What is happening for residential design in early 2011 is this:
While there are some projects over 7,000 to 8,000 square feet, there are more in the 2,500 to 3,500 square foot category these days. Some clients nearly double the size of their residence by adding a basement.
Simpler seems to be better today, since simple = lower cost and that drives a lot of projects. We used to offer dozens of options, but that appeared to confuse contractors. We try to keep the options list down to about 10 items these days. Little options don’t do much to control cost. Big things do. Of course, everyone would like to have everything up front and for less money. The trick to making this happen is for the Owner to be careful to prioritize their wish list and be prepared to have the base bid items contain the major must-haves and the options contain the “would like to have if possible within the budget.” Something has to give, usually.
Your residential architect can help you prioritize these items. You will be your own worst enemy during this decision making process, because you want it all and want it for less than anyone else is paying for it. While these are still good times for buyers, contractors will not necessarily give things away. That’s why you need to listen to what your architect has to say regarding your wish list and what that is likely to do to your budget. If you insist on many expensive things (like extra square footage, higher end appliances, native stone, high-end roofing and the like), you are likely to end up with higher prices from contractors.
If, however, you take a prioritized approach to have only the most important things in your main bid package, then you might just have a chance at getting what you need for a price within your budget. You also may have a shot at receiving some prices for several options that might work for you.
Your residential architect will design your house for you, with the features and size you want. You, however, are the one that is ultimately responsible for how expensive your house will cost, because of the room sizes, materials, and other features you insisted upon during the design. It is critical to ask your architect what items are more expensive than others, so that you can determine what to have in the basic documents and what to put into options.