DEAR MR. MYERS: Is it true that some homebuilders are experimenting with the idea of making homes using nothing but computers?
ANSWER: Yes. In fact, it’s not only true: a family in France this month became the first in the world to move into a “3-D computer house” whose primary components were made – and construction was handled – almost exclusively by a giant computer.
You and I probably load our printer with ink. But 3-D printers can be loaded with other stuff, from fiberglass to pulped wood, to manufacture just about anything.
The 1,022-square-foot, four-bedroom home in France was designed in a studio by a team of architects and scientists. Their design was then fed into the massive 3-D printer, which was then shipped to the construction site in Nantes, France, which is about 220 miles southwest of Paris.
The printer then took over. It spat out layers upon layers of insulator polyurethane, a flexible and energy-efficient material, for the walls – it’s sort of like having a machine that would make you a hundred-patty cheeseburger, one slice at a time. The 3-D printer even left preset openings for windows and doors.
The new home was constructed in just 54 hours, though it took another four months to install the windows, doors and roof. It cost roughly $234,000 (U.S.), about 20 percent less than a traditional sticks-and-bricks home in the area would have cost to build.
The house, computer-designed to curve around century-old trees on the lot, is impressive. You can see pictures of the home and learn more about its construction process by visiting bbc./news/technology.
REAL ESTATE TRIVIA: Researchers at the National Association of Home Builders report that an average-priced, 1,000-unit single-family housing tract creates 2,970 full-time jobs, $162 million in wages and $111 million in government taxes.
DEAR MR. MYERS: We are thinking of buying a condominium because they are a lot less expensive than single-family homes in our area, and we do not want to spend our weekends mowing grass or sweeping sidewalks. Our question is, How can we find out what a homeowners association’s rules and regulations are? We do not want to buy in a complex where the rules are too restrictive.
ANSWER: In most states, the rules that condo owners must live by are set forth in the homeowners association’s book of covenants, conditions and restrictions. The CC&Rs typically address a variety of issues, from how long visitors may stay to the colors that outside walls or doors may be painted.
Many states require that condo or townhome buyers receive a copy of the CC&Rs before their sale can close. To play it safe, though, you should ask for a copy even before you make an offer on the condo you want to purchase. If you cannot get the documents first, at least make your offer contingent upon your approval of the association’s rules.
Never feel pressured by a seller or agent to buy a condo or townhouse without getting a copy of the CC&Rs. You won’t be happy with your purchase if the development’s rules and restrictions make you feel like you’re living in a prison instead of a home.
Also, get a copy of the association’s financial records and have them reviewed by an accountant to determine whether the association is in good financial shape. You certainly don’t want to buy the home, move in and then discover that the HOA will need to hike monthly dues or make a big special assessment in order to balance its books.
DEAR MR. MYERS: If my husband and I put our home and other assets into the type of simple living trust that you recently wrote about, would we have to notify our future heirs of its contents? And after we die, would the contents of the trust become available for public inspection?
ANSWER: The answer to both of your questions is “no” – and it helps to highlight an often-overlooked benefit that creating an inexpensive, easy-to-form living trust can provide.
Most homeowners who create a living trust do so because they want to avoid the costly and time-consuming probate process. Nearly all wills must pass through probate, but trusts almost never have to: Instead, the trust’s property typically can be distributed quickly to heirs with little or no involvement by a judge or pricey attorneys.
Like a will, you would have no legal obligation to inform your future heirs about the trust’s contents or the way you want them to be distributed upon your death.
Your letter, though, raises another important issue that separates a will from a trust: A will usually becomes part of the public record the moment it goes to probate court, which means it can be viewed by virtually anyone after you die. But because a living trust is a private document that doesn’t have to go through the court system, its assets won’t automatically be put on display for the prying eyes of nosy neighbors or sue-happy relatives.
David W. Myers’ column is distributed by Cowles Syndicate Inc.