Here’s Why the Cost of New Construction is Going Up

These days, buildings are a lot safer, more technologically advanced, and environmentally friendly than they once were, which is great. What isn’t great is the increased costs that occur when the government starts requiring every new home to incorporate each new innovation. If new technology is worthwhile and cost-effective, people will adopt it without the need for a regulatory sledgehammer.

Take garage door openers, for example. New electric garage door openers are now required to come with a back-up battery in case the power goes out and the homeowner doesn’t want to manually open the garage door. I’m not saying a back-up battery is a bad idea; however, making it a requirement seems a little silly. Will they have back-up-battery police to make sure the battery remains charged?

Another good idea is adding geo-location devices to exterior garage/house lights that turn them on and off automatically, depending on when the sun rises and sets in your particular neck of the woods. This prevents people from wasting energy by leaving the lights on too long and increases safety by turning the lights on when it gets dark. Is this nifty, or what? Should it be required? Not in my opinion.

Yet another good idea (which seems to be moving from nifty to required) is using tempered glass in all doors and windows for homes in fire zones. This is a big additional expense. If you know you’re in a fire zone and you can afford tempered glass for all your windows and doors, that’s wonderful. It will certainly slow or even prevent fire from getting in your house and consuming the structure. But what if your house is on the edge of a fire zone? Shouldn’t it be up to homeowners whether to use tempered glass? And who decides precisely which homes are in the fire zone, anyway?

Recent wildfires have also inspired other changes. After 2020, new construction in California cannot have eaves with open rafters, where sparks may fly up and get caught.  What I am excited about is another innovation for fire safety: new attic screens that melt into a solid sheet if they get too hot, preventing cinders from getting into your house and cutting off an air source in the event of an attic fire.

With an eye toward safety, the State of California will also require new construction to have illuminated house numbers. This shouldn’t cost too much, and it really is important for emergency responders to be able to find your house in the dark, whether it’s an ambulance, a fire truck, or a law enforcement officer. Funny story: when I was a kid here in Ukiah, they re-numbered properties so all numbers went up as they moved further from State and Perkins Streets. One minute, I lived at 700 Watson Road; the next minute, I lived at 630 Watson Road. I know there are a few places in Redwood Valley where the house numbers don’t match the “new” numbering system implemented 40 or 50 years ago. So, before we go illuminating numbers, let’s make sure they’re right.

Some innovations to home-building are so inexpensive and/or beneficial that it’s hard to understand why everyone doesn’t do them. I recently replaced all the smoke/carbon monoxide alarms in my home with 10-year models. Now, instead of being awakened by a piercing noise at 2:00 am once a year, the only beeping from the smoke alarm should come at 6:00 pm each night to let me know dinner is done.

If you have questions about getting into real estate, please contact me at or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, share it with me and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

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