- The Washington Times - Friday, December 13, 2002

Q:My wife and I are in the process of planning to build a home. I am interested in incorporating the latest technology on-demand hot water, home entertainment wiring, computer hookups and wiring, intercom, in-house vacuum into the home now, rather than trying to retrofit.

Can you direct me to a Web site or publication that discusses the latest technologies that a home should have? M. and E. Butters

A: The best place I've found to research the latest building technologies is at www.ToolBase.org.

The Tool Base Service is operated by the National Association of Home Builders' Research Center and is the housing industry's resource for technical information on building products, materials, new technologies, business management and housing systems. The site is partly funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) through the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH) program, and other industry sponsors.

Most of what you're seeking is in the home network wiring area. To get to that particular area of www.ToolBase.org, click the Technical Information box for Tool Base Services, then follow the left menu to find New Building Technologies and then Electrical/Electronics. Click on Distribution Systems, then click Information-Age Wiring for Home Automation Systems.

The New Building Technologies area is a great place to hang out as you research the technologies you want to use. Use the search engine to discover the latest technologies, and profiles of these systems, along with ideas on pricing for purchase and installation, and a list of organizations that can help you with even more product knowledge including retailers and installers.

On the Information-Age Wiring profile, for instance, it gives a rundown on cost: "Costs for running structured wiring in an existing home will be about $1,000 to $3,000, or between $600 and $2,000 for new homes, not including the cost of a central controller. Wireless systems are expected to cost between $100 and $150 per connected device. Additional costs for the central controller, programming and setup may be incurred. Most complete home automation systems on the market run about $3,500."

You are wise in planning for these upgrades before you ever turn one shovel of dirt. As you can see, the cost of retrofitting is nearly double the expense of installing these systems upfront.

Q: A neighbor is interested in buying my very expensive piece of property on the water in Florida, but he wants me to sign a first-right-of-refusal. I am not sure what this means, and if you could help me I would appreciate it. He says I could stay on the property until this happens so I am not sure if he is trying to make this a tenant deal. Pam

A: A right-of-first-refusal is simply an agreement between a seller and a potential buyer that allows the buyer the option to purchase a home or business in the future by matching any other bids. It protects the buyer from losing the deal to another seller without knowing about it first. If an offer comes in, the buyer would have to match it or walk away from the deal.

For example, your neighbor, Buyer A, offers $1 million for the waterfront property and you sign the contract along with the right-of-first-refusal clause included. Buyer B comes along before you've completed the deal and offers $1.1 million. You cannot just take the offer and run now because Buyer A has a right-of-first-refusal clause in his contract. You have to go to Buyer A and let him know about the new, higher offer. Buyer A must now either meet the offer or lose the deal.

It sounds like your neighbor wants to have you remain on the property until settlement day. The only reason I see the need for a right-of-first-refusal in your situation is that he wants a delayed settlement date, whereby another offer could realistically come in. Your neighbor is trying to preserve the deal and not lose it if a better offer comes in to you while you're waiting for settlement without his being allowed to match it.

If you go forward with this, I would put a "time-is-of-the-essence" clause on the right-of-first-refusal addenda, meaning that he must respond within 24, 48 or 72 hours whichever time you stipulate once you've notified him of the new offer.

M. Anthony Carr has written about the real estate industry for more than 13 years. Reach him by e-mail ([email protected]).

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