Homebuyers Prefer Copper


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Highlighting the copper building products in your homes will enhance your reputation as a quality builder. That will earn buyer's trust and ultimately help you sell more homes. Both professionals in the home building industry and homebuyers agree that a home with copper plumbing and copper wiring has more value and provides better return on investment at resale.

In fact in recent surveys, homebuyers across the country said they prefer copper plumbing systems to any alternative. More than two-thirds of those surveyed chose copper over plastic. This comes as no surprise to Chris Graham, vice president of Jackson Properties in Gilbert, Arizona. Graham says he is constantly faced with questions from homebuyers about the type of plumbing system in the homes his firm builds.

"The buyers now are much more educated than they were in years past, especially when they are buying move-up housing," says Graham. "These are buyers who have been around, who have looked at the competition and who have seen other builders use nonstandard plumbing systems, so the question will come up, 'Do you use copper plumbing?' Our answer is always 'Yes! Every house, every subdivision!'"

Prospective homebuyers, homeowners and building professionals cite a variety of reasons why they prefer copper, including copper's familiarity, strength and durability, and the resale value it provides to a home. Many homebuyers even say they will pay more for copper plumbing to avoid bad experiences they have had with other materials.

Buyers Trust Copper

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Copper has been the material of choice for plumbing systems in American homes for more than 70 years. It is installed in more than 80 percent of homes across the United States, and that means the majority of today's homeowners and buyers grew up with copper plumbing systems. Jackson Properties vice president, Chris Graham, says this familiarity presents a major selling point for builders who use copper. "Copper plumbing is something that homebuyers are used to, they are used to seeing it, they have had it in their homes in the past, and that's a positive thing for builders," says Graham.

Centex Homes' vice president of research and development, Randy Luther, agrees that copper plumbing is something homebuyers look for when they enter a model home. "Almost all of us grew up with copper in our homes," says Luther. "It has had such an outstanding track record over the years, I think people feel extraordinarily confident with copper."

That was certainly the case for Del Leese, who is having a new home built. Leese says he didn't even consider another plumbing tube for his new house. His confidence in copper dates back to childhood, when he recalls his uncle, who was a plumber, installing copper plumbing in his parents' home.

Homeowner Brandon Anderson says his decision to purchase copper plumbing was definitely influenced by the plumbing system he remembered when growing up. "I know my parents' house has copper plumbing, and they have never had a problem," says Anderson.

Homeowner John Bayda remembers copper plumbing from his grandparents' home in Chicago. Bayda says his father also told him about the value of copper plumbing. "My dad instilled in me for years-have copper tubing in your home; it lasts for 50 years or more," Bayda says.

Jim Parvin just moved into his new dream home and insisted on copper plumbing because it's what he knew from his childhood home.

The same was true for Joan Pelligrini who recently moved out West from Connecticut. "We are originally from back East and my dad, my husband and my husband's dad always said copper plumbing is better," said Pelligrini. "It's more durable, it's stronger and it's better. It shows you that you have a better quality home. For a builder to do that, it shows you he's thinking about the details."

Copper's Reputation for Strength and Durability

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Builders across the country use copper in their homes because they know they can count on its strength and durability. Copper can withstand extreme environments and temperatures. That's something homeowners expect from their plumbing system. And that's something builders want to be able to promise their customers.

"I don't have to worry about product failure or the potential liability that I might have with an unproven product," says Chris Graham, vice president of Jackson Properties. "I don't want to be replacing a major mechanical system in anybody's house five years down the road. Copper plumbing holds up very well."

For builder James Mumper, the reason for copper plumbing is a no-brainer. "The biggest reason that we use copper is that it's a proven product," says Mumper, who builds custom homes throughout Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.

And homeowner Brandon Anderson says that track record makes him feel secure. "From experience, I do know that copper plumbing is far superior to any other type of plumbing," says Anderson. "I feel secure with copper plumbing, knowing that I won't have pipes bursting in my house anytime soon. I think copper lasts longer because copper does not get brittle with age or heat, like plastic plumbing does."

John Anderson lives in Iowa and says choosing a plumbing system material for his home was not a question after considering copper's primary qualities. "Strength, durability, overall wear and tear-I think copper will take more," says Anderson.

New homeowner Del Leese agrees. "You're getting a product that is inherently stronger," he says, "and it's a natural product as opposed to a man-made product that has all of the environmental concerns that come with it."

Buyers Acknowledge the Resale Value of Homes with Copper

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In addition to all the direct benefits homeowners gain from copper, they will also gain a major return on the investment of their home at the time of resale. Homeowners say this is a major consideration in purchasing a home. Builders confirm that it's a whole lot easier to resell a home that has copper plumbing than one with a cheaper alternative.

"I've seen many times where buyers will call the builder and ask them what kind of plumbing is installed in their home, and to some people it is the reason they will or will not buy a house," says Jackson Properties' warranty service manager, Lance Baldwin.

Homeowner John Bayda agrees with Baldwin that copper increases a home's value. "Having copper in your home is a good investment in your future and your home," says Bayda.

Homeowner Brandon Anderson also expects that copper plumbing will provide a return on investment for his home. "Copper plumbing can last the lifetime of a house-it's a sure thing," says Anderson. "Your house will be more valuable."

Homebuyers Will Pay More for Copper

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Builders who install copper plumbing know that the initial extra cost far outweighs the risk of using less reliable plumbing tube materials. James Mumper, president of J.W. Mumper Construction in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, says that his policy is to tell it like it is to clients who are looking to cut costs.

"The couple hundred dollars you may save by using another product-if you have one failure, the cost to repair that failure is going to far exceed the savings," says Mumper.

Many homebuyers realize that copper plumbing may cost a bit more initially, but they also recognize its value. That's why many homebuyers are not hesitant to spend a little more upfront to ensure the investment of their home's major utility system.

Joan Pelligrini is a strong supporter of this philosophy. "You get what you pay for, and I would be willing to pay a little more for copper plumbing because it's stronger and more durable," says Pelligrini.

John Anderson says he wouldn't flinch over the initial added expense of copper because in the long run it probably ends up costing less. "I think ultimately copper isn't more expensive because you won't have as many repairs, like you would with other products," says Anderson.

Brandon Anderson agrees. "It's well worth it, it will save you money in the long run in damages that are sure to happen," he says.

Jackson Properties' Chris Graham says that as a builder, he wouldn't even consider an alternative to copper to cut costs. "There are areas where you can cut corners, but one of the major mechanical systems in your house, such as the plumbing system, is not an area where I would ever choose to cut a corner," says Graham. "Copper plumbing is not something I would ever choose to save $150, $200 even $300 a house on, because I know that the potential liability down the road is worth ten times that."

Buyers Wary of Alternative Materials

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One bad experience is enough to turn off any homebuyer from cheaper alternatives to copper tube. And since many of these alternatives are so new on the plumbing market, bad experiences are becoming more common for homebuyers willing to experiment.

Centex Homes' Randy Luther says that many of his clients know that alternative plumbing tube materials are available, but they also realize the risks that are involved with them. "I think most people are aware that there are alternative water-supply pipes available on the market today," says Luther, "but the history of those has not been quite as consistent as that of copper."

John Bayda says he didn't realize his builder was using plastic pipe for the plumbing system until it was too late. "It was a pretty traumatic experience," said Bayda, whose first home had polybutylene pipe. "It lasted about two years and it burst. It took about three or four days before the people came out to fix my pipe, so I'm a firm believer in copper tubing," says Bayda, who refused a free replacement of plastic pipe and paid extra for copper.

John Anderson is another homeowner with a horror story. Anderson had a plastic plumbing system put in a vacation cabin and says he lived to regret it. "We had nothing but problems and leaks," says Anderson.

Brandon Anderson says he was fortunate to avoid any problems by taking a lesson from an experience a friend had. "His home had some piping different than copper, and the pipe popped. Five ceilings had to be replaced and walls, too, from the water damage," says Anderson, who has chosen copper plumbing for his own home.