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Is a House a Commodity Item?

I just finished a fourteen hour continuing education class for my contractor’s license here in Florida and in spite of the fact it was led by a very entertaining presenter, Carmen Ciricillo , fourteen hours of instruction in one sitting is a looooong time.  By three o’clock  it was pretty grueling.  But that was when Carmen got into the subject of Wind Mitigation.   We all know Wind Mitigation is the States attempt at getting the existing stock of housing strengthened since most of it was built before the codes changed but few people spend the money to do it.   Carmen showed a video (probably to wake us up) about two homes across the street from each other during Hurricane Charlie.  One home was basically untouched, the other lost its roof and was a total loss.  What was the difference between the two homes?  The year they were built.

After Hurricane Andrew the state of Florida got really serious about fortifying, strengthening and tying down the homes built in Florida.   Regardless of where you stand on Government Regulation, the fact is, the new building codes worked.  Since the Florida Building Code implemented the lessons learned after Hurricane Andrew the damage to newly constructed homes has been minimal.  Yes, during Charlie, Francis, Ivan and Jeanne in 2004 there were water intrusion issues and the press had a heyday.   But structurally, the newly built homes withstood the hurricanes very well.  Yes, water did get into some homes and yes, people didn’t expect it and they certainly didn’t like it.  But the new homes were standing tall and people were alive and able to complain about it.  Nobody likes being complained to and builders are no exception but actually if you think about it, what the building industry was experiencing was a great thing.  Florida had a Category Four hurricane make landfall and the biggest concern for folks (with a new home) was that their house did not remain water tight.  That is really amazing after you look at the damage of Andrew.  Additionally, since 2004 a new state code has been adopted including many of the lessons learned during the prolonged wind driven rain we experienced during the hurricanes of 2004.  The new code includes many of the practices developed after those hurricanes to avoid a repeat of those water intrusion problems.

The Florida Code has not simply focused on the fortification of the home.  It has also became a National Leader in Energy Efficiency.   The Florida Energy Code that has now been incorporated into the Building Code and it is one of the most stringent energy codes in the nation.  The end result is new homes are more energy efficient by a wide margin than homes built just a few years ago.

So I’ll ask again, Is a house a commodity item?  Is that stately sprawling ranch with the soaring cathedral ceilings and the remodeled kitchen built in 1968 the same as a new 2012 home built under the current code?  How about that 1986 bungalow with the big oak tree out front?  Or even that 1992 two story with the big yard.  Is the only significant difference in these houses whether they have granite counter tops, new appliances and new carpet?  Which one is fortified?  Which one would you want protecting your family during the next Hurricane?

About Tom Greenawalt

Tom is a Licensed Builder in the State of Florida. He has been in the construction industry for 35 years building new homes in Pittsburgh, Washington DC, and Chicago before moving to Central Florida. The majority of Tom's career has on detached housing for entry level and first time move up buyers. He was with Maronda Homes for over 15 years.

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