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Boost of energy for homes market

Local developer offers efficient amenities that generate savings for homeowners to help revitalize s

Posted: April 2, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 2, 2011 1:55 a.m.

The KB Home courtesy photo shows its Newbury model home at the its Enclave community in Eastvale.

 

The bar on the standard for new home amenities just got raised. And KB Home raised it.

Solar-power systems will now be a standard feature on all its new Santa Clarita homes, the builder announced this week.

The builder, which is hosting a grand opening for two new local communities this weekend, designed the homes with photovoltaic solar systems.

The systems will help homeowners reduce their monthly energy bills and the overall cost of homeownership, while also benefiting the environment.

Two new housing developments set off Plum Canyon, Echo Pointe and Echo Ridge, kicked off a grand opening Saturday. It continues from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. today.

The solar technology used in the homes is being supplied by SunPower Corp., a leading U.S. manufacturer of efficient, reliable solar panels and systems.

Most homebuyers will also be eligible to apply for a federal tax credit on the solar panels, which have a retail value of $7,500, said Steve Ruffner, president of KB Home’s Southern California division.

Buyers apply for the tax credits of up to 30 percent of the cost of the solar system after they close escrow on a home.

“KB Home is excited to be building in Santa Clarita and is looking forward to offering area homebuyers solar-power systems as standard features of their new homes,” said Ruffner.

New housing market
While the recession dragged resale home prices into the ground, it brought new home construction to a screeching halt.

The temporary homebuyer tax credit, which expired April 2010, was intended to help revive the real estate market. But as soon as the tax credit disappeared, buyers basically retreated from the market.

Finding it difficult to compete with the glut of bargain-basement prices on resale houses, builders have started adding features to new home designs, bringing greater value to homeowners and hoping to attract buyers back into the new home market.

But builders have come a long way from merely offering Energy Star appliances or hardwood floors.

Solar panels installed on homes built in the desert communities of Southern California can be an enticing lure for homeowners, some of whom pay hundreds of dollars per month during the summer on air conditioning.

The new housing market is a critical factor in the country’s economic recovery. Unlike resale properties, every new home built adds three new jobs to the economy, according to John Firth, media representative for the Building Industry Association, Santa Clarita region.

Los Angeles County housing permits for 2010 were less than one-third of the peak levels reached in 2004, according to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. The nonprofit economic organization however does predict permits to begin picking up slightly in 2011.

Selling power
Each new KB home is equipped with an inverter. When family members are home using energy, power is drawn from the energy generated by the rooftop solar panels.

When the house is empty, the power generated switches back to the meter, and the homeowner can sell power back to the power company, Ruffner said.

Selling stored power can reduce a homeowner’s operating costs even more. It also reduces the amount of power an electric company needs to produce, which also benefits the environment.

“This new initiative also helps us to educate consumers on the potential financial and environmental advantages solar power offers homeowners,” Ruffner said.

Energy stickers
Each new KB Home comes with an energy-performance-guide sticker. Much like the mile-per-gallon guide on every new vehicle, the EPG informs potential buyers of the estimated monthly gas and electric costs associated with running the home.

KB Home did studies with Edison, and a home with solar power could average savings of $200 a month on the electric bill, Ruffner said.

Home buyers can also upgrade the solar panels to a 3.2-kilowatt system for $5,000. If eligible, any tax credit earned, however, could be applied to the cost of upgrading, offsetting some of the expense.

Under the builder’s My Home, My Earth program, buyers can also upgrade homes to include other environmentally friendly options.

“A buyer can upgrade a home to include LED lighting and tankless water heaters,” Ruffner said. “The money invested is paid back to the homeowner in savings over time.”

New home advantages
Buyers of new homes can customize their homes and have the ability to choose many of the interior elements, such as carpeting and colors. Since many homes are sold prior to being built or finished, there is often room for upgrades.

The KB Home EPG sticker also lets a buyer know what the estimated monthly costs are to operate the house — something buyers seldom know when purchasing a resale home, Ruffner said.

New homebuyers at the new Plum Canyon communities can choose the home model and lot, customize their order and have the finished home product within three months, he said.

Additionally, all new KB homes are backed by a 10-year limited warranty.

“The process of buying a new home is faster than buying a foreclosure or short sale home,” Ruffner said.
Plum Canyon

The 2-story home designs at Echo Pointe at Plum Canyon include up to five bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms and two-car garages.

Homebuyers have their choice of four floorplans ranging in size from 1,513 to 2,285 square feet. Sale prices begin in the mid-$300,000s.

Homes in the neighboring Echo Ridge community start from the high $300,000s.  The four one- and two-story home styles range between 1,925 and 2,702 square feet of living space with three to five bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths and two-car garages.

Echo Point homes have 130 lots, and Echo Ridge homes will occupy 94 lots.

The Los Angeles-based builder was founded in 1957, and has built more than 500,000 homes.

“Our energy-efficient homes are really a game-changer,” Ruffner said. “There’s no way a used home can compete with a new solar home on costs.”

The builder’s grand opening takes place this weekend, on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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