light as the budget allowed. Damage to the interior was a low priority. Yet, most window installers stressed replacement windows which would pop in with no interior damage—which also netted them the most money. I wanted brick-to-brick to compensate for the wider frame of modern windows and I persisted until I found that skilled, knowledgeable professional installer.

Tip #4. The whole must be greater than the sum of the parts. Consider your home as a whole even when you tackle replacement of one element. If windows were the last thing on your update list, did you research market choices when you did the roof and other elements to be sure of the necessary material and colour match?

Window installers push the glaring white frame because this is cheaper and easier for them. Search out manufacturers that have a wider range of standard colours than blinding white, yellow beige, khaki and easy-fade brown. “Custom colours” may be advertised, but that represents a whole new challenge and expense. An expert installer can help you with a cost-effective project that blends with your exterior decor to add value to your real estate as a whole.

Tip #5. Consider the source and buyer be aware. Flyers and brochures that appear in your mailbox, snail or otherwise, are not educational material, but sales pitches. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the national housing agency, has many explanations of how things work, what choices there are, what to avoid and what’s coming down the road in home systems.

Take advantage of local home and consumer shows, but take your scepticism with you if you’re buying at a show. Check local prices so you can recognize a great deal when you see one. Sometimes end-of-show bargains are the best.

When it comes to hands-on expertise, there’s the phone book, internet and big-box stores, but there’s an entire layer of qualified, cost-effective professionals that consumers may overlook. “If you do not know where to start, this [window decor] business is highly geared to a referral basis,” said Window Decor Specialist Arthur Stemerman, President and Owner of Toronto’s House of Shutters and Blinds “I do not get a cold call unless someone sees my truck. My business is driven by referral and the interior designers I work for, who are hired to help people who do not know where to start.” Stemerman stresses the value of education, online and off, for consumers. It’s one of the reasons his company participated in the Interior Design Show’s “The Ultimate Party,” an opening night event that welcomed the public into the normally “trade-only” trade show. BONUS TIP: Put this event on your calendar for 2011:

To illustrate the power of window knowledge, Stemerman dispelled common myths about sun-protection products:

Myth #1: Southern-facing windows present the greatest sun challenges of heat and fading by ultraviolet rays (UV).

Reality: Sun is an issue for most south windows, but it is west-facing windows, particularly floor-to-ceiling versions common in condominiums, where sun can present the greatest challenge: heat. The sun moves through an arc which varies in intensity in the south, but from late afternoon to sunset, the sun sits in the western sky. Black-out drapes or wooden shades may block UV and light, but they intensify heat released when sun rays strike the window covering. Solar or perforated blinds reduce this effect. They are made from mesh fabrics which allow UV to “breath through the roller shade,” controlling heat and glare.

Myth #2: Looks are all that matter with solar blinds.

Reality: Differences in fabric and manufacturing quality impact on functionality, so it’s not just about finding the least expensive. For instance, search out fabrics labelled with clear specifications, like 10% openness which screens about 90% of UV, according to Stemerman.

Myth #3: Motorization always works.

Reality: Motorizing blind movement should not pose problems, but ensure parts and servicing are readily available and reliable. Think ahead and ensure the motorizing system can be integrated into a home automation system.
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