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New Regulations may impact Shrewsbury real estate prices

new homeSHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – For several years, even as the recession drove down the sales price of residential homes in the Shrewsbury area, the exact opposite was happening to the cost of new construction, which was skyrocketing by the month. There was a time in many communities, Shrewsbury being one of them, when new construction actually cost substantially LESS than a resale home. The rationale behind it was that there were plenty of new homes being built, if you were willing to wait 5 months, but that if you wanted or needed a young, nearly new, homes in town, you would pay a premium for that convenience. Now, the tables have turned dramatically, and this may prove to be a plus for the resale market and a big blow to those looking for new construction.

The primary causal agent behind the scenes has been the new “green initiatives,” that used to be an optional selling feature, but now have become the law. Each year it seems, those building codes have grown more and more restrictive, some would say somewhat draconian, and have added up to 20% to the cost of construction. That increase inevitably gets passed on to the consumers, and may ultimately price many of them out of the new home market. What started with simple regulations on the efficiency of windows, soon become mandatory calculations of heat loss based on square inches of glass. That was just the beginning, however, and it kept getting tighter and tighter, finally requiring 2 x 6 construction for all homes – something which just a few years ago was a luxury feature.

Now it’s gone even further, requiring a host of features that probably will add yet another 5-10% to building costs. Clearly energy efficiency is a good thing, so I’m sure that in the long-run, having greener homes will be a great idea, but it’s important to point out the effect that this will have on the ability of the average home buyer to be able to purchase a new property.

The link below contains important information concern9ing the changes in the energy code that go into effect on July 1, 2014. It is called the IECC 2012 and all contractors are required to have a copy. The changes are very significant. This applies to new single family homes and large additions and alterations that trigger the new construction code.

Some of the changes include:

For the town of Shrewsbury and the rest of zone 5, Blower Door tests results have increased from 7 air changes per hour to less than 3 changes per hour now.

Duct tightness testing requirements have changed enormously. From 12% to 4% at post construction—otherwise from 4% 1o 3% in rough-in phase without air handler.

Third party inspections are mandatory and they must be an “approved third party”. More on that when the state of Massachusetts addresses what an approved third party is.(Mass amendments)

Mechanical ventilation is now mandatory and it must be a professionally designed system.

Some water piping within the envelope must be insulated. This must be looked at closely and plumbers must be made aware.

Air sealing is now much more stringent. Walls between garages and living space must now be sealed to name one. Other places requiring air sealing: Behind and around electrical boxes, in corners, along band joists, all penetrations, to name a few.

High efficacy lighting in permanent fixtures is raised from 50% to 75%.

Prescriptive insulation values have changed. Ceilings are now R-49 where compression between the wall plate and roof sheathing is not prevented(by using energy trusses or alternate framing methods). Basement insulation minimum for habitable space is now R-19 otherwise R-13 if rigid and continuous

Minimum U for windows is now .32. SGHC(solar heat gain coefficient) is also addressed

Wood burning fireplaces must have tight fit dampers, mandatory combustion air from the outside. The walls must be air sealed and a gasketed door is now required. Attic pull-downs and scuttles must be gasketed and insulated to the same value as the ceiling insulation.

Anyway…I know that was a lot of information, but as the Shrewsbury Building Inspector’s office was kind enough to send it out, I thought it was worth passing it along. Note that as it states above, this is NOT just for new construction, but also for renovations and additions that trigger the enforcement of the new guidelines.

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