Property Investor Advice Column: Part 17 and 18
Top green features for your home that add value and save money
More and more people are appreciating the need to ‘go green’. This isn’t just due to notions of looking after the planet and protecting our resources, but because being energy and water efficient can save a lot of money. That’s why homes with green features are becoming more sought after and can command higher prices on the market. Buyers are aware that while they might have to pay a little more up front, in the long run it will be worth it.
The first thing to think about when it comes to energy efficiency is how well your home is insulated. In South Africa we’re familiar with placing insulation in the ceiling, but a lot of energy is lost in other ways.
If you’re renovating or building a new home, it’s possible to place insulation under the floors and in the walls as well. This will reduce heat loss in winter and keep the house cooler in summer.
Another excellent form of insulation is double-glazed windows. These significantly reduce energy loss and draughts, and have the added benefit of being more secure since they’re very difficult to break. They also lower outside noise levels.
Lighting uses a lot of electricity, and finding ways to let in more natural light can therefore be an excellent cost-saver. Adding a skylight or extra windows is an obvious approach, but you can also do more innovative things like changing your entrance and hallway doors to glass and making clever use of mirrors that reflect light around a room. If putting in a big skylight isn’t an option, you could consider using tubular daylighting devices that stylishly bring light into any area, including a corridor.
Solar water heaters are becoming increasingly common and for good reason. These systems can reduce the cost of heating water by between 50 and 80 per cent, which will have a dramatic effect on your overall electricity bill. If you want to go a step further, you can also install solar panels on the roof that run appliances like TVs, computers and the fridge, and reduce your reliance on the grid.
When it comes to saving water, the place to start is always low-flow taps, toilets and shower heads. Most important is the toilet, which can use significantly more water than anything else in your home.
Also consider putting in a grey-water irrigation system for your garden. This reuses water from the bath, shower and even the washing machine if you use biodegradable detergents and can potentially eliminate the need to use potable water for your plants.
Tip:If you’re building, place insulation under the floors and in the walls too
Finally, think about using renewable and sustainable materials for the finishes in your home. For instance, kitchen counters made from bamboo or recycled glass are not only environmentally friendly but also add unique character and style to the room. Bamboo is also great for flooring, cabinets and even wallpaper.
The right move
How to prepare for moving house
Moving house can be very exciting but it can also be highly stressful. There’s so much to do and think about that you can easily become overwhelmed, despite the thrill of having a new home. To prevent the experience from descending into a panic, it’s best to be prepared. There are some simple and important things you should do beforehand to help things run as smoothly as possible.
The starting point is to identify a moving company. If you have friends and family willing to assist with the smaller items, that’s a great help, but it’s best to leave large furniture and appliances to the experts who have both the manpower and the experience.
For peace of mind, make sure that your mover is registered with the Professional Movers’ Association, which sets standards for the industry. Even if the mover is reputable, though, don’t neglect to take out sufficient insurance. Anything can happen on the road, from fire to hijackings to accidental handling damage, and losing your entire household contents would be a huge financial burden.
Most movers these days offer a packing service, which is a big help, but don’t leave everything up to them. Make sure you pack at least one box of your own with essential items that you know you will need and won’t want to search for, such as toilet paper, washing-up liquid, a torch and pet food. And don’t forget to keep a pair of scissors or a stanley knife aside to open all your boxes.
A move is a great time to de-clutter and purge the things you no longer need. Go through every room and decide what you want to keep and what you can get rid of. Movers will simply pack everything in sight, so make sure the things you don’t want are out of the house before they arrive.
It’s important to be ready for any eventuality at the house you’re moving into. Before you take residence, you should ask the seller or landlord to show you where to find important things like the water mains, the electricity box and the municipal drain. You should also enquire about whether any surfaces need special treatments or cleaning products, such as wooden floors or glass countertops. And ask where they bought the kitchen and bathroom tiles and whether they still have any tins of paint the same colour as the walls.
Vitally, make sure you have all the keys, and check that they work. You don’t want to arrive at your new house only to find that you can’t get in the front door. Don’t forget about the keys for things like garden sheds and garages.
Finally, remember to update your insurance policy. It’s often the last thing on anyone’s mind in the flurry of activity around a move, but make sure that you remain insured by notifying your insurer of the move in advance so that the policy reflects your new address on the day you move in. That way, you can be sure of staying covered.
Next issue: What to do first when moving into a new home; simple landscaping ideas for your garden